Friday, June 22, 2012

BE 3000: užupis

10 June

We went out for some Asian last night (Dove is Asian craved at the moment. Is dreaming in noodles and shitake), in a very retro part of town.
This part of town took me back to our 2009 trip to Berlin - the east side. We had supper at a retro Asian diner called 'Bruisley.' As expected, there were pictures of Bruce Lee everywhere. My jacket fitted in like a glove.

(These are teapots in walls. Not pictures of Bruce Lee. I do realise the disconnect.)

This morning we headed over to Užupis. It's a separate 'state' on the right of Vilnius. In 1997, the area decided to literally separate itself from Lithuania, and has it's own constitution, president, army and EU-free rules. You can get your passport stamped if you really want to at the guard hut over the river, where you walk over a bridge filled with lover's locks.
Made up largely of poets, artists and a more bohemian type of local, it reminded me of Christiania in Copenhagen. (A similar sort of 'area' in the middle of Copenhagen, but filled with lots of pot. And stoned people. And artists. And unDanish-like mayhem.)
Užupis has it's own Independence Day, on April 1st. Which incites mirth amongst the rest of Vilnius, "they are a country of fools!" one girl said, "They chose their national day on April 1st!"
Needless to say, Užupis was so wonderful, we went there twice. (Dove forgot to put deodorant on this morning and the only supermarket we've seen is in Užupis, so to be fair, that's why we went twice. To buy some roll-on.)

We walked through the streets, which were a lot more shabby-chic than in other parts of Vilnius. Stopped at a place recommended to us, which boasted "very eccentric bar lady, go in if you dare."

"Very eccentric," it turns out, was a euphemism for "rude as fuck." We knew by now that Lithuanians  - or Užupisians (?) -  weren't always the friendliest, but this was a whole new experience.
The pub had an open beer garden, and as it was 9:30am, it was customary to see a group of Russians getting tanked in the sun. A 9:30am beer is the breakfast of champions around here. We stumbled into the bar, which looked like a little wooden shack, and literally arrived in The Twilight Zone.

There were tanks of tropical fish and terrapins arranged next to arsenals of Kalashnikov guns, and other random shit hanging from the roof. The bar was a museum, all bathed in UV light. 
We walked up to the lady at the bar, who sported a black mullet and a face like a fried boot/bit stabby.

"Hello! We just want an orange juice thanks."

She didn't say a word. She continued to ignore us.

[Clearing throat] "Hello! Hi! Could we order two orange juices?" (Maybe she doesn't speak English? That must be it. No one speaks English right.)

[Point at the fridge, at the orange juice. She still pretends she doesn't see what I'm doing.]

"Er....I'll take it out then....and maybe we could borrow two glasses?" [Nothing]

I pull the OJ out of the fridge and put it on the counter. She grabs it and sighs loudly.

"Let's throw some money at the problem here," says Dove.

Whack some litas on the table.  After about 3 hours, she decides to finally pour us some OJ. 

"I don't think we should take it personally, you know," I say to Dove. "On the city guide it says she is 'eccentric,' so we can't be the first people she wanted to spit on."

Dove: "I think 'eccentric' is a gross under-evaluation, but sure."

 We sat outside sitting on the sacred OJ, when one of the drunk Russians in the party decided to head our way. "Can I sit here with you?"
Why not. But be warned. We are going to the cemetery next, so you can't stay long.
"I'm a journalist," he says.
Oh yeah? I did that once, I say.
"I write about global affairs."
Oh really? I wrote about combine harvesters and Christian fundamentalists.
"You from South Africa. Did you know you had nuclear weapons during Apartheid?"
You're Russian. You had nuclear weapons since forever.
"Yes, but can you confirm you had nuclear weapons?"
Me? Personally? Don't quote me on this, but....yes. 
"I am drunk."
"Yes you are. Dove let's go to that cemetery now before Jacob Zuma finds me.
(In Lithuania?)

Saint Bernadine cemetery is the oldest in Vilnius, and was dappled in ethereal sunshine. It was far from creepy, but very pretty - with wild flowers and forest everywhere. It's so old, bones have resurfaced over the years, after the snow and ice shifts everything in winter.
We also legged it up the hill, saw the castle and the terracotta view. Now that we have seen the three Baltic cities, which could we say is our favourite? All three were so different. It's a tough choice.
We get back on the bus to Riga, Latvia now. While we've gone the length of three countries, what goes down has to come up. So we are retracing our steps back. We are relooping. Maybe by visiting the others again we can make a final decision on which three cities gets our highest recommendation.
Bye Lithers.

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