If you remember three years ago I told you how customs and immigration to LEAVE Russia by the Trans Siberian Train into Mongolia was intense and way stronger than it is to get into most other countries. Well this story is more of the same.
I left my hotel at 6am by taxi (a whole $3) to catch the 7am bus (#239) to Zelenogradsky and on up to Nida, Lithuania on the Curonia Spit in the northwest corner of Kaliningrad. Kind of a cool side story, the cab driver gave me a couple Soviet bills as a souvenir, super nice of him. Anyways once the bus left Zlenogradsky and started up the Curonian Spit I got off at the Nature Museum just past Lesnoy. The bus driver was a bit concerned since this bus and the one leaving Zelenogradsky at 5:30pm (#384) are the only two that cross the border into Lithuania. The other two buses running up and down the Curonian Spit turn around before the border. I told him I would be ok and there were a couple places I wanted to stop before crossing over.
The first was the earlier mentioned Nature Center of the Curonian Spit, which had some nice exhibits on the flora and fauna of this World Heritage Site and also man’s interaction with it over the eons of history. The second place I wanted to see was the Dancing Forest a bit past Rybacky. This was a great stop to see the old pines trees curved back and forth as if swaying to music. There are even some that form loops. Very weird and no one seems to know why they grew this way.
Not wanting to wait for any of the buses I tried to hitchhike between the first and second and finally succeeded, but not without a bit of frustration. Well, once leaving the Dancing Forest I could not get a ride, until a taxi dropped off some riders and told me he would take me to the border for around $6, but would not cross over. I figured getting to the border took care of half the issue and I would figure out the rest once I got there. Well due to some well planned dumb luck 🙂 another taxi (a van full of people) passed us right when we got there and my driver yelled at him to stop. He hurried me on, threw my bag in the back, and off we went a couple hundred meters to start the process of clearing out of Russia. I am not exaggerating when I tell you it took over two and a half hours. The Lithuanians in the van told me the Russians are checking to make sure you are not smuggling any of their cheap stuff out of the country. They were looking for alcohol, cigarettes, fuel (one guy told me if your tank was full then you might get in trouble), amber (I told you all about this stuff the other day), and other goods.
Once we finally made it through Russian customs we had to clear into Lithuania, but that was quite a breeze and we were through in 15 minutes or so. The first place we went once through both check points? The duty free shop next to the Lithuania station. Haha. I was finally dropped of in Nida just after 5pm (there was an hour time change (forward) at the border) and the guy said I owed nothing. How generous. I gave him a bit of money anyways because otherwise I would be stuck in Russia, but as many things do it all worked out. Yea!