welcome home from the weirdest, best road trip. ever.
The best part? Seeing and connecting to a part of the world that most people won't, and having the technological capability to record it exactly the way I saw it.
Downside? Definitely the food. I'm not judging its quality, just the fact that my body can not handle meat, cabbage "salads," and greasy potatoes every day. Make that just about every meal of every day. I survived on potato pancakes, ice cream, and food from supermarkets. I'm all about experiencing local cuisine, but when said eats are heavy enough to sink a barge, my options are limited to excruciating pain/vomiting or throwing in the towel. I couldn't succumb to the latter fast enough.
Here's a brief tour of the first half of our adventure, by location.
Vilnius (and surrounding area):
- Crumbling structures, a most excellent small-boutique shopping scene, and a lot of personality. I think she's my new favorite city.
- A colorful run-in with and tasty coconut snack from the Hare Krishna. Yes, that Hare Krishna.
- Two black swans. BLACK! I thought the only kind of black swan that existed was crazypants Natalie Portman sprouting feathers and hallucinating.
- Gigantic land snails, a tiny wild strawberry, the tallest dandelion I've ever seen, and an equally endearing and intimidating muzzled German Shepherd. They were the only things I took photos of at the Paneriai Massacre site; walking upon land that had witnessed such sorrow and evil was overwhelming, and it felt like a cheapened version of the truth to bring back photos of placards and statues.
- Grūtas Park, a most bizarre amusement park containing nearly 90 Soviet-era statues, a gulag-style train car, a petting zoo, a souvenir shop selling candy bars and gas masks, guard towers blasting Soviet anthems from megaphones, a cafe serving borscht and vodka, and an eery lack of many other visitors. Its existence is controversial, for obvious reasons.
- A striking, red brick castle on an island. Automatically cool.
- Baby ducklings, an added bonus to any scene.
- Paddle boats shaped like dolphins, docked next to a brightly-hued and picturesque village. It was a little touristy, but I can see why. The place is gorgeous and a cheery respite from some of the heavier, grayer sights.
- With a population of less than a thousand, this tiny little village is the town Tony's great-grandfather emigrated from in 1918. When I say emigrated, I mean escaped by having himself strapped to the underbelly of a cow. Really. My guy came from seriously crafty and survivalist roots.
- With no remaining relatives living in the area, we scoped out the village's main cemetery, in hopes of locating some familial headstones. Some names were similar and, thus, recorded for further research.
to be continued...