Europe | Lithuania | Vilnius – Spagetti Eastern
After 7 hours in Lithuania, Lucy is already speaking teh language. ‘Ne! Ne!’ she says to the puppy as it tries to eat other dogs’ shit. Later, I ask her if she can speak Lithuanian and she says ‘Ne!’ (‘No’)
We walk along a little river where there is an art space with a cement washing machine, a house for a gnome, and a giant paper bird suspended over the water. Young people drink beer sitting on rocks and someone is doing something very hot in a little yard. Coal smoulders orange in the twilight. A man holds a big shovel. He must be doing some kind of sculpture.
There is a bar near here, where you can get a sample of 6 kinds of liquor for about 2 pounds (UK). Maybe it not such a good idea…
Vilnius hasn’t changed nearly as much as Prague. Then again we are with a real local, who can show the side of old town that hasn’t been restored. The parks are still not lit at night, yet it doesn’t seem like anyone has to worry about being mugged as they stumble home (pushing a pram or not).
AS we went into old town, a car was blaring hideous music. A guy had left the car there, radio on, keys in the ignition, parking lights flashing. Marius got in the car and turned off the radio. Marius was furious; he couldn’t believe the cops weren’t doing anyhting about the noise. There seems to be quite a bit of that “boy racer” behaviour – people driving around with windows down and stereos blaring.
Day 2: On the trolley bus into town we see a nun walking down the street in comabt boots. Lucy learns to say “Labas” (hello). The day revolves around her: first we try to go to a toy store, but Lucy falls asleep. So, Sexton and I drink coffee under an umbrella in the rain, on a modern street full of chain stores and car alarms. We go to another restaurant called “Pomodoro” where they have a kids’ menu and plush velvet seats. Finally Lucy wakes up, eats chips and we go to the toy store. Again, like in Prague, the toys are the same as at home, at the same prices. We get her a new bucket for the beach.
I want to show Sexton the Saint Mary picture, but when we start walking, Lucy sees people eating ice cream. We spend half an hour looking for ice cream for her, only to end up with some horibble hybrid of strawberry sorbet and ice cream, smothered in bits of berries which Lucy hates. She plays with rocks and her new bucket, hurts her finger and does a poo. I can’t find anywhere to change her, so we end up in a little park.
When we finally reach the Mary shrine, it’s raining again. The Mary shrine is a special place; people kneel in front of the statue deep in prayer. But Lucy is screaming so we have to leave quickly. No chance for quiet contemplation today.
It is raining as we make our way back to Marius’ place for hi sfamous “Lithuanian pasta” which is really Italian. He has a new electonic cheese grater and a huge brick of parmesean from his recent trip to Tuscany.
Marius’s flat is gorgeous. Yet strange. He has parquet flooring in what is still bascally a Soviet government housing block. Now privatised, of course, and we are enjoying 5-star hotel luxury, with bathtub and showers fit for kings, perfect bed, plenty of space, washer AND dryer (for when drunk peple piss themselves – not mentioning any names here) and a fabulous collection of 19th century French posters. But we STILL have to climb 7 flights of concrete steps to get here.
Day 3: At the world’s only Frank Zappa monument, we meet a Czech cyclist(who lookes a bit like Zappa himself) who has cycled all the way here. Sexton blows bubbles for Lucy, and then smokes 2 cigarettes – to do Frank proud. We stop at a cafe and a old woman who is begging eats my leftover zeppelinies. THat’s real – in London you’d never get a beggar asking to eat leftovers off your table.
More walking, actually very enjoyable, strolling around Old Town, which is pretty empty and we like that. We see a few more churches, buy postcards, loose our map but you can’t really get lost in Vilnius, it’s so small. Lucy falls asleep and it starts raining, so we duck into a pub on a side street. We meet some Lithuanians, but my grasp on the language is very poor. The woman, named Neringa, asks the waitress to translate as she whisks past, “Why is your husband so mad?” but I think she means angry. Sexton is not angry, just quiet, and with his mouth turned down in thought (writing poems about Frank Zappa in his head) people could take that for being upset or moody. But Sexton is happy here, he is enjoyoing the beer and laughing at Marius as Marius winds people up – mainly me, his 15 year old daughter Ruta (“why you don’t drink? why you don’t smoke pot?”) or his wife.
Tonight we go to Stasys’s for dinner. Stasys doesn’t speak much English and suffers from a lack of teeth which makes it even harder to understand him. But he is a great host, and plays us Lithuanian records from the last 100 years on an old gramophnee that he has to wind up. He gives us moonshine and feeds us so much I feel like it’s Christmas and have to lie down on his sheepskin rug. He takes about 500 photos of all of us on his new Canon digital SLR camera.
and now it is the morning of day 4… I have Dehli belly and not much else is happening, but I amm witing this live, just in case you want to know… (as opposed to writing when we get back). Oh, and Lucy can also say “Aciu” (thank you). Sexton can still just about manage “Alus” (beer).