Sightseeing: Treetop Walking Path, Anyksciai, Lithuania

Sightseeing

Hello!

Moving to a different country (Scotland) really made me appreciate my home country (Lithuania) more. So, this summer, I tried my best to see more of it – especially its nature.

Hence, on Saturday, I took some time to visit the newly established Treetop Walking Path near the town of Anyksciai. It is basically a path through the forest that is raised around 20 meters in the air. The whole path is 300 meters long. At the end of it, there is an approximately 34 meters high watchtower that slightly shakes and moves when the wind is strong. Other than that, the path is completely safe to walk and enjoyable even for those who have a fear of heights.

The scenery looked gorgeous: it was lovely to see all the greenery and the river from above. I imagine that the view should also be awesome during the autumn, when the leaves turn brown and orange, or during the winter, when everything is covered by snow.

Another object that people tend to visit when they come to Anyksciai is the boulder of Puntukas. It is the second largest rock in Lithuania and is located near the beginning of the Treetop Path. Both of these attractions are surrounded by forests which are worth a visit too.

I suggest that you definitely visit the Anyksciai Treetop Walking Path if you ever get a chance. It would probably be a good idea to go there on a weekday since it was packed on the weekend. There was a 2km traffic jam/parking line just to get there. Needless to say, I did not expect there to be so much interest in the place. 

Bellow, you will find some photos from the location. Enjoy!

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Sightseeing: Kaunas Reservoir Regional Park 

Sightseeing

Hi!

Welcome to another sightseeing post. This time, I will show you a few photos of my native country of Lithuania, especially the snaps that I took while visiting Kaunas Reservoirs/Regional Park.

Since I no longer live in Lithuania during the majority of the year, I cherish each and every moment that I spend exploring my motherland. In addition, my relocation to UK/move abroad allowed me to better see how beautiful and unique Lithuania’s nature actually is.

On Sunday, I and my family visited a few locations around the Kaunas Reservoir a.k.a. the artificial lake. This are is also known as the Kaunas Reservoir Regional Park. We walked around the Juniper Valey (in Lithuania language, Kadagiu slenis) and then followed the Geological Trail of Ziegzdriai (in Lithuania language, Ziegzdriu Geologinis Takas). All the photos bellow are from these 2 places.

Both the valley path and the trail are comfortable and convenient. The valley path has a wooden surface, while the trail is a simple forest path. The car parks near the beginning of the valley path and the trail are small but sufficient.

The scenery is amazing and an exceptional example of Northern/Eastern European nature – lakes and spruce/fir trees. There are quite a few informational and interactional displays. The signs that ask the visitors not to litter are also fun – one of them say that Chuck Norris will be angry with you if you throw rubbish around and the other one repeats this message in a few languages. There is also a sign that says: ‘There is no wi-fi, please, connect with nature’.

I had a great time walking around, breathing fresh air, and just taking in all the beautiful sights. I highly suggest you visit this place, no matter if you are a Lithuania or a foreigner. I suggest you use GPS, though, as this place is not that easy to find, although it is close to a major city of Kaunas

I’ve already done one sightseeing post about Kaunas Reservoir/Lagoon. You can find it here. Have a great week!

Movie review: Everest

Movie reviews

Hello!

While technically the awards’ season hasn’t started yet, I believe that we have our first solid contender for the Best Picture nomination. You know how every year at least one more mainstream movie gets nominated? (For example, last year it was American Sniper, a year before that – Gravity.) Well, I think that Everest will be this year’s awards nominated blockbuster. Let’s review it!

IMDb summary: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

Everest film is based on the real events of 1996 Mount Everest disaster. I, personally, knew nothing about this tragic event, since I wasn’t even born when it happened. Also, while I knew that the movie was based on real life events, I didn’t want to research them much beforehand, so that I would not spoil anything for myself. However, I will spoil some stuff in this review, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t know the real story like I didn’t know it, maybe come back to the review after you watch the film. If you know the story or just don’t care about the spoilers, please – read on.

So, as with all Hollywood movies, one usually hopes for a happy ending. Well, it’s not the case with Everest. The most interesting part is the fact that until the very last minute, I was hoping for a happy ending. I was sure that we, as an audience, would get one. And only when the credits and the memorials came up, I’ve realized that this is not that type of a movie. Huge props to the creators of the film, who were able to keep the audience invested into the film till the very end. Also, they were able to break out of the Hollywood movie stereotype/pattern , which has a somewhat predictable ending and a plot filled with cliches.

