Authie et Mi

Temporarily geographically misplaced

20th June 2014

Well, we had been warned that it would be a day of showers. This I was told would mean sudden downpours and then it would clear again for a wee while.

That was pretty much our day. We were just about to head out the front door when it started to hurl it down. Five minutes later it had eased sufficiently for us to venture out and within a few more minutes it had stopped.

On my previous visit the National Museum had been closed (or more to the point I had not been there on any day that it had been open) so the museum was going to be a new experience for me as well as my parents. There is quite a lot to see, but I would agree with some Australians who mentioned in the Visitors’ Book that they had been disappointed that no photographs are allowed (even without flash).

There is an interesting section on the find of a mass grave of soldiers from Napoleon’s retreating army of 1812. Remnants of uniforms and hats from a once formidable army reduced to a band of tattered stragglers perishing in the snow after a march of nearly a thousand kilometres from Moscow.

For a country that took to Christianity so late the populace have certainly made up for lost time in creating ornate wooden crosses and other religious artefacts and we spent a while watching an interesting video on their making and origins.

I am sorry, but cups and saucers just don’t do it for me, and frankly one stone-age arrow head looks much the same as another to my mind. Moving on, now this is more interesting. A mocked up homestead with implements and a large display of traditional dresses from the various regions. Do the men just remain naked at village festivals whilst the women dress up, or is it that all the gent’s festive apparel is still lying in the bottom of a closet somewhere, unwashed from that really brilliant session we had back in 1507 ?

Back outside we were forced to take shelter at a bus stop for a moment as we skipped between showers, then we walked up along the main shopping street : Gediminas Prospect. A pause for coffee and buns and we reached that emporium of British delights — Marks and Spencer.

From the door on the corner leading into the small food hall you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a small outlet in a minor market town back home, but once past the chocolate chipped cookies, British sandwiches, Indian ready-meals and other culinary delights that you would find on any British high street you are lead into a pretty large store on two floors.

Apart from the overhanging signs in Lithuanian there was little to suggest that you were away from home. All the packaging is exactly the same but with Lithuanian stickers. The clothes were the same as I had recently seen at Anton’s and when you did a rough calculation the prices were pretty much the same — from a Lithuanian point of view, pretty expensive. Mind you there was a sale on and I was tempted for a moment to buy a shirt !

What we did buy was a pack of Imperial Mints and a bottle of red that was on sale. The price of wine was definitely British but the reduction brought it down closer to what I am prepared to pay.

Back out to brave the rain again only this time we did get a bit damp as we misjudged the timing on the crossing lights. But that was the end of it and the rest of the day turned out to be warm and sunny.

Our next museum was that of the Genocide Victims in the old KGB/Gestapo Headquarters. When I was there two years ago they had the odd set up that you could not use your camera but nothing was preventing you from using your telephone (because it wasn’t expressly a camera). Now the rules have been changed and you can use your camera all that you want if you have paid the five Lietai for a ticket.

In this day and age the efforts of the Soviet surveillance squads appear laughable by the standards of what we are prepared to accept today. All that paper work, getting household to inform on household, bugging of rooms and conversations (did anybody use a telephone with confidence ?).

Nowadays we think it normal that we are followed by CCTV from the moment we leave our homes to when we return. Our every enquiry on the Internet is automatically recorded (but never passed to interested government agencies) and our lives are displayed for all to see on social media.

Down below in the holding cells the victims of both German and Soviet secret police were interrogated, tortured and if expedient : disappeared. It’s all very depressing and I think that we need reminding from time to time, that we the good-guys are still doing very similar things to those we consider enemies of freedom (or at least our version of it). Torture is not an implement used solely by totalitarian states or mad dictators — You want the truth ? You can’t handle the truth !

Legs were weary and after consulting my bus map I reckoned that a short cut through a couple of blocks would take us onto the route used by the No 7 Trolleybus. I knew from experience that this would take us to the station and save us a long walk back up the hills.

Sod’s law would say that we missed a No 7, but shortly afterwards a No 15 came along with a panel at the front with the word Stotis on it. One of the few words I recognise : Station. On we climb and I pay for our tickets. Watching the tram on my tablet I start to realise that if we are heading to the station it is by a somewhat circuitous route.

No matter if we turn left at the next junction then that will bring us round. Okay. Perhaps at the next junction. In a minute we are going to start seeing sheep, goats and green fields. Abandon Ship !

One of the joys of GPS; you know where you are and all I had to do was transfer that onto the bus map. There was a stop on the far side of the road which served the No 16 which definitely went to the station from here and although we were not quite certain where here was, there were two big red and white chimneys acting as landmarks for the rest of the trip — don’t go that way.

The fare is very reasonable but they only take cash and I was running very short of change, but having counted my Lietai I had just enough to pay for three more tickets. I was pretty certain that Lithuanian bus drivers are of the same amicable disposition as their London Transport colleagues when presented with the equivalent of a fifty pound note.

So we waited. Alongside us passed a veritable fleet of Vilnius’s finest trolleybuses, but not one of them a No 16. Perhaps they only run on the fifth Friday in February. On the other hand there was a chap standing with us who had not caught any of the others so perhaps he was waiting on the same route as we were (since March).

At last, a No 16 and yes it turned right and within ten minutes we were at the terminal outside the train station. Well, what are holidays for, if not adventure ?

The daft thing being about the tickets was that having paid for the second set I was reminded by another passenger that you have to stamp them in the machine. Something I had forgotten to do with the first three tickets which were therefore still valid. Travelling is such a steep learning curve.

Tonight was the shortest night and the town was decked out for its big music festival. Getting a meal was possibly going to prove difficult.

We set out quite early and initially tried the Forest steak house, but it was bunged to the gunwales so we went looking elsewhere near to the town hall. Vytautas had suggested a number of places and one of those was Amatininkų užeiga which had a table free. The problem our waiter informed us was that it would take at least an hour for us to get a meal. That didn’t deter us because with everybody and his dog out on the streets it was almost certainly going to be the same no matter where we went.

We had our drinks and waited, and waited. An hour went by and stomachs were beginning to cry out in protest. But at last our waiter reappeared bearing trays of food. The food was well worth the wait and dad commented on the excellence of his chicken Kiev which was not only of a good size but made with real fillet as opposed to squashed together bits.

Having waited so long, we tried taking our time to savour the food whilst thinking about the possibilities of pudden’. Alas our friendly waiter informed us, even that was likely to take forever so we decided to go for a short dander on our way back to the apartment where night caps awaited us.

Tomorrow we are off into the countryside.

More to come…

Posted : 20 June 2014

Travel, Lithuania