After a morning in and around Vilnius which included stopping at a local store for today’s treat. A selection of tiny fairy cakes..one for Mac, one for Tosh..one for Craig and the rest for me! Well I need something to keep my lucky belly, lucky lol. We eventually set off towards Grutas Park, somewhere recommended by one of our Facebook friends Andy.
An hour or so after setting off and we arrived at Grutas park, the car park was extremely quiet with just one or two staff cars at one end. A pre walk espresso and a bite to eat before we tootled over to the park. We passed the security guard and took a left up the long walk way to the entrance booth.
On one side a wall of newspaper clippings showing articles from all over the world. Some praising and some challenging the collection of Viliumas Malinauskas. The once mushroom collector made his fortune exporting mushrooms before he started collecting communist material.
At the gates we paid our €6 pp entrance fee and walked through the rusty turnstile. Our initial reaction was rather mixed as we walked in to a zoo combined with a theme park arena. It was all rather dated and not at all what we expected. A few bears munching on chickens from next doors pen, two baboons going stir crazy and emu’s pecking at the llama’s. All rather bazaar. We quickly skipped this section and headed to the tree area.
We followed the forest trail though in to the woods to look at the huge collection of Soviet era statues, busts and memorabilia. The owner Viliumas now in his 70’s started collecting all the discarded Soviet statues that were torn down after Lithuanian liberation in 1991. His aim to preserve and show a little of Lithuanian history through the communist era. But with the uprising, tension and ill feeling towards years of Soviet suppression, it is no surprise to find people were not chuffed with the park. However, he progressed with his dream and opened the park in 2001.
With over 100 statues scattered around a well thought out landscaped park and 3 buildings full of Lenin, Stalin and Communist party material it certainly had a unique feel and plenty to look at.
On the way out we had a chat with the security guard. He guards the entrance to the owners mansion and oversees the security for the park. In the past, people have camped out in the car park and then in the middle of the night tried to destroy elements of the park hence the no camping signs. However, times have changed and the park receives much less negative attention and so they are now more open to allowing campers. You can stop at the car park for €6 but it was rather quiet and eerie for one lone camper, so we moved a few kilometres towards the Spa town of Druskininkai. Along the way plenty wooded areas with Spa resorts and retreats, so we pulled in to one with a picnic spot and bedded down for the night.
Our Bumble Verdict: Grutas Park, still undecided on this place – found the history and the collection fascinating but theme and park feel was rather weird.
Our sleepy spot: Druskininkai, a quiet picnic spot in the middle of the woods.
Wild Camping GPS position N054.009299, E024.000659
Route: Vilnius to Druskininkai