Not only does this film keep you invested till the very last minute, it affects your emotions a lot. While at the beginning of the film, you can find some inspirational stuff about following your dreams, at the end, you ultimately arrive at the conclusion that some dreams are not worth risking your life for. Or maybe they are for some people? That’s an open discussion. For me, the film was extremely sad, especially the 2nd part of it and the ending was heartbreaking. I don’t really cry in movies, but I was really tearing up in this one. Thank god, that I was the only person in the last row.

Writing 

This screenplay for the film was written by two British screenwriters – William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy. Nicholson was a co-writer on Gladiator and has received an Oscar nomination for that film. He has also written a few of my favorite films – Les Miserables, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Unbroken (co-writer). Beaufoy has an Oscar for writing a script for Slumdog Millionaire and he was also one of the writers on the second Hunger Games film – Catching Fire.

I loved what they did with the Everest screenplay. The film had a lot of characters, but they all had their little moments to shine. As a result, this necessary character development allowed the viewers to feel connected to the characters and really care for them in the times of crisis.

Also, the idea that companies like Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness, who specialize in taking tourists to the summit of the Everest, really exist was a surprising one for me. I knew that were people who want to climb to the highest points of Earth, but I guess I never really expected somebody to allow them to do that for profit. Or that anyone would risk their life for such profit. But, I suppose if there are companies who would take tourists to space, you can’t expect people not to look for financial benefits down here on Earth. Also, as with every sport or occupation, there is a type of rush and desire to reach higher (literally, in their case), so I guess it shouldn’t be that shocking to me.

Directing

The film was directed by Baltasar Kormákur from Iceland. I haven’t seen his other films, but I’ve adored the visuals of Everest. From what I saw in the behind the scenes videos, I can tell you that they filmed a lot of this film on location. And even if they used some green screen and CGI, you could never tell the difference – the film was seamlessly edited. In addition, the scenery of the mountain range was beautiful and terrifying and the same time. The actual climbing footage was suspenseful and exciting.

Acting

This movie has a huge ensemble cast full of A-list actors and all of them bring their A-game. (A-listers and their A-game – sorry for the pun). I will only talk about a few of my favorite performances because this review would be way too long if I spoke about each and every character. Also, since in today’s world, you can’t review the movie without mentioning the color of the actors’ skin, I will just tell you that this film’s cast is predominately white. However, whitewashing is not the issue to the masses, because the film depicts real-life events which involved mainly white people. I’ve gotten extremely tired of people noticing the skin color of the actor before they notice the actual person, so, I hope you felt the sarcasm in a few sentences before this one. Let’s move on.

  • Jason Clarke as Rob Hall was the leading man of the film, whose story was the most heartbreaking one. Until the very end of the film, I wanted to believe that he will make it home to his wife and unborn daughter. Keira Knightley played his wife – Jan Arnold – and their conversations on the phone were extremely emotional and one of the saddest parts of the film. Speaking of the actors performances, I have seen a few films starring Clarke, but he never really stood out to me until this film. For example, I thought that he was only okay in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, I do believe his role as Rob Hall was his best performance to date and an amazing comeback after Terminator Genisys. Knightley was also amazing in her small part, but I was always a fan of hers, so that wasn’t surprising to me. 
  • Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer. Gyllenhaal just keeps impressing me more and more with his every film. His role was quite small here because the film had so many characters, but he was really good in it. I also applaud how versatile he is as an actor, not just with his body (Southpaw review), but with his overall mindset and investment into the character. While watching the film, you never really think about Gyllenhaal as an actor or about any other character that he has played before. You just sit there and marvel at a complete transformation of a true actor. 
  • Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers and John Hawkes as Doug Hansen. The reason that I’m putting these two people together is because I want to talk about the contrast that their characters brought to the film. Beck was a rich doctor, who climbed the mountain because he felt depressed at home with his wife, and Doug was a poor mailman, who did the climb to inspire kids from poor families. Beck’s reasons seemed much more selfish than Doug’s. The sad part is that Beck was the one who made it home and Doug didn’t. However, Dough reached the summit and Beck did not. So, their stories and the characters themselves, although contrasting at first, ended up being kinda equal. Beck’s reaction to the news of Doug’s death also added to that equality, because he seemed really upset by it. Speaking about the actors performance, I really enjoyed both of their portrayals of these real life climbers. I’m more familiar with Brolin’s work because he is Thanos in the MCU (very disappointing villain so far) and he also starred in Inherent Vice – the film that I have yet to watch but really want to. Brolin will also start in another movie this year, coming out very soon – Sicario – opposite  Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro (another MCU actor). On the other hand, I don’t know much about his co-star John Hawkes, but I really want to watch Winter’s Bone – a Jennifer Lawrence film which Hawkes also stars in.
  • Sam Worthington as Guy CotterEmily Watson as Helen Wilton and Elizabeth Debicki as Dr. Caroline Mackenzie were the 3 main members of the base camp team. While they were not part of the action of the film, they reaction shots mimicked the audience’s reactions perfectly. To my mind, these actors really played well with each other and were a convincing group. About the actual actors, Debicki has only recently appeared on my radar after The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I really liked her there and felt the same in this film as well. She will also be in this year’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender – another film which I definitely want to watch. Watson was also a great addition to the cast. I’m not really familiar with her work, but really loved one of her latest films – Testament of Youth, though, she only had a small part in there. Worthington (another Terminator) was also really good in his role. Avatar is still my favorite movie of his and I haven’t seen him do better than that film so far. However, I haven’t seen Cake – last year’s Jennifer Aniston film, which received quite a good word of mouth. True, all the praises were directed at Aniston for her performance, but maybe Worthington was quite good as well. I suppose I need to watch the film to really know.

