Vilnius is the third and final destination of my second complete Baltic Tour and it’s difficult to come up with a favorite. My advice is to visit Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia as they all have uniquely redeeming features that should not be missed. They all gained independence in 1990/91 which was preceded by a Freedom Chain in 1989 when 2 million people joined hands from Vilnius to Tallinn to protest Soviet rule. After putting up with the Russians and the Nazis and the Russians once again, the Lithuanians value their freedom above all else.
Recent rumblings in the United States due to the emergence of Putin’s puppet, Donald Trump, has caused distress to the people of Lithuania and the other two Baltic countries. The weakening of NATO and an emboldened Putin has sent shock waves throughout Europe which no longer feels confident in the support of the United States. As a result, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are left to yearn for a time without Trump. Hopefully, Putin will keep to himself until then.
One of the reasons for my visit to the Baltics this year was to bring my tourist dollars here and to lend moral support for the damage Agent Orange has done to security of the region.
REPUBLIC OF UŽUPIS
CONSTITUTION WALL OF UŽUPIS
What began as a tongue in cheek, April Fools’ Day joke has evolve into one of the smallest republics in the world, with it’s own government, constitution, and currency.
CONSTITUTION IN 37 LANGUAGES
Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelé, and the River Vilnelé has the right to flow by everyone.
Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
Everyone has the right to be unique.
Everyone has the right to love.
Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
Everyone has the right to die.
Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its owner but must help in time of need.
Sometimes everyone has the right to be unaware of their duties.
Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not an obligation.
Everyone has the right to be happy.
Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
Everyone has the right to be silent.
Everyone has the right to have faith.
No one has the right to violence.
Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance.
No one has the right to have a design on eternity.
Everyone has the right to understand.
Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
Everyone has the right to be of any nationality.
Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday.
Everyone shall remember their name.
Everyone may share what they possess.
No one can share what they do not possess.
Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters, and parents.
Everyone may be independent.
Everyone is responsible for their freedom.
Everyone has the right to cry.
Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
No one has the right to make another person guilty.
Everyone has the right to be individual.
Everyone has the right to have no rights.
Everyone has the right to not be afraid.
Do not defeat.
Do not fight back.
Do not surrender.
UŽUPIS FLAG – The republic’s flag sports what’s known as the ‘Holy Hand’: a blue hand with a hole in the middle, making it unable to accept bribes.
STEEL, PIGGY-BANK STRONGBOX ON WHEELS
UŽUPIS ANGEL – There’s a water spigot in front of the angel and once a year on April 1st Independence Day, beer flows from the tap. Originally, the money was not available to purchase a sculpture so a large white egg was placed upon the pedestal in hopes that the angel would one day hatch from it. The egg was eventually sold for 3,000 euros which helped to pay for the angel. The egg has been repainted and now resides across the river in Vilniurs on another pedestal near the new MO Museum.
ADORABLE HEDGEHOG ON A LAPTOP
WIRE DELICATES OUT TO DRY
STONE WASHER – UŽUPIS IS A RELAXING, OPEN-AIR GALLERY ON THE BANKS OF THE VILNIA RIVER
UŽUPIO KAVINÉ RESTAURANT
Užupio Kaviné on the Vilnia river is the location where the Užupian constitution was drawn up in a single afternoon. The Užupis Mermaid faces the restaurant from the opposite bank.
UŽUPIS MERMAID – Residents say that if you stare into the eyes of the Užupis Mermaid as you cross the bridge into Užupis from Vilnius, you’ll never want to leave.
UŽUPIO KAVINÉ – This is the restaurant and tavern where the Užupian Constitution was drawn up on April 1st, 1997. Aside from its historical significance the food and the setting are excellent.
CREAMY LEEK AND SMOKED SALMON SOUP
DUCK LEG WITH CHERRY SAUCE AND SWEET CABBAGE
DOWNTOWN FOREST HOSTEL
This hostel is a multi-purpose dwelling featuring private rooms, dormitories, campsites, and tiny cabins. My past month was spent in hostel dormitories, the last one involves a young, snoring, Ukranian drunk. I was ready for a private room, to say the least. High ceilings, a desk, and a forested view are making for a restorative stay.
FREE LITHUANIAN ROCK CONCERT FOR THE HOSTEL INHABITANTS
CROWD OF LOCALS ATTEND WEEKLY CONCERTS
THIS IS THE AUTHENTIC LITHUANIAN RESTAURANT IN TOWN
TRADITIONAL LATVIAN MEAT-FILLED POTATO DUMPLINGS – Too much potato for my taste.
