When “planning” out this trip, I knew I wanted to check out the Baltic countries. My friend Timbo had been traveling around and told me that Vilnius is a nice city, so I thought “Cool, I’ll start there, and then work my way up to Riga, then Tallinn.” The old town in Vilnius is apparently one of the largest ones in Europe and it is really nice. When I got into the city after that long bus ride (during which I hadn’t slept much because the girl sitting next to me kept kicking me. Instead of putting her stuff overhead, she had everything under her legs and then kept putting her feet on my footrest and leaning over towards my seat. It was not very comfortable, but whatever.) the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm out. I thought to myself “Wow! There are a lot of people out for 7:45 in the morning, and my bus was an hour and fifteen minutes early! Cool!” Turns out I’m an idiot and didn’t realize I changed time zones. Oops. So I went for a walk into the Old Town and just wandered about for a bit before I got settled in.
I met Gintare, who studies in Vilnius, and after some coffee and chat we went out into the city. We went to the contemporary art museum to see an exhibit called “Big in Japan.” Part of it was cool, but part of it was crap to be honest. In the main hall and entrance of the museum there was a display set up on urban landscapes that used toy cars and trucks, tracks as roads, Styrofoam mountains, and toy cranes building up new infrastructure. That was really cool. There were also some cool portraits that made the people look albino and all kind of look similar, but if you looked closely you could see the differences between the people. While there, we met up with one of Gintare’s friends (and I’m terrible with spelling names, so I’m just not going to even try) and we walked up to the top of the castle hill and hung out there for a bit. The view was excellent. While we were there, Gintare’s flat mate met up with us and then we wandered around a bit more. We went into two churches, one of which hasn’t really been restored at all so the interior looks really old. After that we went to the artists’ district called The Independent Republic of Uzupis where they have their constitution posted on a wall in several different languages. It’s pretty funny, with rules like “Everyone has the right to be happy, everyone has the right to be unhappy” and “Everyone has the right to take care of the cat.” We then wandered our way up another hill where we were joined by Eva, who absolutely loves Uno. So we hung out there for a while, playing Uno and chatting and having a relaxing day, which is what I wanted because I was pretty tired. We went to a vegetarian restaurant where I had an awesome vegan calzone and then I called it an early night.
The next day was the national holiday for Lithuania in commemoration of Grand Duke Mindaugas’ coronation. I wandered through the town a bit, mostly to find the world’s only Frank Zappa statue, then I watched some of the festivities taking place. There were so many people around it was hard to move. There were some speeches that took place and a parade with people dressed in traditional clothing and some bands playing national songs and whatnot. That evening there was a concert to celebrate the holiday that was free and outside. There were so many people on stage! There was a chorus, then orchestra, and then the chorus came back on. And everyone in the crowd new the words to the national songs and you could just feel the positive energy everywhere. I was hanging out with a large group of people and they would translate the lyrics for me from time to time, which was nice. There were people dancing everywhere, parents tossing their children up in the air and catching them (I saw one baby that was the happiest baby in the world during that festival) and just all around merriment. It was a great time. We followed that up by continuing the celebrations at Gintare’s flat. It was an all around great day.
(Sorry for the lack of photos as of late! I want to put some in, but I’ve been updating from other people’s computers or public computers so I don’t have my photos available when I’m updating. Probably when this trip is over I’ll upload all my photos worth uploading and post the links.)