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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Grateful Live

Another Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end for millions of Americans (I had three of four days off, having had to work on Friday), a time (in theory, anyway) to take stock of one's life and feel grateful for what you have. And I do have a lot to be grateful for - family, friends, lifestyle etc. Overall it's been a good year so far, though 2017 has been marred by two unfortunate occurrences. The lesser of the two was my not being promoted this time around, despite being the recipient of three performance-related awards at work and filling in very capably (or so I was told) while my supervisor was away from the section for several lengthy periods of time.

The other and more significant of the two was the death of my mother at Easter. Her passing wasn't unexpected and is part of the natural order of things, but still cast a dark shadow over subsequent activities. But life goes on no matter what, so I should appreciate what I have now in case it all vanishes tomorrow.

So here's wishing that all my American family, friends and acquaintances had a Happy Thanksgiving (and a belated seasonal greeting to my Canadian friends), and hoping this post finds everyone I know (regardless of nationality) doing well. 

And now a few photographs from the past week...

A Monday evening view of the Žaliasis Bridge and the northern bank of the Neris River:

Celebrating victory in the Tuesday night trivia contest at Būsi Trečias. My most important contribution to the team effort was filling in the blank with the correct answer to the musical question "Is This the Way to (blank)"*:

On Thursday my daughter and I had lunch at the British Cafe, which was British only in the sense of interior decoration. The food was more, um, local. At least I got to catch up on the news from last February:

Amber beams after doing some Christmas shopping at Lino Namai:

Giving ourselves a post-shopping treat at Holy Donut:

Our Thanksgiving turkey. This was the first time in several years that we had dinner at home on Thanksgiving Day. Considering all the leftovers afterward, it'll probably be several more years before we do so again (and a special thanks to my wife for both the bird and the homemade cranberry sauce):

Old Town sheathed in fog on Saturday morning:

In the afternoon I took my daughter past Trakai to the Strėva green trail. A wedding party either on their way to the ceremony or coming back from it stopped in the parking lot for a smoke break:

It was a fog-shrouded walk along the shores of Lake Stanka:

For dinner on Saturday evening, Amber,  Shu-E and I took a break from leftover turkey to enjoy the seafood on offer at Žuvinė, located in the rear of the Town Hall building. In my case that meant scallops, Atlantic cod and mussels:

St. Casimir's Church on a Saturday evening:

The former town hall:

Sunday was a quiet day. Shopping with the family was followed by a solo walk around New Town and Šnipiškės. Felix, a name you can trust when it comes to chicken:

Lukiškės Square was known as Lenin Square during the Soviet occupation period, during which time it was "graced" with a statue of you-know-who (now found in Grūtas Park, minus its right thumb). Five designs are now being considered for the refurbished square, which passersby can check out for themselves:

A Thanksgiving classic:

* Amarillo

Sunday, November 19, 2017

O'er the bastions we watched...

Jumping for joy at the Artillery Bastion. In the background are the Church of the Ascension and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

We didn't leave Vilnius this weekend, and have no plans for any overnight trips until the Christmas holidays (when we'll be going to Japan for a couple of weeks). With the sun showing itself for the first time in several days on Saturday, and temperatures in the relatively balmy upper Thirties Fahrenheit, it would've been a shame to spend the afternoon indoors, so I was able to persuade my wife to leave the comfy confines of our living room to join my daughter (who doesn't have much of a choice in these matters anyway) and me for lunch at one of the three Gusto Blyninė pancake restaurants in Vilnius:

Afterward Shu-E returned home, but Amber and I made the short walk from the restaurant to check out one of the few remaining city defenses from the days when the Polish/Lithuanian confederation was constantly at war with Sweden or Russia. On the way there I reconstructed for my daughter the fall I took at that exact location on Subačiaus gatvė on Wednesday evening. The lack of streetlights combined with my lack of concentration (I was staring at Google Maps on my iPhone) resulted in a scraped elbow, a pair of banged-up knees and a pronounced limp that managed to work itself out by the end of the following day:

The Artillery Bastion (Artilerijos bastėja) was a fortification constructed as part of Vilnius' defenses in the 17th century, though by the end of the 18th century it'd already fallen into ruin. It was subsequently used as an orphanage, a trash dump, an ammunition storage facility for the German army in World War I and a vegetable storage bin during the early Soviet occupation period before opening as a museum in 1987. A restored section of the old city walls, the Subačiaus gate, is also part of the complex:

The top of the bastion provides good views of Old Town and Užupis:

In addition to the aforementioned armor and weapons, the interior also has recently-excavated archaeological artefacts on display, along with historical maps and drawings:

This rendering of a basilisk was housed in its own dimly-lit room, but there was no information provided as to how old (or new) this sculpture actually was:

The Artillery Bastion shouldn't be too high on anyone's Vilnius bucket list, but it does make for a pleasant diversion if you're in the neighborhood, especially if the weather is cooperative. Winter is a good time to visit as the lack of leaves in the nearby trees allows for better views of the surroundings:

Taking the leisurely route back home, Amber and I passed by the Presidential Palace. The "100" symbols on the exterior refer to next year's anniversaries of the three Baltic republics declarations of independence following the Russian Empire's defeat and subsequent collapse in the First World War, and the flags of Estonia and Latvia are flying alongside that of Lithuania...or would be, if there's more than the gentle breeze that was blowing on Saturday afternoon:

The weather deteriorated on Sunday, so the girls sensibly decided to stay indoors. Lacking sense, I went out for an afternoon walk in the cold drizzle. My feet eventually led me to the Catholic Church of the Ascension, its two towers situated on a hilltop overlooking Maironio gatvė and Užupis. The 1730 Baroque church has been closed for quite some time it seems (or so I thought), as has been the adjoining former monastery buildings, which according to Google were shuttered during large parts of the Tsarist and Soviet periods and have seen use as a war hospital, an institute for young women from noble families and an insane asylum:

Despite being closed, someone is apparently paying attention to the church as I took this photo from under a bank of spotlights pointed directly at the exterior from across the road:

Close by is another house of worship that is no longer functioning as such, the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I could find very little about this place on Google, other than it was built in 1765 and this website that includes an old photograph of the interior. I thought at first the church had been incorporated into the correctional facility that adjoins it, as is the case with the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and Lukiškės Prison, but Google Maps shows they are separate properties:

With nothing but time on my hands, I descended from the hilltop and walked through Užupis and Bernardine Park before huffing and puffing up a long wooden staircase (I've let myself go) on the opposite bank of the Vilnia in Kalnų Park. At the top I looked back toward the two churches in the distances:

From there it was a short walk to the Three Crosses (see here, here and here), where I took in the view of Old Town below as dusk approached:

It was as I was leaving the Three Crosses that I noticed a light was on in one of the towers of the Church of the Ascension:

Apparently, it isn't as closed as it may appear. Vilnius has its secrets...