allekha (allekha) wrote,

Morning thoughts & Baltics Trip: Lith-u-a-ni-a, part 1: Vilnius!

[written before I moved to my apartment; for some reason the internet at home stopped loading Dreamdwidth the very morning I wrote this :\ so this is actually rather old]

♪Went for a morning walk. The sunrise this morning was just beautiful. When I first saw it, there was a low layer of clouds just above the treetops, in this pale yellow color, followed by a thin stripe of robin's egg blue sky, then a stripe of clouds in pink-orange, pale green sky, and a wider band of faint red clouds and wisps. A couple of deer made their way across the field (never a rare sight); two morning birds were silhouettes against the sky. I sat down to watch and the lowest clouds gradually turned bright golden yellow, the pale green a kind of murky teal, the pink orange became a real yellow-orange, and the red deepened and brightened as more of the sky lit up. A plane took off, creating a faint red trail as it climbed; actually, at some point the color faded entirely, and the trail became almost impossible to see, before turning translucent white. When I started walking again, I could see the moon, a little over half full, glowing faintly in the sky right above me. It's often described like a pearl, but I don't think a pearl could ever be so lovely, lovely.

♪Am seriously considering looking into whether more research has been done on the effects of polyphasic sleep in the past few years to see if I should even contemplate thinking of trying one of the less extreme schedules (4.5 hrs/2 naps, or whatever it is). Several reasons: I like staying up but also getting up early for the sun rise. I have reason to believe I might actually have a sleep disorder that makes 'normal' schedule setting difficult (or maybe not, but it's more than just 'I like doing things on the internet late', dates back to elementary school, and involves family members). The few weeks four years ago that I got onto a poly sleep schedule actually worked out pretty well; then again, it was only a few weeks, and I was probably being more serious about sleep hygiene than usual.
...I might as well see if there's been some research, at least, before I start talking myself out of even thinking about it.

♪Watched Kurosawa's Ikiru last night with my dad. I think it is literally one of the best films I've ever seen. The main character's way of speaking and the actor's facial expressions tell so much, the story is set up in an interesting way, and of course there are some very well done shots. The famous snowy swing scene is something that is very touching in context; I wouldn't watch it without context.

♪For breakfast: crepe/pancakes with lemon curd, and I think I'll make some matcha with milk (and some without, to follow up). And also, at last, some travelog:

Day 1
Woke up early (though it was a bit hard to get O up) and had breakfast that was provided by our host. Tomatoes (? I ate all of them), avocado (ate all of it), traditional Lithuania sweets (sweet cottage cheese covered in chocolate: yum!) and toast + those circular pressed wheat things. O is less enamored of odd breakfast fruits than I am, apparently.

Walked down to the national museum - 20~30 minute walk (partially in the old town) but we left at ~9 and the museum opens at 10, so we waited in the surrounding park. Looked at this giant hill beyond the museum and deflected of couple of Lithuanian people trying to talk to us/ask us for something by keeping quiet and looking confused.

The museum was quite interesting, 1 euro/~2 hours. There's a couple of out-of-place items at the beginning that felt like space filling from their collection (Greek pot, Egyptian sarcophagus like you can find at the British Museum) but these vanished quickly. Lots of finds from a dig. Textiles, metalwork, paintings, etc. On the second floor we watched a video about the 1834? uprising and when Napoleon came through Vilnius. Also on exhibit were the lovely traditional clothes, though only female mannequins, and some explanations and models of traditional housing layouts. The final exhibit was just on cross-carving.

O wanted to see the toy museum but I took us up the hill first. Bit of a climb but gorgeous views, especially if you pay a little extra and go up-and-up the tower on the top. It's a little museum, too. Best room is the one on the Baltic Way and events immediate to independence (one example was the Lithuanian flag being raised at this tower). Only exhibit with Russian alongside English. Hm.... Anyway, wonder, wonderful view of the whole city from the top, we stayed there quite a while admiring the red roofs and modern buildings.

Couldn't figure out how to get into the toy museum - the side entrance has big double doors, but they were locked. There is a button and intercom for the toy museum, but when we pushed it we got weird staticky noise and after waiting a couple of minutes, we left very confused. Tried out my Lithuanian for 'do you speak English?' in a tiny shop, but she didn't understand. In retrospect, it was probably too quiet for her to hear (a perennial problem of mine) - O was having trouble hearing me, and anyway she couldn't speak it. We wanted to ask about the food to see if we could eat it, so we left and picked a nearby Greek place. Kind of expensive for here but good, even if the server was kind of pushy.

We randomly explored the old down for a while - quite a pretty place. Lots of red roofs. Lots of churches. Lots of courtyards and small streets. Lots of interesting architecture and a few exposed bricks. Stopped here and there to rest and admire the view or take pictures. Several 'gingerbread' churches - baroque style? The buildings are painted nice colors, many pastels.

Headed to Vilnius University and had to pay to enter as a tourist (???) but it was only fifty cents as a student. Observatory courtyard is nicest, it has the most greenery. Church alone made the visit worth it - we hadn't been going into churches, but this one was pretty spectacular with a lot of paintings and gold and so on.

Got dinner at a vegetarian place afterward. Unfortunately I was now feeling off and couldn't eat all of my food :( but it was good! (Probably dehydration; O for some reason decided not to take his water bottles and we shared mine, which was not nearly enough for both of us.) Felt better after taking a nap back at our host's place. When she came back we talked for a while about various cultural differences.

