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Monday, September 4, 2017

In Labor

Old Town from up high

It's Labor Day in the United States, which means a day off for me (and a three-day weekend) even though I'm on a different continent on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean. As we had gone away the previous weekend to the Latvian seaside, and as my daughter's school year has only just begun, we decided to stay in town this weekend (and Amber had to go to school on Monday). We nevertheless did manage to get out of the apartment a few times, beginning on Saturday when I took my daughter into Old Town to visit the freestanding campanile of Sts. Johns' Church (aka Church of St. Johns, St. John the Baptist and Sts. John the Apostle and Evangelist):


Upon purchasing our tickets, we entered the tower and checked out the gruesome exhibits once used by medical students at Vilnius University:


The first floor also contains a Foucault's pendulum, which is used to demonstrate the earth's rotation:


With the elevator out of order, we had no choice but to take the wooden staircase up to the roof:


The views from the tallest standing structure in Old Town (68 meters/223 feet) were worth the effort to get up there:






Looking down at the pendulum during the descent:


Our entry ticket to the campanile also gained us admission into the courtyards of Vilnius University. Amber and I had already visited back in January (when the campanile was closed for winter), but this time my daughter got to see the Seasons frescoes in the Lithuanian Philology Center:



Friday through Sunday was the Vilnius City Fiesta, with art exhibitions, cultural events and concerts taking place all over Old Town. Amber enjoyed this Lithuanian duo:


The two of us ventured out into Old Town again after dinner on Saturday evening (my wife wasn't interested) to see what was going on. We passed some members of the Tartan Army, still celebrating the day after Scotland defeated Lithuania 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier. The sight of men in kilts singing that traditional Scottish favorite the Hokey Pokey drew an appreciative crowd on onlookers:




Happy Scots aside, the big draw on Saturday night was the free concert in Cathedral Square by the Lithuanian hip hop group G&G Sindikatis. No, I'd never heard of them, either:


Sunday was a quiet day, at least for Shu-E and me. Our daughter had been invited to a former classmate's birthday party at a bowling alley, so Amber was busy all that afternoon. The weather was rainy, so I stayed in, only venturing out to take a walk while the rain temporarily abated and later to retrieve my daughter. One benefit to having your child attend an international school is her having classmates from various countries, meaning she gets to bring home goodies like Kazakh chocolate:


And so we come to Labor Day Monday, when Amber had to go to school and my wife only wanted to stay indoors and relax. So I went into Old Town on my own. I didn't intend to visit the 1743 Church of All Saints, but the door was open as I was passing by, so I went inside to have a look:


You know you've been living in a medieval European city for too long when you take a look inside at the Baroque interior and think "It's okay, I guess":


The first of the two places I intended on visiting this day was the M.K. Čiurlionis House, where Lithuania's greatest artist and composer lived with his wife from October 1907 to June 2008, after which they moved to St. Petersburg. Reproductions of the artist's paintings, as well as photographs of him, line the wall of the modest home:




The other destination lies further afield from Old Town, but is worth the walk to get there. The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul (Šv Apaštalų ir Povilo Bažnyčia) doesn't look all that impressive from the outside...:



...but the interior is a Baroque riot of over 2000 white stucco figures featuring angels and demons and biblical scenes, courtesy of the church's wealthy 17th-century patron and Vilnius military governor, Michal Kazimierz Pac, who is buried under the front steps:



The glass-bead, boat-shaped chandelier is a reference to St. Peter's profession as a fisherman and was made by Latvian craftsmen in 1905:


The interior was created by Italian sculptors between 1675 and 1704. Some of the historical images are somewhat gruesome:




Lonely Planet describes the church's Baroque interior as "the finest in the country", an observation I won't disagree with. Neither, I suppose would the Japanese tour group that was visiting at the same time as me.

It was a long walk back home from St. Peter & Paul Church, broken up with a break at Donut Lab for a salted caramel doughnut and a spicy chai. Back to work tomorrow...

Bird-on-bird violence


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