Sunday, 12 August 2007

dispatch: Vilnius

This is a quick update, in theory, as my sister is hassling me to get off the computer to go and get icecream.

Vilnius is wonderful. I get the feeling I am repeating myself in these descriptions, but today is not the time to think like a thesaurus because the idea of icecream is increasing in importance the longer I sit here. The Old Town is mostly Baroque style, which led to a wonderfully confusing conversation between the Swiss and the German yesterday:

German: "The town is Baroque style."
Swiss: "Rock?"
G: "BA-roque."
S: "Erotic baroque?"
G: "What?"

And so the day passes, with language barriers making a multitude of churches (even I didn't go in every one) much more interesting.

Today we have been to Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania. There is a castle on an island. Those of you who have had the misfortune to visit a stately home/palace/castle with me before know that this is the one type of historical exhibit that makes me want to scream. Too much furniture and not enough archaeology. Given the wealth of medieval evidence for the site I was disappointed that there was so little on display. Instead, room after room of furniture. The lake surrounding was beautiful though, and the short hike along the shore later the highlight of the afternoon.

We've also visited the former headquarters of the KGB, now home to a Genocide Museum. It was fascinating, though mostly about the Soviet invasion and the Lithuanian partisan movement. They have preserved the prison in the basement, and that is truly harrowing. The padded cell was particularly grim, with a straitjacket still hanging on the wall. I felt very odd making notes in the very place that such activities undoubtedly carried a death sentence.

Tomorrow we move on to a national park, still in Lithuania, for a couple of days canoeing and hiking. I can't wait. Although the cities are gorgeous, the weather is starting to warm up and it will be great to see some of the countryside.

Icecream time.

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