DUCK BREAST WITH PUREED POTATOES, BLUEBERRIES, APPLES, AND LINGONBERRIES
YET ANOTHER COMPELLING SUBTERRANEAN PASSAGEWAY
CITY HALL SQUARE – This is where the walking tour begins with the same tour guide from my last trip.
MEDEINÉ – The goddess of ancient hunters and food vendors was primarily a forest dweller with the form of a bear. Medeiné was the graduation project of the sculptor, Marius Grušas, who was interested in Lithuanian mythology. In Lithuanian myths, the bear is a sacred animal that protects people from bad and evil spirits. The artist added a nude woman atop the bear for the sake of provoking interest and indicating the goddess aspect of the animal.
OUR GROUP MAKES ITS WAY THROUGH THE OLD TOWN
JEWISH HOLOCAUST VICTIM – This is an art project to honor Holocaust victims from Vilnius. Portraits of people on the buildings where they lived can be found around town.
MARTYNA – Our tour guide tells us about the Magic Republic of Užupis.
ENTRY TO THE WONDROUS UŽUPIAN ARTSCAPE
BACKPACKER JESUS – Begs for crucifixion after staying in one too many hostels.
Watch out for those nipples guys, you could poke your eye out.
PLAY A BADLY OUT OF TUNE PIANO OR TAKE A RIDE ON ZEBRACORN
ROCKING ZEBRACORN – YOU NEVER HAVE TO GROW OLD IN UŽUPIS……
UŽUPIS – A NEXUS OF ART, FANTASY, AND IMAGINATION
JUST PLACE YOUR HAND IN THE IMPRINT FOR AN UŽUPIAN RECHARGE
STREET ART GALLERY
WHO’S GOT THE L.S.D.? SO MUCH FOR COLOR
ART ON WALL OUTSIDE A SHOP – The stuff inside the shop was lame by comparison.
VIVULSKIS’ OVERCOAT – UŽUPIAN WHIMSY YIELDS TO TRAGIC INSPIRATION
ART ENHANCES A WALL BY THE RIVER IN FRONT OF A CHURCH
JUST A HUNDRED METERS AWAY, A COUPLE OF CHURCHES REVEAL THEMSELVES.
ST. ANNE’S CHURCH = This Gothic beauty is a tourist favorite as well as that of many a local bride.
During the Summer, as many as twenty weddings are performed on any given Saturday.
Vilnius is lousy with Catholic Churches which were all repurposed during Soviet Rule. One was even turned into a Museum of Atheism. I would have like to have seen that.
The former mayor of Vilnius went to great pains to create a bicycle-friendly city and installed bike lanes for cyclists. Unfortunately, people kept parking their cars in them making it dangerous for bicycle riders to navigate the streets. Finally, he became fed up and arranged to have one of the Lithuanian army’s tanks drive over one of the offending vehicles. This made the news all over the world and put residents on notice that failure to observe parking laws could result in more than a small fine. The sticker above was meant to remind people of this fact and it reads, “Don’t make me get the tank.”
MO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART – This compelling advertisemant for the museum was placed here in Cathedral Square reminding me to visit before my week is complete. It is here that the tour is finished. Martyna was the same tour guide that showed me around Vilnius on my last visit three years ago. She was just as cute, entertaining, and competent as before.
THEY LOVE THEIR PUPPETS IN THE BALTICS
HARCHO – A traditional Georgian soup containing beef, rice, cherry plum purée, and chopped walnuts. It was spicy and delicious and gave me an epic case of heartburn. Oh, but it was so nice going down.
HIGH TEA IN VILNIUS
VIEŠBUTIS HOTEL – FIVE STAR – RELAIS & CHATEAUX PROPERTY
FOUNTAIN OF SUDS – A CHILD MAKES OFF WITH FOAM ON HER HEAD
This is the restaurant I would return to for dinner after a serious attack of retail therapy. This has been a good year for travel and material acquisitions.
During my travels, I’ve become pretty good at integrating unwitting subjects into my photographs. I still curse the vile, selfie-people who soil my shots, but this young lady really enhanced the overall composition.
terra recognîta galerija
Walking into this boutique, I knew I was a goner. With serious, contemporary, artistic aesthetic and Scandinavian undertones, I was immediately captivated by its minimalist creations. The pieces displayed on the walls formed a collective artwork. The artist, Saulius Vaitiekūnas, has displayed his work in the same fashion in many a world-class museum in Europe. The pieces are sometimes a tad more expensive than the excessive number of amber products found around town, but these artworks forged out of silver and stone from the Baltic Sea bear a uniqueness that many other available adornments lack.