All in all, Everest is so far my favorite film of this fall and, in my opinion, a strong contender for the awards season. I hope that its release date (an early one) won’t be the thing that stops it from getting the recognition it deserves. The film is visually appealing to the eyes and emotionally captivating for the soul. Huge ensemble cast brings their A-game to the table, while the accomplished screenwriters and the director do justice to this heartbreaking real life disaster story.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Everest trailer

Everest_poster

Sightseeing: road/hiking/historical trip

Sightseeing

Hello!

A few day ago, I did my first sightseeing post in a long time and now, only a week later, I give you another installment of this series. This time, I will tell you how I and a few members of my family traveled from Kaunas (wiki) to Jurbarkas (wiki) and visited a variety of locations, which have a very rich history.

We set off early in the morning and I was driving (I don’t have my license yet, but I can drive if a member of a family, who has a license, is sitting by me. This road trip was also a really good driving practice). We didn’t plan anything in advance, so we just stopped at places, which seemed interesting enough to visit. I have to admit that I have gone on this trip before with my classmates, when I was in 6th grade, but in was such a long time ago that I practically don’t remember anything. Also, who actually remembers anything from school trips, especially those from middle school years?

Anyway, our first stop was Seredžius mound. More about it here. The view from the mound was breathtaking. You can see the green scenery of Lithuania as well as the biggest and longest river in Lithuania – Neman (wiki) – flowing right by.

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The next mound we visited was actually a group of 4 mounds located near Veliuona (wiki). We managed to hike up to only 2 of them.

The first one is called the Mound of Gediminas’s Grave. It has a tombstone dedicated to Gediminas – the grand Duke of Lithuania, who lived ad ruled in 14th century. The Duke is actually buried in Veliuona. Plus, the mound has a beautiful view of aforementioned Neman river.

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The other mound that we hiked up to was the Mound of the Castle. It had a huge meadow on top of it. The castle that was standing there must have been huge. A commemorative rock with the dates of the battles that took place near the castle was also nice addition to this place.

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While near Veliuona, we also visited a museum and looked around Veliuona’s church. The museum is located in an old mansion and we actually where able to meet the owner of that mansion. She is over 70 years old and just came back from Canada. The woman spent her childhood years in the building that now houses a museum, before setting off on a journey around the world in her adult years. The museum showed the real life history – a history of one family, whose members lived there their whole lives. My favorite part was the opportunity to go to the basement of this mansion. There was no electricity in the basement and tones of old furniture and other unneeded stuff were laying around, so that place looked like it belonged in a horror movie.

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Our third stop was Raudonė Castle (wiki). It is one of the most famous castles in Lithuania. Now, there is a a elementary and middle school established in the building. There is not much to do in the actual castle, but you are welcomed to climb up numerous flights of stairs to the top of the castle’s tower. Both, the scenery and the 360 degree view, are amazing. If you are afraid of heights, you can take a walk in the castle’s park, which has ancient trees and cute ponds.

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The last stop was Panenumė castle (wiki). This one has plenty of activities. You can climb up to the tower as in Raudonė castle, but you can also visit the basement of the castle as well as the medieval jail cell. The castle also has a small museum and a huge park, where you can try your hand at archery or ride a horse. In addition, you can buy local goods at a little market, which is located in the inner-yard of the castle. Lastly, the second floor of the main castle is turned into an impromptu art gallery. Currently, there is an exhibition of paintings and other pieces of art made my junior students of Vilnius Academy of Arts (wiki).

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and the photos as much as I’ve enjoyed travelling through these historic sites and taking pictures of these stunning locations. If you decided to visit these places, wear comfortable shoes, because you will have to do a lot of walking and hiking. But the scenery is definitely worth the climb. Have a great week and see you soon!