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Monday, May 29, 2017

State of the national health

Tending a grave

The state of the Kaminoge family health is getting better after some issues arose earlier in the week. My daughter somehow suffered a slight fracture of her left foot as a result of a mysterious accident involving a wall on Tuesday evening - I was at home when the incident occurred and I'm still not exactly clear on how this came about (a couple of years ago in Shànghǎi 上海 Amber broke her little finger in another equally mysterious accident that involved her dropping a large rock she was inexplicably carrying at the time). We took her to a clinic the following afternoon and had her foot x-rayed, which revealed the fracture. The good news is that she doesn't need a cast or orthopaedic footwear, and she's quickly gotten used to the crutches - it helps that her father has had to use crutches at three different times in his life and therefore knows a thing or two about getting around on them:

The doctor believes our daughter will need the crutches for the next few weeks, but should be fine in time for our trip to the U.K. in mid-June and her visit with her mother to Taiwan in July. However, for this weekend, the state of Amber's foot meant we wouldn't be doing much over the three-day Memorial Day break. With the weather being too good to stay cooped-up indoors, however, I went for a bike ride on Saturday afternoon, cycling through Old Town (a mistake thanks to the toll the cobblestoned streets took on my knees) to the southern suburb of Rasos, site of the Rasų cemetery (Rasų kapinės). The cemetery was founded in 1801 and is a pilgrimage site for both Lithuanians and Poles, due to both the many historical figures buried there and Vilnius' complex history.  Interred in Rasos are local luminaries such as Jonas Basanavičius, leader of the Lithuanian national movement at the end of the 19th century and one of the movers behind the Lithuanian Declaration of Independence of February 16, 1918; unfortunately, I wasn't able to locate his apparently-modest headstone. Thanks to Google Images, I was able to find the more prominent grave of the painter and composer M.K. Ĉiurlionis:

According to an information board outside the front gate, many of the tombstones within were the work of noted sculptors:

Lithuanian soldiers killed in the battles for Vilnius during the 1920-21 Polish-Lithuanian War are also interred in the cemetery. The words in front refer to "Occupation victims" and reference two periods: 1920-1939, when Vilnius was under Polish administration (see below), and 1940-1990, when Lithuania was occupied first by the Soviet Union, then by Germany 1941-1944 and finally by the Soviets again until the restoration of independence. The words on the back wall honor those who fell for the "freedom of Lithuania" in 1920-21:

The most controversial figure entombed in Rasų cemetery is the partial resident Józef Piłsudski, the Polish statesman who approved the capture of Vilnius in 1920.  Partial in that only the marshal's heart is laid to rest here (the rest of his remains is in Wawel Cathedral in Kraków), encased in a large, black granite slab. During my visit a couple of (presumably Polish) tour groups stopped by to visit the organ:

Piłsudski's heart is surrounded by the graves of Polish soldiers who died defending Vilnius from Bolshevik forces in 1919:

With its mix of tombstones written in Lithuanian, Polish and Russian, Rasų cemetery provides an interesting glimpse into Vilnius' convoluted history of the past two hundred years. It's also an entertainly creepy place to visit, though I probably should've done so on a gloomier day than the gloriously sunny Saturday I chose to go:

A quick selfie before the ride home:

A large mural on the wall overlooking Keulė Rūkė, a barbecue restaurant noted not for its food but for its infamous graffiti of  Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin engaged in a deep kiss (now modified to include a spliff). Due to the nature of my current line of work, I can't share that image here, but it's easy enough to find online:

Vilnius isn't a hilly city in the sense of, say, San Francisco but it undulates enough to serve as a sometimes uncomfortable reminder that, thanks to the state of my knees, I'll probably never be able to embark on the kinds of long-distance mountain rides my expat acquaintances back in Taiwan regularly undertake. Still, it's a great place for biking around and I plan to do a lot more while the weather is good.

My daughter, meanwhile, was mobile enough on Saturday evening to go out for dinner. Here she is hobbling down Jono Basanavičius gatvė. If that name sounds familiar, just go back about eight paragraphs:

On the way home after dinner, she stopped to admire a flowering tree, the name of which appears to be the European horse chestnut, at least according to my friend Jeff:

Amber's foot was feeling better on Sunday, as she was able to get around unaided for much of the time by walking on the heel of her injured foot (following doctor's orders on this). For lunch the three of us walked down to Vokiečių gatvė in Vilnius, where we were lured into the Vasaros Terasa beer restaurant by their sign on the sidewalk out front:

Destined to be my new Facebook profile picture:

After lunch, we went across the street to Holy Donut for dessert. Having tragically been born without a sweet tooth, Shu-E stuck around long enough to save my daughter and me a table outside and to snap a pic before returning home. The father-daughter Orioles caps were souvenirs from a game we caught at Camden Yards last year, just before departing the U.S. for Lithuania:

Memorial Day Monday was pretty much a non-event. Amber had school as well as an afternoon appointment with an orthodontist, which ruled out making any day trips from Vilnius. I was hoping to go for a bike ride in the morning, but a sudden, heavy downpour stopped that plan in its tracks. When I did get out on the bicycle in the late afternoon, gusty conditions made it hard to cycle even on relatively level gradients. Still, a day off with pay is a day off with pay so I'm not complaining...