Day 2:
Woke up slightly later today. After a delicious breakfast, we bought me a SIM card with the help of a kind woman who spoke English, and then walked up to the KGB museum. Quite sobering. Looking at thinks like that, I can't help but think, "Who could do this to other people? What kind of sadist--" and, well. People did lots of needle work to pass the time and give as gifts and were inventive in the prisons. Making breadcrumbs into rosaries and toothbrush handles into crosses and so on. Everyone - forest brothers and prisoners and deportees - was resourceful with what they had. The basement of the museum has the former KGB prison and it freaked me out - especially the padded room (so you couldn't hear the screams!) and the isolation chamber filled with water/ice and a tiny platform to stand on (seriously, who the hell came up with that??? as if it wasn't bad enough in there). The worst was the execution chamber. I jumped when I turned to find someone in there and kind of freaked out further when imagining the people who must have died there and then saw the bullet holes.

We were going to go to the cat cafe afterward for lunch, as it's very close by, but we had a train to Trakai to catch. Should have taken a bus, but I hadn't figured out where to take one, so we just walked. Managed to get there on time despite confusion over where the train station actually was. Internet said it would take 1:20, but it's actually ~30 minutes. Pretty ride; you can see lots of lavender mixed with those white flowers, as well as a lot of trees. They look different here for some reason. They're different trees of course, but I can't place the exact difference. I installed my SIM card but couldn't manage to send a text yet.

We stopped at the first bits of the lake we saw to watch the ducks and ducklings! 可愛かった。 The mother duck would dive down to the shallows, pick a bit of green stuff, tug on it (upside-down - rather amusing to watch) and bring it up for the ducklings. There was one nearby that kept trying to steal food and the mother duck kept chasing it off. I think it belonged to the other duck that was chilling out on the water.

Walked up to the castle. First we went through the town - lots of interesting and brightly-colored buildings - then out by the lake. Lots of ducks and little fishes, even saw a downed tree trying to regrow in the lake.

The castle on the lake is very nice, of course. Better than some Japanese castles in that when you go in the main tower, some of the rooms are like they originally would have been hundreds of years ago, so it's easier to imagine people living there back in the day. Japanese castles are often just turned into regular museums on the inside.

After exploring all the rooms, we left and had dinner by the lake. We had a local specialty, pastries with (in my case) spinach and cheese or cabbage inside. Yum! Then we walked back to the station along the water. My sunglasses were kind of falling apart at this point (and broke soon after). It turned out I had mistaken the time of departure and we had a while to wait. I left O reading there and went to dip my feet in the cold water for a bit.

Back in Vilnius we found me new sunglasses - not polarized, alas, so I can no longer make the sky turn colors by tilting my head, but they're dark enough and have a UV coat. We took a trolley bus part of the way back to our host's.

I want to write so much Hetalia fic now (set in the castle!). This series has ruined me for thinking about countries and international relations. Also, I still need to figure out my SIM card.

Day 3:
O was feeling better (he'd been feeling a bit sick last night). Breakfast was tomatoes, cheese, and buttered toast.

Decided to take things a bit easier today a O's legs hurt. Goodness, I managed to outwalk him (for perspective: on Day 1 he was telling me about how whenever he goes on hiking trips, he always ends up ahead of absolutely everyone and having to loop back, etc). First we went down to the local park and walked about for a bit. Beautiful forests, much like home, though the understory definitely looks different. Garlic mustard is wild here, lots of these white cluster flowers, and what appeared to be buttercups on steroids. Once out of the trees we stopped to rest and talk a couple of times. Lots of people were out, some with their kids. More roller skaters than I'm used to seeing, too.

After walking back by the river, we headed toward the cat cafe. But first we climbed up this big hill across the street. There's a building at the top that's painted very interestingly, it looks like it ought to be an art museum, though I'm not sure what it is. Nice view from the top of the hill, so we sat in the shade and looked out at the modern side of Vilnius.

Then! Cat cafe! It is hard to miss: there's cats painted on the wall with flowers growing in cat-shaped planters. The kitties there looked well cared for, with toys, two cat trees, windows to sleep in, and plenty of beds to nap in. We sat by the window next to a fluffy long-haired cat (pretty!) that, except for getting down for some water, stayed there the entire time and let me pet it a lot :3 My potato pancakes with sour cream were good, but there was a bit of a problem... the cats there love sour cream. They weren't even as interested in O's salmon! They kept trying to steal tastes, and one in particular was so persistent that it was hard to eat. We really liked it, though, and stayed a long time. I took a bunch of pictures and got to pet kitties :3

There was a church we had spotted from the hill that I wanted to see, so we walked over. On the way we crossed a bridge over the river - plenty of locks on the bars there. I took a few pictures, and then O was tired so we walked back even though it was only four.

Ah well. We did see more of Vilnius, and I figured out how to get to Kaunas tomorrow. Our host is making cottage cheese pancakes for dinner!

(Later: we did end up going out again after reading about a statue of a boy holding a shoe on Wikitravel. He is indeed holding a shoe. It brought up many questions: whose shoe is that? Why is he holding it? Why is he clutching one shoe when he has two of his own? Who is he looking up at? God? A kind stranger? The person who only gave him one shoe?)
Tags: baltics trip, thoughts
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