Lietuva 10: Random Thoughts

Posted May 28th, 2012

lilacs and chestnuts in bloom

The fragrance of Lithuania in May is lilac with a hint of lily-of-the-valley.

an "xxx" Maxima in Vilnius

It is best not to start a two-week vacation with a fall and a sprained ankle. It is worse to start a two-week vacation with a fall and a broken ankle, so count your blessings.

Wherever you are, locate the nearest Maxima store. Whatever you need, it will be there. The number of x’s in the signs advertises the quality of a Maxima store. Three x’s and you get the equivalent of a Super-WalMart.

This monument was rebuilt in 1990 on the initiative of the public movement AKURUS, Lithuanian citizens, and Lithuanian victims of emigration, commemorating the 580th anniversary of the Battle of Žalgirls (15 July 1410). On 15 July 2010, a steel capsule with soil from the field of the Battle of Žalgirls was inserted in the monument to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Žalgirls.

Monument to Vytautus Magnus, Kaunas

As fast as Lithuanians tore down the old Soviet statuary, they created and installed new sculptures and monuments.

Soap provided in Lithuanian hotels just doesn’t work up a lather.

they all wear a bright yellow "pakaklinis"

If you put bright yellow scarves on your mob of schoolchildren, they’re way easier to keep track of as you wander through the city and in and out of stores.

The stress in a multisyllabic Lithuanian word is most like to fall on the syllable where an English-speaker will least expect it.

Lace-on shoes are likely to be the most comfortable shoes for walking down cobbled streets, dirt tracks, museum floors, and pretty much any surface imaginable. Lace-up shoes with high tops are a god-send when you start your two-week vacation with a fall and a sprained ankle. Lace-on ankle boots, when worn with skirts and colorful socks, attract strange looks from style-conscious young Lithuanian women.

"homage à Vincent van Gogh"

The competitive drinking gene appears to be located on the Lithuanian Y chromosome.

A boiled potato in Lithuania is a thing of glorious flavor; dill is a much under-utilized herb in America.

Lithuanians paint the trunks of their fruit trees white, I suppose to repel insects and small critters.

garden with fruit trees and "Brancusi" table and seats

street art in Kaunas

Most young Lithuanians seem to speak at least a little English. Most older Lithuanians seem to speak pretty good Russian.

Graffitti is not a good thing but there are some very gifted urban artists in Lithuania.

Lithuania has its own Magic Castle.  Trakai Island Castle (Trakų salos pilis) sits on an island in Lake Galvė. Construction commenced in the 14thcentury and was completed by Vytautus the Great, Lithuania’s legendary leader, who died in it in 1430. Orlando could learn a thing or two about effective merchandising from this place.

home of Vytautus the Great (c. 1350 – October 27, 1430)

Putting your passport in your jeans pocket, even for a moment, is a bad idea. Washing your jeans with the passport still in the pocket means you’ll waste the best part of a day at the nearest American consulate.  If you do happen to wash your passport, buy two 5 cm by 5 cm passport pictures before you go to your appointment with the passport people.

There sure are a lot of kids at the American consulate getting their passports and visas for summer travel and jobs in the U.S. American students looking for employment need to get going earlier—the Lithuanian students clearly have those jobs at resorts and hotels locked up in early May.

where Thomas Mann did his writing in the summers of 1932 and 1933

It feels wrong to be in Thomas Mann’s summer home in Nida and know that you haven’t read a single thing he wrote.  It feels like a wrong righted to load up the Nook with short stories and discover the beauty of Death in Venice and Tonio Kröger.

I wish I know what kind of fish it was that the žuvys lady at said was the “best.” It really was. It was meaty and buttery-sweet. I saw a picture of smoked eel—except for the lengths into which the eel was cut (probably around six inches) the general shape was right.

Sliced cucumber should be a part of every breakfast. That and grūdėtoji, the heavy dark rye studded with whole grains, along with a slab of fresh farmer’s cheese they call “curd.” I also need to learn to make Lithuanian pancakes.

If I had to choose a city to live near in Lithuania, I’d choose Kaunas.

Nemunas River

The Nemunas is a grand and majestic river.

It is impossible to take too many pictures. Take pictures of things even if you think the subject is unattractive—like the building that houses the National Archives in Vilnius. Or a really delicious piece of žuvys. You never know what you’ll need a picture for.

The Opel assigned to us by the Europcar rental agency is a dog.

our souvenirs

If it is gaudy kitsch you are looking for, it’s cheaper at the Maxima than at a souvenir shop either in town or at the airport.

The security guy who x-rays your suitcase at the airport can tell by the shape of a bottle that it is not allowed out of the country. We packed three bottles of vodka. The cousins gave us a bottle of Žalgiris Midauys Balzamas which is apparently 75% grain alcohol and comes in a distinctive, sort of bell-shaped bottle. 70% is the limit so someone in SAS at the Vilnius International Airport lucked out. Sveikas! (We got to keep the Midaus Nektaras Suktines and the Stumbras Šimtmečio Degtine, with its lovely wheat straw.) Either drink up all the gifts of alcohol received before your departure or make sure you know the rules about what can and cannot be packed into your suitcase.

Storks are simply magnificent. Just awesome.

stork taking to flight

Lithuanian beer is better than German beer, at least any Lithuanian beer is better than the Bitburger Pilsner my Dear One ordered at Prost restaurant in Port Deposit where we stopped for dinner on the way home from a graduation party for a couple of the grandkids. The food at Prost, by the way, is excellent and extravagant in portions.

Eleven days is nowhere near enough time to “see” Lithuania.



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