The only problem is that if you like his work, there is a likelihood that you will leave with more than one item. The good news is that you will end up with something special that will forever enhance your life more than most material goods you are likely to encounter. I ended up with a stone and silver bracelet, four gifts for family, and a neolithic-style ax pendant. On another visit, I stumbled upon something that was literally made for me. I had been hoping to find something to commemorate my travels to 100 countries. And lo and behold there was a small, black piece of Baltic Sea stone inlaid with “100” in silver.
Bloody hell, I just got done paying off the Mastercard, but at least I’ll end up with something exquisite instead of some Lithuanian-Chinese rubbish souvenirs that will end up in the bin!
UNIQUE MERCHANDISING FOR UNIQUE MERCHANDISE
BALTIC STONE AND SILVER BRACELET
SILVER INLAID STONE – 100 COUNTRIES
KEULĖ RŪKĖ – MAKE EMPATHY GREAT AGAIN
BONG-TOTING PIG IN SPACE
DONALD TRUMP – A HOPELESS, MALIGNANT, NARCISSISTIC MANCHILD INCAPABLE OF EMPATHY FOR OTHERS
This inspired piece of street art can be found in front of Keulė Rūkė barbecue restaurant here in Vilnius. It replaced the brilliant mural of Trump and Putin kissing which adorned the wall back in 2016. Sadly that masterpiece has been painted over, but not before I managed to capture a number of photos for the blog for posterity and to take the edge off of the damage he is doing to the world at large.
One thing is clear. The good people of the Baltics are unnerved, to say the least, due to his antipathy towards the NATO alliance which has kept the peace in Europe for seventy-five years. These people just got their independence from the Soviets back in 1990 after being under their bootheel of the USSR since 1944.
They are not eager to give up their freedom and are growing fearful of a Putin emboldened by a chummy relationship with a fawning, obsequious Trump.
POOR UNLOVED LITTLE DONALD
AN ENCOUNTER WITH LITTLE DONALD
I met up with little Donald Trump outside of Keulė Rūkė, a fantastic barbecue place in Vilnius, Lithuania. Some graffiti suggested that I give him a hug. Initially, I thought that I would rather hug a rattlesnake, but given our current dilemma, I figured what the hell, I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it would help.
After all, if the poor, spoiled-rotten, unloved, little bugger had gotten a few more strategically placed hugs, he might not have turned into the vile, ruthless, vindictive, narcissistic monster we know and hate today.
Perhaps, hugging the Donald child will retroactively, magically bestow what he required in the first place, and he will no longer be compelled to feed his endless lust for money, power, and attention. Those Nuremberg Rallies of his are just another hopeless attempt to fill the gaping void in his empty soul.
Clearly, Trump is a damaged and very disturbed individual incapable of authentic, basic humanity, and is morally bankrupt to the very core so I have some advice for Pelosi, Biden, the Democrats, and any remaining Republicans of conscience.
Whenever you encounter him in Washington or elsewhere, go up and give him a big hug. Get busy people. I’m actually kind of serious here. Anger, chaos, hatred, and invective just makes him stronger. Can you imagine bony little Pelosi giving that scowling, gigantic sack of a McDonald’s unhappy meal a great big hug? What would happen if all of that anger and hatred had no place to go?
I think he might just spontaneously combust.
HIS VANDALISM WOULD EVENTUALLY BECOME GLOBAL
A REPLACEMENT OF A PUTIN/TRUMP EMBRACE – THIS WORK IN PROGRESS FEATURES THEM SHARING A SPLIFF
Although weed is illegal in Lithuania, people deposit their seeds in the glass to thumb their noses at the cops.
DICKHEAD AMERICAN GOTHIC
ANCIENT WALL REMNANT WITH SUPPORT
Relocated from Užupis all the way across town, this egg was originally white and was perched upon the pedestal of the Užupis Angel.
MO MUSEUM – NEW MODERN ART MUSEUM IN VILNIUS
Designed by world-famous architect DANIEL LIBESKIND
Petras MAZŪRAS – Untitled – 2018
Donatas JANKAUSKAS-DUONIS – Victoras or Viktorija – 2004