Next stop on our Eastern Europe Odyssey was Vilnius in Lithuania.

As a break from airplanes and airports we used the local buses for the 600 km transit south, from Estonia to Lithuania. 5 hrs to Riga,

then another 4 hrs to Vilnius

the countryside was flat all the way. Marginal fertility through Estonia and Latvia, used for forestry and fertile, broad acre, grain country in Lithuania the hotel in Vilnius had a Faulty Towers rustic-ness, without Basil and Manuel, but  definitely a Cybil on the front desk and a porter that reminded us of Lurch from The Adam’s Family  a lovely courtyard off our roomfirst stop on our exploration/enjoyment of Vilnius was the Vilnius Cathedral in the Cathedral Square

a magnificent building, on the inside as much as the outside

the highlight for us was the side Chapel of St. Casimirwith his sarcophagus in the middle

the Bell Tower was open to tourists, so of course we had to go up it

for a view across to the Cathedralgoing down those steep steps was more chllenging than the ascentI headed off towards the Church of St. Peter and Paul.

Going past the Lithuanian National Museumand this sculpture

I was blown away, when I went inside

 

the last 12 months have been monumental in my personal spiritual journey.

I started them as a contented atheist. Father Fabian in Olal (see my Olal Post) had me changing, to proudly acknowledging my Roman Catholic upbringing. Seeing and feeling the atmosphere in these uplifting Catholic Churches, has me going a bit further, I am enjoying going to Church. I still have problems with the “fairytales” and the “kiddy-fiddlers”, but it feels good to go to Sunday Mass.   Thinking like this makes a lot more sense than any current politician,  sprucing to attract votes.

I returned to town via The Hill of The Three Crosses, overlooking the City.

There has been 3 Crosses on this hill for the last 400 years, in memorial of the 7 Franciscan Monks, beheaded by the then resident heathens. In the Soviet times, the monument was dynamited, to be rebuilt after independence.  a great view of the city below

their resident “crow” is a lot prettier than the ones back home

If any city I have ever visited, deserves the description of “The City of Churches” it is Vilnius There are more churches here than pubs in a central Australian town.

Town Hall Gates 0f Dawnan Orthodox ChurchThere were signs up saying no photography inside, much as would have liked to take a photographic memory of the splendor of it’s interior, including 3 bodies in a display case in the middle of the church. They were the 600 yo bodies of deceased saints, that were re-dressed every year. plenty to photgraph as we walked the streetstowards Vilnius University

the scientist in me had a problem, with the signs of the zodiac decorating one of the buildings the University Chapel was spectacularthere were sculptures of Saints decorating all the pillarsincluding one of Saint John of God.

 which has some relevance to me, as my sister worked at the Saint John of God Hospital in Perth for several years   a beautiful church inside

In an alcove off to the side of the church there was a display about the history of the University. It was set up by the Jesuits 400 years ago.

I was baptised Francis and took Ignatius as my confirmation name (as did 2 generations before me). I could feel the history of my names, as I read this history of the Jesuits.

in another side chapel was this spectacular crucifixion we left the university and headed down Gedimino pr.past some amazing decorations on the buildings

on our walking around we went to the “Museum of Occupation and Freedom Fighters (KGB Museum)”.

Lithuania was very much part of the Nazi extermination of the resident Jewish population, 10’s of thousands of them were killed. It was very poignant looking through all the historical photos and stories, then walking through the old KGB cells.

there was a very confronting wall of photos of slaughtered people (too confronting for me to put a photo of it up here). with this caption beside itlaying slaughtered peoples bodies out in town squares, 70 years ago, could be described as an earlier version of today’s Social Media. It puts the asinine irrelevance of the bulk of what is discussed on Twitter into historic perspective.

We also went to the Execution Chamber, a non-descript room (except for the photos on the walls, of skulls with bullet holes in the back), where more than a thousand prisoners were killed in the execution chamber in the basement of the central KGB building between 1944 and the early 1960s. Approximately one-third of them were sentenced to death by Soviet courts, or so-called “courts of three”, for participation in the anti-Soviet resistance.

At that time the population of Lithuania was less than 3 million, so to have a comparable percentage of the population, and extra zero, will need to be added to the end of the above figures for Australia, and two zeros for the USA.

A lot of the Lithuanians we came in contact with behaved towards us in a way that lacked personal engagement (courteous, but not friendly). But if one remembers, that for a couple of generations, to have an opinion was life threatening, so interacting with strangers was done very cautiously and minimally.

Time to get back into the present.

We hit the town that evening, coming to what should have been a beer drinkers paradise. 

unfortunately the place was overly pretentious and full of the people that pretentiousness attracts,

so we moved on, finding a nice Lithuanian place to have dinner.

At the end of the menu was a tasting paddle of 5 unique local drinks. Lisa did not overly approve, but she took one for team, and helped me drink the 5 shotsthe next day we caught the local bus out to Trakai

I got put in the naughty cage for drinking too many shots the night beforeLisa got caged, for helping me drink them

another lovely Catholic Church

and another spectacular Orthodox Church (that again we could not take photographs inside)I am writing this in Prague, so,so, different from the Eastern Baltic Countries, not just a hundred times more tourist than we had become use to, but a thousand times more