Vilnius is nice when the sun’s out…

Day 15: 14 May 2014

BMQ: high. #selfconfidence #IAmEnough

Speaking of self-confidence, I even went into a local supermarket on my own today, and bought stuff. This rarely happens, as I usually get too self-conscious about not knowing where anything is, what anything looks like, how much the bill will be, that I won’t understand anything, etc. I once tried it in Toulouse (France), a country where I can get by in the language, broke the self-service till machine, got all flustered, and never went back in that shop again …
The next step is the financial one of buying stuff in one that I can then cook with in the hostel, rather than buying crisps, chocolate, and apples (I don’t eat anywhere near as much fruit as I ought, Partly though this is that I find all the easy fruit boring, and I wasn’t in the mood to mess with a mango). I suspect that will be tomorrow’s plan, as the kitchen in the one I’m staying in is quite large.

Much of today I spent walking around the city of Vilnius, but a couple of hours of that was on one of those free walking tours that oft occur in cities, led by students or local people interested in their city and looking to make a bit of cash in tips. Todays was led by a lady called Jolanta, who was really interesting but maybe talked slightly too quickly? It wasn’t a big group (about 7 of us), but quite diverse in age and nationality.
Some of the places we went I’d walked yesterday, including the Uzupis district, but it was good to hear more about it rather than just passing through and going ‘oh that looks nice’; so for instance while I knew about the micronation yesterday, today I found out that their ‘Independence’ Day is April 1st (!) and on that day, mock border guards stamp your passport as you cross the bridge. Also, anyone can be an ambassador to the micronation, you jus have to ask (so they have eg an ambassador for Clouds). Strange people, artists can be!
The walk tended to take us around the less commonly-visited areas of the old town and surrounds, including the site of the old synagogue (destroyed during WW2, eventually demolished by the Soviets and replaced with a new-build Kindergarden, which is now itself slated for demolition and replaced with, er, a synagogue).
(As an aside, Lithuanian-Israeli relations are ‘complicated’ due to Lithuanians being caught between the Nazis and the Communists in WW2; either way, the Jews bore the brunt of it.)

I had lunch in another pub, with decent home-brew and potato pancakes. I also had what might be described as ‘fried bread chunks’ – basically small pieces of bread, deep-fried, and served with a sour cream dip. It takes the place in Lithuania that peanuts or pork scratchings occupy in the UK – something to nibble on while you drink. They are very fattening of course, and you couldn’t eat a whole plateful (it’s bigger than I expected).

The hostel I’m staying in is virtually opposite a museum that goes by two names: the ‘Museum of Genocide’, or the ‘KGB Museum’ (I assure you this was accidental, though it made the road the hostel’s on easy to find on a map). It’s actually the old KGB headquarters in Vilnius, and is now a 3-storey museum dedicated predominantly to the plight of ‘un-communist’ Lithuanians arrested by the Soviets in the post-war era (they were generally either shot or ‘relocated’ to Siberia). There were also some exhibits on the KGB itself, and recreations of what some of the rooms would have been like in KGB times, from the ‘listening room’ to the cells below ground. There was even the execution room, with a glass floor under which you could see some personal effects of prisoners, like shoes and glasses. Weird.

It didn’t rain today. Yay.

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