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Lithuania

Lietuvos

 

We entered the country on the main road from Poland.  This route serves as the main trucking route for all of the Baltic States with the rest of Western Europe and the EU.  The most direct route passes further west through that slice of Russia in the area around Kaliningrad.  However that border crossing is heavy with check points so the truckers, and we tourists, by pass that part of the world.  

There was considerable truck traffic and EU monies are being applied to upgrade the road network.

 

Trakai

The Island Castle

Beginning in the mid 1200's, Trakai became a center for Ducal power in Lithuania.  Primarily a flat or gently rolling land - we are reminded of central Ohio - defense positions such as hill tops are in short supply here.  Thus a peninsula castle was constructed on the shores of the lake and when that proved inadequate in the 1400's this structure was begun.  This castle is probably the most photographed structure in Lithuania and is the scene of many bridal photo sessions on Saturdays.

Within the castle is an interesting museum of artifacts from over the centuries.  One of the most striking collections was this of highly decorative smoking pipes from the 17th through 18th centuries.

From porcelain to ivory to wood we found the collection quite fanciful, beautiful and interesting.

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The Bus to Vilnius

One would normally expect to enter a Capital City for the first time on a Magic Carpet, powered by Heralding Angels with huge fluffy wings.  

In actuality we did arrive the first time on the gossamer  wings of Papillon the motorhome.  However, map errors and indifferent road signage made that trip -  in a word - a Horror.

So we come back another day for another try.

 

Past the Flea Market and some old Soviet style housing buildings, we followed the trucks into the city.

 

And there we stepped into the muted but enchanted world of the Old Town

Nary an advertising sign blaring its message.  It created a blissful state of mind.  We recalled a visit to Vermont where advertising signs are heavily restricted and how beautiful it was.  And the merchants didn't suffer because their competition was restrained also.  We think that that is a better way.

 

Baroque Churches greeted us, and here they use lighter colors throughout.

 

The old Town is a soft gentle world that when viewed from the Castle Hill has a stately elegance.

 

Whereas the other side of the river - the New Town - has an Emerald City look from OZ about it.

From a distance the skyline looks like Denver or Houston or Charlotte

 

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Stalinworld

 

 

Vlady

Welcome to the Vlady and Jo-Jo Show 

Jo-Jo

Come celebrate with us those Rollicking Roustabouts of Mirth and Mayhem.  Relive those special years of starvation, poverty, Gulags, purges, war and cynicism.  Pass through this forest Pantheon where all the greats and near greats of the Communist World are showcased in bronze or granite.

Welcome to Grutas Park

Tucked into the southeast corner of the country just 10 miles from Belarus lies the privately owned, and somewhat controversial, park of Soviet era statuary.  Controversial because some feel that it Glorifies the subject matter and that shouldn't be.  On the other hand the narration of the Audio guide clearly spells out the foibles and lies of the Communist leadership.

The statuary here was collected from throughout the country after the end of Communist rule.  Statues were removed from public spaces in big cities and small towns as fast as it could be carried away.  In a frenzy to cleanse themselves from the taint of the past the public wanted to purge their collective memory of evil incarnate.  

Stored away if not broken, the pieces were loaned to land owner Viliumas Malinauskas, to present to the public in an effort to remind them that freedom is earned.  The son of a man who spent 10 years in a Siberian Gulag camp, he is not one to glorify the former regime. 

The park is over 200 acres and the figures are spread in a large circle through the forest.  Internationally known figures and lesser lights important in Lithuanian history are presented in individual settings.  Some are 25 feet tall but most are slightly larger than life sized busts on a pedestal.  All were "celebrated" by the communists in some form or another.

 

 

 

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Kryzių Kalnas

The Hill of Crosses

Thinking ahead about the blog I had thought of many things to say about this place.

Having been there I have nothing to say.

A history

 

 

 

One Hundred Thousand or more

 

The locale became a symbol of Lithuanian National Liberty over time - especially after the Soviets Bulldozed it to the ground 3 times.  Folks just kept sneaking in and placing more croses.

 

Democracy is Ugly

Everything else is Worse

 

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