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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Feeling Festive...Again?

The view doesn't get more Old Townish than this in Vilnius

Another weekend, another excuse to line Gedimino Prospektas with food stalls and stands selling arts and crafts. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the European Heritage Days, "showcasing heritage from all over Europe". Summer is on its way out and the climate has noticeably chilled, but on Saturday at least the rain stayed away, the sun came out and the temperature peaked at a comfortable 17° Celsius (63° Fahrenheit). The family and I went down to Gedimino Prospektas late on Saturday morning to have a look, and it wasn't long before my wife began stocking up on fruits and vegetables:


My daughter did her own shopping as well, drifting toward those stalls selling sweet treats, like these fried balls of dough, sprinkled with powered sugar:


A giant, working Penny-farthing. Reason for being? Your guess is as good as mine:


Caramel bread spread in one hand, kimchi in the other:


The European Union flag may have been flying proudly on European Heritage Days, but our lunch was definitely Lithuanian:



Cultural performances were being staged in addition to the arts and crafts and food:



While the crowds didn't approach Chinese or Taiwanese horde levels, it still got pretty busy at times on Gedimino Prospektas (in case you're wondering, that's the Georgian flag flying from one of the stalls):


Upon reaching Cathedral Square, Shu-E decided to head back home with all the goodies she had purchased. Amber and I, however, opted to stick around and visit the Cathedral Belfry (Katedros aikštė) historic building. Despite having lived in Vilnius for more than 17 months now, and passing through Cathedral Square on numerous occasions, I hadn't yet gone inside the bell tower, an oversight that needed to be corrected:



At 57 meters (187 feet), the belfry is one of the tallest towers in Vilnius. It was once part of the city's defenses in the 13th century. Inside the tower, my daughter couldn't resist the clarion call:

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As can be expected, the views from the top are worth the climb up:


The best view overlooks Vilnius Cathedral and Gediminas Hill:


This perspective gives a good idea of how many people were out enjoying the festival on Saturday afternoon:



Zooming in on St. Anne's Church (foreground) and the Bernardine Church & Monastery:


The belfry also houses a collection of historic bells:



Relaxing at the Gedimino 9 shopping center after visiting the bell tower. Nothing says "gangsta" more than a Taiwanese-style milk tea...without the bubbles. Hardcore:


Back home and watching the hot air balloons rise from our living room window on a Saturday evening. It probably won't be too much longer until the Oreivystės Centras (Ballooning Center) calls it quits for the year:


The threat of rain loomed all day Sunday (a threat that actually came to pass several times, much like North Korean missile tests), so I abandoned my plan to go for a bike ride. Instead, I walked the intended cycling course, a ten-kilometer route beginning in Old Town that took me around 2¾ hours to complete. Though I was trodding on familiar ground the entire way, I did stop to take in some things I hadn't paid much attention to in the past. Like this monument to Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, who lived in Vilnius for almost twenty years. Behind stands the 18th-century St. Catherine's Church, currently used as a concert hall (and the spires of which can be seen from our apartment):


Despite the precipitation, the balloons were out again (Delfi is a major internet portal in the Baltic states):


A sculpture of Lazdynų Pelėda, the pen name of two sister-writers, in a park named after her...them. I don't know which sister is facing the camera:


The Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas was originally a Gothic church built in 1514. It was taken over by the Uniates (Greek Catholics) in 1609, before later being restored in the baroque style. The church passed into the hands of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1827; the obviously Russian Byzantine facade was the result of redecoration in the aftermath of the doomed January 1863 uprising and the resulting Russification program:


The interior is very dark and flash photography is forbidden. I took this shot just in front of the interior entrance:


St. Paraskeva's Church. The front door was open, but the interior was closed, which is why I'm reflected in the shot below. According to the information sign outside,  it was here that Tsar Peter I baptized Hannibal, the African ancestor of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin::



The church grounds are also home to this bizarre sculpture:


The European Heritage Days festival was still going strong on Gedimino Prospektas despite the weather:


Standing in the appropriately-named Vincas Kudirka Square, in front of the Lithuanian Republic Government House, is a monument to the poet, physician and author of the national anthem of the Republic of Lithuania


A Viking-themed sightseeing boat turns around in the water. I took this while crossing the Neris River along the Žvėrynas Bridge:


A selfie taken while crossing the Neris on another bridge, this one leading to Vingis Park:


I really haven't taken advantage enough of the wooded park, despite its close proximity to where I live and work:


The park's stage is host to a number of events and performances during the summer:


The German military cemetery is the burial ground for nearly 3000 Austrian, German and Hungarian soldiers killed during the two world wars:


Amber and I went to see local favorite FK Žalgiris (aka Žalgiris Vilnius) play rival FK Kauno Žalgiris (aka Žalgiris Kaunas) in a soccer match at LFF Stadium on Thursday evening. Despite the chilly temperatures and occasional drizzle, we had a good time watching the home team triumph 3-1. The banner reads "Go Žalgiris!":



RIP Bob




Sunday, September 10, 2017

That was the week that was in Vilnius

This week's post has no coherent or liner theme, just a series of random pics taken in the last few days...

It's "New Circus Weekend" in Vilnius, with various circus acts from Belgium, Finland, France and Spain performing at venues all over town, with some performances free of charge. My daughter and I on Thursday evening caught a free acrobatic performance on Thursday at Arts Printing House by Joan Català. From the booklet that was handed out prior to the start of the performance:

Choreography of the show is...filled with traditional Catalan culture elements, for example - building of a human pyramid called "anxaneta". For that the performer takes a huge wooden log, ropes and...a few audience members. An audience will get to watch a very dangerous-looking climb to the top of the log, held by four men from the audience.

Fortunately I wasn't one of the four asked to take part. A good time was had by all present:





On Saturday I was able to convince my she-who-likes-to-stay-at-home spouse to join us for a walk in the woods. The place was the "cognitive track" of the Varnikai Botanical-Zoological Preserve, located off the road between Vilnius and Trakai. Lithuania is in the midst of the annual mushroom-picking season, so the forest was filled with families foraging for fungi:



 A few that have gotten away...for now. Or are they the poisonous kind?

 Notice the chair placed by the water




On Saturday evening on Gedimino Prospektas and what looked like a TV commercial shoot taking place, with extras sitting in parked cars:


Shu-E had a toothache and didn't feel like going out to eat on Saturday, so Amber and I had a dinner date for two. My daughter chose Renè, a local Belgian favorite, where she drew on the paper tablecloth (an encouraged activity) and ordered a pot of mussels. I debated having rabbit or venison, before finally deciding on Bambi:


There was an almost-full orange moon looming over the city on Saturday night, but even with a tripod, my camera made the orb look more like a sun than a satellite:


On Sunday afternoon I went out for a bike ride, with my intended destination being LITEXPO (Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Center), located about eight kilometers from our apartment. LITEXPO was playing host this weekend to "Now Japan", but I decided to give it a pass as my Japanophilia (ugh, that sounds bad) doesn't extend to anime アニメ, manga 漫画, J-POP, maid cafès メイド喫茶, cosplay コスプレ or any of the other kitsch things that seem to appeal to so many younger Japanophiles. I made it as far as the TV tower before deciding to head back home:


The problem was that my phone GPS kept directing me to go along busy highways that lacked both bike lanes and sidewalks, so it took a lot of head-scratching and riding around aimlessly before I was finally able to find a safe route back. Not to mention a few dead ends, like this "bridge" that my GPS wanted to me to use to cross the Neris:



I was able to find a more pedestrian-friendly bridge further along the river, but the final obstacle was a huge traffic circle. Cyclists and pedestrians have to use a series of tunnels to navigate the roundabout. The view from inside - like being in the eye of a hurricane (and note the road passing through the middle):