Seeking

Vilnius, Lithuania

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I have come to Vilnius, Lithuania because my grandmother Anna Skinder was born here. I had not known of the long history of this prominent city of the Baltic area.

One interesting thing I discovered: Vilnius has one of the fastest internet speeds available to the general public in the world. I asked a local official why. He said “so we can be competitive”. Something the USA should have been investing in instead of wars in the Middle East? A gigabit internet interstate ‘highway’ system? We are, sadly, far from #1 in this area.

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My ancestors went to considerable effort to emigrate from this area to America. But times were hard then. Things are much better now. I have heard stories of Polish people abroad who have moved back.

One travel book described Lithuania as ‘flat and fertile’. Lots of forest, lakes and farmland.

There is a Polish joke that could easily apply to Lithuania as well:
“When God was creating the world He said: “Ah yes, the Poles — I will give them a land of flowing with milk and honey, rich fields of grain, lush forests teeming with game, lakes and rivers full of fish, natural resources such as coal, copper, silver, and sulphur, scenic mountains, an impressive seacoast, rolling green meadows, beautiful flaxen-haired maidens and strong, hard-working lads for them to marry…”

A little angel witnessing this thought process suddenly piped up: “But aren’t the Poles getting too much of a good thing?”

To which God replies: “Not really. Just wait till you see who I give them for neighbors.”

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This is the one historical city gate left “Mother of Mercy” (Mary). There are 60 churches in Vilnius. There is hardly a place to stand where you cannot see one.

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My theory has been that my grandfather may have been from Vilnius, too. At the city registrar’s office, I had them search for Malinowski’s, and the fellow laughed and said, yes, lots of them here.

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A rather unusual church, built of bricks.

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The brick tracery on the ceiling is striking.

img_6326Two local Vilnius girls out for a walk.

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The first Ukrainian girl I’ve met. She and her boyfriend were out walking in the 45° morning. She said “It’s not that cold!”

I guess others agree, as people were sitting in outdoor cafes:

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Bundled up, they liked it outside! In late September here, highs are about 56°F, lows 41°F.  It gets  much colder later in the season, with intermittent snow, frozen lakes, and temperatures staying below freezing for long periods. But that’s just normal up north here.

I engaged a local English teacher to guide me around the old town. She took me over to see an artist’s colony ‘on the other side of the river’.

Užupis is a neighborhood in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, largely located in Vilnius’ old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Užupis means “the other side of the river” in the Lithuanian language and refers to the Vilnia River; the name Vilnius was derived from the Vilnia. The district has been popular with artists for some time, and has been compared to Montmartre in Paris and to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, due to its bohemic and laissez-faire atmosphere. On April 1, 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic.

Užupis Constitution

Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, and the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
Everyone has the right to be unique.
Everyone has the right to love.
Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
Everyone has the right to idle.
Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of nee[d].
Sometimes everyone has the right to be unaware of their duties.
Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not an obligation.
Everyone has the right to be happy.
Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
Everyone has the right to be silent.
Everyone has the right to have faith.
No one has the right to violence.
Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance. [In Lithuanian this reads Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.]
No one has the right to have a design on eternity.
Everyone has the right to understand.
Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
Everyone has the right to be of any nationality.
Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday.
Everyone shall remember their name.
Everyone may share what they possess.
No one can share what they do not possess.
Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
Everyone may be independent.
Everyone is responsible for their freedom.
Everyone has the right to cry.
Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
No one has the right to make another person guilty.
Everyone has the right to be individual.
Everyone has the right to have no rights.
Everyone has the right to not to be afraid.
Do not defeat.
Do not fight back.
Do not surrender.

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Unfortunately, the idea of putting a remembrance padlock on bridges has come to Vilnius. I first saw this on Pont d’Art in Paris. It got so crazy there that the bridge railings were thick with padlocks, looking rather unsightly, and finally the authorities went to the considerable effort of cutting them all off. It really is just a form of graffiti. Please don’t do it.

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In the courtyard of my apartment building in Vilnius

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The flowers were being admired by a local woman who must live in the building also.

She told me a long story, to which I listened politely. As it was in Lithuanian, I cannot tell you what it was about. But then she let me take her picture. I bet she went through a lot in her life.

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Out on the street, a young woman was playing a traditional instrument and singing.

 

Well, my week in Vilnius is drawing to a close. Tomorrow, I take my first flight on Aeroflot, Vilnius to Moscow. I’ll report on that later.

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2 thoughts on “Vilnius, Lithuania

  1. Diane and Bob Allen

    Mel, We have absolutely loved your blog thus far. You are making us feel as though we are there with you. Keep going and stay healthy. Bob and Diane

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