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Monday, August 22, 2016

All Quiet on the Lithuanian Front

The struggle faced by most Lithuanians as they try to eke out a living in this impoverished country

Sometimes, no news is good news. And so, with nothing of note to report on the Kaminoge home front, here are a few photos from the past week in Vilnius...

On Wednesday I took part in a walking tour of Jewish-related sites in Vilnius' Old Town. While the guide was well-informed on the topic, the weather was cold and rainy and the tour wasn't quite what I was expecting in terms of what was seen. Still, in how many other countries can you peer over the wall and into the rear garden of the Presidential Palace without getting arrested?:

You can always play a game of chess on this elephant-shaped board while waiting for something to happen in the garden:

Our guide stands beneath a map showing the locations of the World War II-era Jewish ghettos in Vilnius:

A quiet courtyard located in the former ghetto:

In contrast for most of the past several weeks, the weather this weekend has been nothing short of gorgeous: sunny skies and warm temperatures (in the low twenties Centigrade). Glad to see summer decided not to check out early, after all. My family and I celebrated the return of the sun by making yet another short drive to Trakai (we were just there last weekend) - if I were Lithuanian, I would consider buying a dacha in the area for those quick weekend getaways. We parked in front of the Trakai History Museum, and so made it our first stop. The ecclesiastical art display in a former Dominican monastery was of mild interest but not worth the addtional €1.50 being asked for the privilege of taking photographs (on top of the regular admission fee). No such restrictions exist, however, on the grounds of the Peninsula Castle, completed in 1382 and destroyed in the 16th century:

Lamb pie and a cup of broth for lunch, washed down with a Švyturys White - Baltas Hefeweizen, at the Karaimų 13 cafe:

Lots of watercraft on Lake Galvė:

Ostensibly we traveled to Trakai again to see the Days of Ancient Crafts, which was supposedly developed from a medieval festival that was held at the Peninsula Castle. However, a quick peek inside the gate of Trakai Castle showed a lot of stalls selling crafts and snacks, a few people dressed in medieval costumes and not much else. Was it worth paying the entrance fee to see the castle again? Considering we had done just that only two months ago, then answer was no:

Instead, we took a sightseeing boat on a tour of Lake Galvė, where the previously noted various types of watercraft were joined by a powered parachute flying overhead:

My daughter enjoys an after-cruise triple-scoop ice cream (chocolate, mango and strawberry):

Dipping our feet in the cold (but not unbearably so) waters of Lake Galvė. Cap by Sacramento River Cats, jersey by Southend United F.C., circa 1996 (hey, I take good care of my clothes):

Looking across Lake Totorškių, on the opposite side of the peninsula from Trakai Castle, as we were heading back to our car for the drive home. Next summer I'd like to stay a night at a hotel close to the water in Trakai:

Back in Vilnius and having a "New York" deep-dish pizza at an American-style restaurant a short walk from our apartment building:

My wife and child are not immune to popular fads and trends. Shu-E recently downloaded the Pokémon Go app, and here Amber checks out a "Pokestop" - a statue of Florence Nightingale near the 24-hour flower market on Jono Basanavičiaus gatvė (because there are people out there who need to buy flowers at three o'clock in the morning):

The view toward Old Town in the distance on a late Saturday evening:

Sunday was another beautiful day, and with our bikes finally out of storage and ready to ride, we set off just after twelve-thirty in the direction of Old Town, stopping for lunch outdoors at Zoe's Bar & Grill, across from Cathedral Square:

The menus at Zoe's are designed to resemble LP sleeves, and contain actual 33 1/3 rpm records inside them (the smaller drink menu has a 45-rpm record in its sleeve). So I instantly aged several decades when my millennial daughter pulled one of the records out of her menu and asked me what it was:

The Thai-style shrimp rolls were pretty good:

The next profile photo for my Facebook page, beer gut and all:

Ready to ride. In the background is Vilnius Cathedral, arguably the city's top tourist sight and one we haven't visited yet. When you have twenty-one months remaining in a place, there's no hurry to see everything:

Today also happened to be the Velomarathon, the biggest bicycle event in Lithuania. We didn't take part (wait 'til next year!), but we did ride along part of the route:

This large ball hanging from the Žirmūnai Bridge (Žirmūnų tiltas) is an art installation. We had passed under it back in June when we took a sightseeing boat on the Neris River:

The Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports (Vilniaus sporto rūmai) is a typically hideous Soviet-era architectural monstrosity that sits on the opposite side of the Neris River from Gediminas Castle. It closed down in 2004, and now begs for urban exploration. Only with my present occupation, what the Japanese call 廃墟巡り wouldn't be the smartest thing for me to do:

Behind the decaying "palace" is a track-and-field stadium in the process of being razed:

Vilnius is a city that begs to be explored on two wheels, at least until it gets too cold and dark to do so:

Utenos Alus is a Lithuanian brewery that is part of the Carlsberg Group. It puts out some good beers despite that fact, including a refreshing raspberry radler. And I'm confident enough with my sexuality to publicly admit that:


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