Vilnius, Lithuania

Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, September 22, 2006

We'd just finished celebrating Ellen's birthday; a meal of wild boar, mashed potatoes and fried potatoes covered with cowberries and a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. I was rubbing my roundish belly and started wondering if we North Americans are being duped. These people appear stronger and healthier than we do. All those advertising campaigns about the values of different coloured vegetables and the number of servings you should eat each day; then I thought back to the time I've spent in Eastern Europe and the few vegetables I've actually ever seen in this part of the world. I do remember watching an old woman carrying a very large squash in Instanbul, but that was on the east side of the Bosphorus so technically she was in Asia. All the way from Bulgaria to Lithuania, I cannot remember ever seeing a single bean, pea or sprout.

Touristically speaking, Vilnius is in a rather poor spot. With Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and Poland to the south you don't see many foreigners here.

We started our journey in Vilnius because we read that it has the largest Old Town in all of Europe. It was a good choice. The restaurant where we'd eaten the wild boar was in a 17th century merchant's house. We had to almost crawl down a low-ceilinged stairway to reach the cave-like cellar dining area.

There are over 20 magnificent Gothic and Baroque churches in the Old Town alone. And best of all, because of Vilnius' geographic location, you only occasionally see a group of old folks ambling closely together along the cobblestone streets; a two or perhaps three hour bus layover on the way to St. Petersburg or Moscow most likely. You get a sense that the Vilnians are content with the way things are. Happy-go-lucky amongst themselves, they sour ever so slightly when dealing with outsiders. Or is the kind of outsiders they think we are? Time will tell, perhaps.
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