On my recent rain drenched visit to Lithuania I was taken on a photography expedition by my friend Antanas and also accompanied by our mutual friend Renata who came along to see that “good order” was maintained during our wanderings.
We were fortunate in that the Saturday morning of our outing was relatively dry but with a very dull overcast sky and the threat of a shower constantly hanging over us. But this kind of weather does not deter three intrepid explorers and so after meeting in front of the “white cathedral” we set off walking.
First we passed the National Museum of Lithuania with the imposing statue of King Mindaugas at the entrance to the museum (which is still on my list of places to visit) and then walked across the Green Bridge over the River Neris.
Just across the Neris River from lies a trio of disused public spaces: an indoor sports/concert venue, a stadium, and a swimming pool. Unfortunately there is no easy access to the inside of any of these but it is possible to walk around the spots complex.
This is a prime example of “brutal soviet architecture” and seems so out of step now with the rapid modern development of buildings throughout the city, both new and refurbished. The soviet occupation, whilst now some time ago, still resonates with many Lithuanians, both young and old, and there is serious concern about the actions of President Putin and his seeming desire to reconstruct the old “soviet union” by reclaiming Ukraine (witness what is happening in the Crimea) and the Baltic republics.
We then walked on to a “local market” a sort of flea, come junk, come car boot sale. It was suggested that I did not take photographs of the market or stall holders as they might not take too kindly to being photographed, read into that what you will. There was a lot of memorabilia from the soviet era on sale, including cigarettes from that era and god knows what they would be like as it is the best part of twenty-five years since independence.
A lot of the surrounding buildings were soviet style high rise flats and single story traditional wooden houses that can be found throughout Lithuania, and despite being very simple and naive in construction, are quite beautiful.
We continued our walk, taking in the financial district with its modern skyscraper buildings mainly made of glass. Just along from here there was a lot of building development taking place with enormous cranes and half completed tall buildings. Perhaps this is a sign that the economy has really picked up and that the future is beginning to look brighter for this little country, but one with a long historical (and proud) tradition.
Upon completion of our walk we decided that refreshments were called for, so after a short discussion we headed back to the city and went to “Pinavija” café at Vilniaus g. 21 (just down by the right hand side of the Novatel) for kibinai and cake (I have to confess that Antanas and I had been intimidated by threats of physical violence by Renata if we did not go to Pinavija, because they made the best kibinai in Vilnius).
So after kibinai and excellent cake we left the café and went our separate ways. My thanks to Antanas, who always arranges fascinating little photography tours for me when I visit, and Renata who keeps us in order and is a walking “Encyclopaedia Britannica” (or perhaps I should say Lietuva) regarding facts and figures.