Sept. 11, 2012 - Professor Karen Blair has recently returned from a tour of Lithuania and gave the following account of that country's scenic beauty and rich history.
My July trip to Lithuania was immensely successful. Vilnius, the capital, is a modern, clean, busy city with skyscrapers, shopping malls and sports arenas. Its Old Town is immense and alluring, with endless winding cobble-stone streets, lined with buildings from the 15th-18th centuries, elaborate cathedrals, peekaboo courtyards, sidewalk cafes, and shops full of amber jewelry and linen textiles. If you are inclined to imagine yourself in medieval times, here’s your time machine. The countryside offered a great variety of surprises: a beach resort on the Baltic Sea, the czar’s favorite spa with mineral baths at Druskininki, castle ruins, a forest of carvings of folk tale witches , a park/dumping ground for statues of Lenin and Stalin that were imposed on Lithuania during the Soviet years, and memorials to centuries of resistance against intruders. Prices were low, the tidiness impressive, the English-speakers plentiful, the dark rye bread formidable, the mood gentle and safe. My sister and I traveled with a guide and driver who helped us find my grandmother’s rural birthplace, the highlight of the trip. We left a token from the USA in Padovinys, population 400, and collected some duck feathers from her churchyard to commemorate the only treasure she carried to America in 1910, a down sleeping bag whose feathers our family has slept on for a century. For her full (more detailed account) click here. For the many photos of her trip click here.