...and I'm definitely not complaining about these, thanks to a colleague who on Monday went on a tour of the Butautu Dvaras Brewery in Biržai. I was unable to participate for the family/medical reasons above, but at least I won't have completely missed out on the fun:

And as for the state of my health, I've been advised by a physician to make some changes to my diet. She also recommended that I do at least an hour's worth of walking a day, advice which I've enthusiastically accepted (at least while the weather is nice). I take my camera along on these walks, and the following are a few random images taken as I've branched out in all the cardinal directions from our apartment building:

I once saw a very agitated dog barking at these figures

Living in a Baltic country we may be, but having a Taiwan-born spouse means sometimes stopping to pick up some 豬肉包子 on the way home (the 奶茶 is a reward given to myself for being such a devoted husband)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

For the sake of posting...

Drummers on Gedimino Prospektas

It's been a most unexceptional weekend here in Lithuania's capital. My daughter, for example, did on Saturday what she's done on many Saturdays before - have a swimming lesson in the morning, followed by a schoolmate's birthday party in the afternoon. There's really no reason for this post except to celebrate the fact that now (and the coming summer months) is the best time to be in Vilnius, with sunny skies and temperatures sitting at a very comfortable 25° Celsius (77° Fahrenheit). Though my better half still prefers to stay indoors and swipe at iPhone and iPad screens all day long, like many Lithuanians this window of beautiful weather is just too good to pass up. So I took a long walk on Saturday afternoon, admiring the view along the Neris:

After the birthday party, the three of us went out for dinner at a recently-opened Sushi Stop not far from our apartment building. On the way there, Amber paused to ogle a chair suspended from in front of the Russian Drama Theater of Lithuania:

You don't visit Lithuania expecting to eat great sushi 寿司, so there wasn't any disappointment about the meal, but the availability of Sapporo Beer サッポロビール was a pleasant surprise:

Dandelions are everywhere at the moment, much to my daughter's glee:

While Shu-E went back home to be with her electronic devices, Amber and I took a long post-dinner stroll through Old Town. There was a Street Music Festival taking place throughout Saturday, and every corner we turned there would be a band performing. These drummers on Gedimino Prospektas drew a big crowd:

The above video was recorded at some point between 8:00 and 8:30 pm. With the days getting longer, it's easy to lose track of the actual time (and also making it difficult to sleep in on the weekends without the help of blackout curtains).

Sunday was just as bright and warm as the previous day, and my wife, daughter and I went out for lunch at Vilnius' only Korean restaurant, JHK & DD's Place. The bulgogi there isn't bad, but the best thing about the restaurant is its outdoor seating (on AstroTurf!) on Vokiečių gatvė:

After lunch, Shu-E elected to return home for an afternoon of monster slaying and message reading on Line, so Amber and I mingled with the tourists as we made our way over to Cathedral Square. The Cathedral Belfry there turned out to be closed on Sundays, so instead we visited the Museum of Applied Art (Taikomosios Dailės Muziejus). The museum, sitting at the foot of Gediminas Hill, is located in the Old Arsenal, built in the 16th century and restored in the 1980's. It houses temporary collections, the current two of which we visited on Sunday afternoon. On the first floor is Tamed Nature. 18th–21st Century. Exhibition from the fashion historian Alexandre Vassiliev collection:

 "Isn't that illegal?" asked my daughter

 A reminder that the Seventies were a "special" time

 Swinging London (and a few other places)

 Amber wonders why anyone would wear a hat with a dead bird on it

 A Kenzo from 1968

Upstairs is the Roundabout Baltic Exhibition, showcasing the works of designers from the Baltic Sea region:

 Concrete Meets Porcelain

 My daughter's favorite was this "deformed" chair

Blue Line Tableware

There were also displays of the "Good Design" Lithuanian design prize winners, such as Ignorance is Bliss tableware:

The Museum of Applied Art also houses a small collection of more traditional art pieces:

Back outside and basking in the sun:

Father and daughter enjoying some doughnuts and 珍珠奶茶 in Savivaldybės aikštė (Municipal Square) before heading home for dinner:

We've been in Vilnius for just over a year now, with one more to go before we move on. It's been a great tour so far, and having survived our first long, dark Baltic winter, it's time to celebrate the change in seasons. I'm looking forward to the next few months of late sunsets, warm temperatures and dining al fresco on cobblestoned streets.

And checking out all the craft beer places that seem to be emerging from the woodwork...