Europe

Vilnius, Lithuania – Blowing Out My Birthday With Busts, Beers, Bill Bailey

OMG it was a monster day!

Right off the bat, we were in a celebratory mood, due to the fact that I have successfully survived yet another of earth’s revolutions around the sun! I fielded and appreciated the many birthday acknowledgements from around the planet, including a call from my mom. Thank you all for remembering. Wish you were here!

We started up the day creating our favorite post yet, on the Seven Sorts of Sports. If you haven’t seen that one yet, stop reading this and go look at that immediately. It’s way funnier than this.

For those of you still with me…

After we finished up with the Seven Sorts of Sports photo shoot, we wandered into Vilnius, for a random, action-packed day. Here are some of the adventures that we had.

Frank Zappa Bust

In 1995 a cast of Zappa was installed in the center of Vilnius. It was created by Konstantinas Bogdanas, the Lithuanian sculptor who had previously cast portraits of Vladimir Lenin and other soviet leaders. Zappa has no ethnic or personal connection to Lithuania, but he was revered by some locals as a symbol of anti-establishmentarianism (bonus fact: the word representing the converse idea is the longest word in the English language). This item is rather unceremoniously located by a wall adjacent to a parking lot, with almost no fanfare. A small plaque at the bottom of the stainless steel column is all. Frank is quite somber and watchful in this pose.

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Cathedral of the Theotokos
This place was stumbled upon, not sought. However, if we have learned anything on this journey, it’s to go into all the churches that we can in Vilnius. These guys love an air-conditioned and heavily-decorated church. This place was filled with ancient oil paintings (lots of gold in these), carved wooden sculptures (adorned with gold), and other gold fixtures and ornamentation. Gold is their favorite.

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Užupis
This is an eclectic little neighborhood found in Vilnius, right across the Vilnia river. It’s full of artists and is somewhat bohemian and free-spirited. It seemed like a good place to check out.

In 1997, the residents of this area declared the Republic of Užupis, along with its own flag, currency, president, cabinet of ministers, a constitution, an anthem, and an army numbering approximately 11 men. They celebrate this independence annually on Užupis Day, which falls on April 1. Artistic endeavours are the main preoccupation of the Republic; the current President of the Republic of Užupis, Romas Lileikis, is himself a poet, musician, and film director.

Artūras Zuokas, mayor of Vilnius, lives in Užupis and frequently takes part in the Republic’s events. Užupis does not house internet-cafes, kiosks, big malls, or governmental institutions (except Užupian), and there is no embassy to Lithuania.

It is unclear whether the statehood of the Republic, recognized by no government, is intended to be serious, tongue-in-cheek, or a combination of both. The decision to place Užupis Day on April 1 is probably not coincidental.

Here I am as we contemplate braving the “border”. Note the gratuitous, whimsical Mona Lisa icon on the sign.

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Šnekutis
Whilst wandering Užupis, we encountered rain and ducked fortuitously into a shack of a pub whose name translates to “Little Talker”. This was a great little place made as far as I could tell completely of wood. The architecture was interesting, and I don’t think there was a right-angle in the place. It appeared to be the sort of place that hobbits might gather. That bodes well for the food and drink, doesn’t it?

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Indeed, the beer was tasty, and we followed the proprietor’s recommendation for food, treating ourselves to two “Zeppelin Plates”. Hobbits would have approved.

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Zeppelins, so called due to their shape (also known by their less-fun actual names Cepelinai or Didžkukuliai) are a Lithuanian national dish, also very popular in the northeastern part of Poland. They are a type of dumpling made from riced potatoes and stuffed with ground beef. They are floating around in some sort of tasty gloop.

My advice on the local food is to give in to it and just dig in. Don’t ask too many questions about “what’s in there”, and don’t think about it too much. These things don’t look so good, but they were delicious.

Bill Bailey
Our day was completed with a concert by British comedian and actor Bill Bailey. Although he’s not a household name in the US, he is widely known in the UK for appearances in UK programmes QI and Black Books, and he drew a very solid and engaged crowd in Vilnius.

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Bill’s act is a mix of standup and musical comedy…he brought along a keyboard (for music and for sound affects), a lute (for mocking Sting), an acoustic guitar, and an electric Gibson SG with small Marshall stack (rock!), from whence a version of ABBA’s Waterloo was performed in the style of Rammstein. He made me laugh and cry with a humorous, touching story and video about encountering an exotic owl in a restaurant in China, and subsequently purchasing and setting free this animal.

The show was great fun, and it was awesome to see Bex seeing one of her favorite performers in a small venue.

I reckon that’s enough for today. Tomorrow’s entertainment is these guys…

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Bonus Picture of Cats Frolicking Near the Flat
It’s clear that they also had been made aware of my birthday. Thanks guys!

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Bonus Bonus Picture of Rainbow Outside the Bill Bailey Show
Good omen!

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