A week in Vilnius

A friend had visited Lithuania twenty years before and related tales of poverty, starvation (well apart from a chicken fat and beetroot delicacy) and bone-rattling trains. So it was with some relief that we found Vilnius to have a thriving tourist trade, well-presented religious buidings and thoroughly acceptable menus. We saw a superfluity of nuns agog at The Gates of Dawn, a market full of the aforementioned fatty deposits along with neck meat, pig knuckle and a plethora of bra stalls. We met several local characters – clowns in trees, a yellow-suited oddball from Berlin and the best-dressed street beggar who posed for fashion photos. A train journey to Trakai proved comfortable and, with a beating sun, we looked around the famous castle-on-an-island. We were lucky to witness an annual fire rescue cometition in the main square, where uniformed officials judged teams of visiting countries' muscle-bound entrants. We marvelled at their speed and stamina as we went in search of refreshments. They were still competing as the sun set.

We came home from our three and half days in the capital reassured that life for the Lithuanians seemed better than its history recounted. Pruning the 1200 photographs down to a manageable 400 gave me chance to re-live the visit and ponder on a return sometime.

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