Friday, 29 August 2014

Cruising From Riga To Stockholm

Soon after our arrival in Vilnius, the embassy organized a cruise across the Baltic Sea. We're in! The trip is quick, one overnight leg, leaving in the afternoon from Riga, Latvia and arriving mid-morning in Stockholm. You eat, watch a show, catch some sleep and arrive in Scandinavia.

Our big taxi.

Walking the plank. Watching the meal tickets board. While a decent enough cruiser, the ship is definitely a cargo hauler first.

Cabin for two, with a view.

Two more views of a cabin, no view (but a TV waaay up there).

Fancy restaurant.

Have a seat, stay for a Russian hockey game simulcast.

Distance dining.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Strykers Visit Vilnius

Everyone asks us if the conflict in Ukraine is influencing actions in Lithuania. Are the Lithuanians worried? Yes and Yes. Lithuania is in a different situation. It's part of NATO and fully-integrated with Western Europe (almost: it moves to the Euro in January). But after being repeatedly occupied by Russia, Lithuanians remain wary.

The US is holding joint exercises with their allies in the Baltic States. Earlier this summer, Sarah and James got to greet a special delivery of a group of Strykers, brought over for training.

The Strykers flew first class on a giant C-5 out of West Virginia.

Watching the unloading on the tarmac. The plane's lineage.

Out come the Strykers.

Ready to get going. The pilot was of Lithuanian descent, a big hit with the local media.

American might isn't quiet.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Outdoor Market Shopping In Vilnius

One of the nice things about living in a city with an old town is an old-fashioned weekly market. Vilnius has plenty of modern supermarkets, but buying goods from local farmers is still possible. Let's go shopping.

The market, open every Thursday afternoon, about a 10-minute walk from our apartment. How old school.

Come and get your greens, whether fresh or pickled. Agurkai!

Bread is a serious part of any Lithuanian diet, the heartier the grain, the better. The loaves weigh a ton, can be kept for weeks and require a chainsaw for cutting. Definitely not for tea sandwiches.

More colorful greens and a tray of kibins, sort of like a baked empanada.

Fresh cheese.

One more look at the bread. Ready for a slice?

Friday, 22 August 2014

The TV Set Sculpture At Europos Parkas, LNK Infotree

The most famous sculpture at Europos Parkas set a Guinness world record for most TV sets used in an artwork. It's by the founder of the park, Gintaras Karosas. Unfortunately, only a tiny bit of the piece remains, as nature and thieves took their toll. Seems the obsolete TVs had enough valuable metals to warrant stripping.

What's left, still fun to look at.

An old Lenin sculpture is part of the installation. He, too, was in better shape when the piece was new. The piece speaks to communism falling before popular culture - TV triumphs! Now, the sculpture's message is murkier in this social media saturation age. Seems fitting.

Lithuanians were asked to donate their old TVs for the cause. No RCA, Sony or GE sets in the bunch.

There's still a flow to the work.

And beauty. And LNK Infotree ain't bad, either.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Europos Parkas

There's a great sculpture park about a half hour north of Vilnius: a labor of love begun shortly after Lithuanian independence by artist Gintaras Karosas. Check out all the details here. The park is similar to Storm King Art Center in the United States. One with nature and with plenty of room for sculptures to stake out some space and invite contemplation.

Ready to check it out? (The Wall, Gintaras Karosas)

Hardscape in the landscape. (The Place and Foundations, Window, Gintaras Karosas)

Giant works of fancy. (Drinking Structure With Exposed Kidney Pool, Dennis Oppenheim)

Traditional figures, complete with rabbit. (Sitting Policeman and At The Park, Evaldes Pauza)

Sol Lewitt makes an appearance with Double Negative Pyramid.

Monoliths in nature. (Departure: For My Grandmother, Beverly Pepper. Culture, Gintaras Karosas)

At the entrance, a present day sculpture of an historical artifact.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Former KGB Building, Vilnius

Right in the middle of Vilnius' fanciest street, Gedimino, sits the former KGB headquarters building. It's a grand, stately-looking place, hardly looking like the horror it once was for so many years, while Lithuania was under Soviet occupation.

The building.

Lithuania has created a moving, wonderful tribute to make sure no one forgets that terrible time. They've carved on the foundation blocks the names of people tortured and executed within the building. Now, you can't walk by without thinking about what happened. The names also commemorate those brave people and make the crime specific.

Flowers placed at a commemorative plaque.

The building now houses a museum chronicling what happened in the country at the hands of the Germans and Russians from the start of World War II.

A look at one of the many names. So young.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Vilnius Still Lifes

Even in the big city, it's easy to find small spots of solitude. 


Airport waiting area.

Bright recycling.

Furniture off to the trash.

Underground concourse stockings shop.