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Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Big Freeze

If you've been following the news recently, you're probably aware that Europe has been hit hard by a blast of Siberian cold air (see here, here and here). In Sweden, it's being described as the "Snow Cannon". The British are calling it "The Beast from the East". In the Netherlands, it's being referred to as the "Siberian Bear".

Here in Lithuania, the locals are calling it "Thursday".

(Disclaimer: I did not come up with the above witty observation - I admit to copping it from a Facebook meme)

The point being that in the Baltics it hasn't been an atypical winter. Yes, it's been cold, with temperatures in Vilnius frequently dropping into the negative teens Centigrade, and cold records have been broken in the western part of the country (a temperature of -26°C/-15°F was recorded overnight on Feb. 27 in the city of Ukmergė). The weather has also unfortunately claimed at least five lives in Lithuania. But unlike in much of the rest of Europe, Lithuanians have faced these conditions in many a winter, and life here continues as normal. Offices and schools remain open (much to my daughter's disappointment), and people continue to go out to restaurants and stores. The weather hasn't stopped this year's edition of the St. Casimir's Fair, known as Kaziukas mugė in Lithuanian (see here for last year's version; notice the difference in weather conditions). The traditional annual fair, with roots dating back to 1604, focuses on Lithuanian folk arts and crafts, and is spread across a number of streets of Vilnius' Old Town. I was able to convince my wife to leave the comfort of our heated apartment this Saturday (Amber was in Bratislava, Slovakia with her middle school swim team, taking part in a meet; see below) to check out the fair on Gedimino prospektas. The temperature was a cool -14° Centigrade (7° Fahrenheit), and snow was falling, of course:

On the way there. Shu-E loves this stretch of road, and has taken a lot of photos at this spot in autumn (leaves) and winter (snow):

The Žvėryno bridge, Church of Our Lady of the Sign and the frozen Neris River:

Wood carvers demonstrate their wares:

A folk music ensemble braves the elements:

Lithuanians are a hardy lot:

Straw baskets seemed to be a hot item at this year's fair. This photo was taken from the (relatively) heated comfort that was Čili Pica, where we had lunch:

This poor dog was forced to wait for its owner outside an IKI supermarket:

After shopping, my wife returned home, but I pressed on to the end of Gedimino prospektas:

Cathedral Square:

The man of the hour:

I then wandered over to the Town Hall Square to see what was going on in that area, before stopping to have a cup of coffee and then heading home:

The couple on the left was crashing the dance party. Alcohol is suspected of being involved:

Snow has been on the ground here for a while now. Last month, on the weekend before we left for our weeklong trip to Italy (see here, here, here and here - thanks to the current freeze, places that we had visited such as the Colosseum and Pompeii are now covered in snow), I took my daughter to Taurus Hill for some fun with her snow disk:

The net is in place to ensure that momentum doesn't carry the kids into a parking lot at the bottom of the hill:

A well-earned post-sledding snack at Dr. Waffle:

While we were away in Italy, Lithuania observed the 100th anniversary of the country's independence. Which explained all the flags we saw as we returned to our neighborhood from Vilnius Airport:

As noted above, Amber was away for several days in Bratislava, as part of her school's swim team taking part in a meet that also included teams from schools in the host city, Prague and Tirana (Albania). She returned to Vilnius today (Sunday), bringing her medal haul with her. Taking part in eight events over two days, our little Mark Spitz/Michael Phelps came away with two first-place finishes (in the 50-meter backstroke and 200-meter freestyle), one second-place (100-meter backstroke) and two third-place finishes (backstroke in the 200-meter medley relay and 200-meter individual freestyle). Here she is at home, feeling a little tired and sore from the effort but nevertheless proud of her achievements (as are her parents):

One last shot of the frozen Neris, taken on a sunny Sunday afternoon when the temperature soared to a sultry -4°C (25°F):

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