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Published: October 12th 2017
Roman Catholic Orthodox Church
The Soviets allowed this church to stay open during their occupation of Lithuania
Today was a wonderful day in Vilnius, Lithuania! It is just after 9pm and we have returned to our room after a beautiful leisurely walk on the pedestrian street here outside of our hotel. It is cool and the leaves are turning colors and it is like a painting outside. To back up… we had a full city tour this morning for around 3.5 hours. We toured a Roman Catholic Orthodox Church from the 1600s. There is no way my pictures can capture the details of the carvings inside the church but I tried. There was also a funky bar just next door to the church. I suppose this is okay since they are Catholics. LOL We visited the town hall square and there seemed to be churches – Gothic, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, etc… everywhere…. In between the shops and cafes. At noon the church bells rang for a full minute. It was uplifting and felt like five minutes. We walked through the cobblestones streets to see and hear the history of the buildings (none of them are reproductions), we toured the local university, viewed inside several churches, and stopped for a hot chocolate break at a local chocolaterie where they
used actual poured chocolate to make our drinks. It was rainy and damp and a bit cool outside so the warm chocolate with whipped cream was comforting.
We had a quick break and then early this afternoon around half of us took the tour bus about 45 minutes out of town to see one of the most photographed places in all of Europe – Trakai Castle. We drove up and the entire bus gasped. It is a sight to be seen in person. It is a fortress – a castle surrounded by water with a draw bridge. The duke and duchess used it as their summer home for many years (among other things). It was great to get a guided tour here today and then walk around for a while on our own. The fall leaves on the trees, the views across the the water, the family of swans that live around the castle, the ducks, and the clear water on the sandy beaches surrounding the castle was all breathtaking.
We came back to our hotel around 6pm and thought we would go exploring again on our own around 7pm… we turned-on the TV
and one of the channels in English was something called Whale Wars. We could not stop watching this craziness! Has anyone seen that?? After 7pm we walked to the beautiful lit building beside our hotel and looked at all the shops in the mall. We were just curious. Frankly, it’s a lot like an American mall. We are more alike than different. We decided to walk down the pedestrian street as they have it completely closed to all traffic at night with old-fashioned lights every couple of feet. We walked down to the beautiful church on the corner and back. We stopped at KFC and picked-up dinner. It was interesting but good. They sell alcohol at KFC here. You can get a beer to go with your chicken. We wanted to stop at a pizijra (pizzeria) we saw but it was packed. We try to eat local food for the most part but tonight we wanted quick and we didn’t want a bar-type atmosphere which a lot of the cafes on this street are geared toward alcohol sales not food. We slowly strolled home on the cobblestone street with smiles on our faces… it felt nice outside tonight. 😊
We have a very nice and younger tour member (Alan) who was not with us on any tours today. He wasn’t feeling well a couple of days ago and then he missed dinner last night but his wife (Andrea) was there. Neither of them were on our tours today. This is not a big deal as people decide occasionally for whatever reason they want to skip a tour – maybe they want to rest, maybe they want to walk on their own, etc. However, while we were in a church this morning our tour guide got a call from the tour company discussing him. He is in the hospital. Alan, Andrea, and myself had a very long and good talk one night during dinner (in Estonia) and so I am sad to hear he is not feeling well. He travels all over the world pretty-much continually. They have a home in the San Francisco Bay area but this trip, for example, they came into Estonia a day early, they are staying a day extra in Poland, then they are flying to Barcelona and catching a cruise which will take them all the way to Florida. They will not
be home until sometime in November. Prior to taking this trip, he had only been home 8 days from a cruise he took with his daughter around Cuba on a special boat that took him to 5 different cities in Cuba. He is truly addicted to traveling and loves it. His wife is the nicest person you could meet. I really like them so I hope he is okay soon and will continue on with us to Poland tomorrow.
One other thing I almost forgot... there are beggars here. Not like Barcelona where they are everywhere but we have ran into 2 or 3 a day. Our guide who is from this city says they are drug addicts and they are professionals and to ignore them or say no and they will go away. Our hotel has two smoking areas out front with lighted coverage from the rain. Kamie was out front smoking last night and a short, young beggar came and asked for a cigarette and he said no. She then proceeded to open the smoking canister where everyone puts their butts, dig through it until she found a cigarette half-smoked, took it and walked off. Eewwww
Carvings and paintings
They had 12 hours to get the carvings done or they had to restart whatever they were working on again the next day because it dried so quickly.
There will be almost nothing to write about tomorrow as tomorrow we head to our final country of this trip - Poland. Our trip is half over as of today! It seems like it just started! Our drive from Lithuania to Warsaw, Poland tomorrow is about 8 hours. Several tour members were discussing that our tour bus is monitored by GPS and we have a mandatory rest stop of 30 minutes every 2 hours. Tomorrow is going to be a loooong day. Hopefully, we will stop at interesting places.
Hope all is well at home! Mom – give Simon kisses for me and I supposed that stupid cat too! 😊 I have not gotten homesick yet because we have been so busy this trip.
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