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2004-05-12

Travel to Lithuania, 3: If I could see 

More rain on Sunday, I nearly did not find the nerves to go out for a walk, but in the end I did, and soon I held fast to my umbrella as small rivers of rainwater were dashing down the deserted boulevards from yesterday. The town looked at peace with itself, so I walked up a hill to a place that in my little tourist map was marked as a panoramic viewpoint. Hundred meters past the boulevard a wild mix of family homes took control of the town. Many of them must have been built by their owners themselves, the walls were made of raw bricks and supported a lot of savage wooden structures and roofs, or of large sheets of painted iron wielded together in amateurish arrangements. Other buildings were modern residential complexes, apparently from the last three or five years, with flats that would cost 200 thousand euro and more in Vienna. Then there were decaying properties, such as the little park around the viewpoint, which could be accessed on this Sunday afternoon by climbing through an iron fence in a place where helpful citizens had cut out some of the black rods. The whole scenery was wildly romantic, people with a talent for photography could have given you a spectacular photo essay about this. Yet, as groups of men were standing in the doorways and eyeing me suspiciously, I felt quite relieved that I had no serious camera with me. I took one picture with the camera of my mobile phone from the viewpoint.

Later I almost got a cardiac arrest when amid some screaming a teenage male came running out on the pavement a few meters behind me. It was another pathetic moment. In fact, I have hardly ever been treated more politely than by the locals in this town. (Much later, a Lithuanian told me that at least in the evening, as a tourist I should be scared.)

Yet, apparently I continued to walk through Kaunas as a blind man. The things I kept seeing were in my head rather than in the streets. Today, the people were dressed in unnoticeable, but certainly western clothes, and the cafes were full of people. My whole Saturday Heartbreak experience seemed completely ridiculous. In the evening, I had dinner with a colleague in a modern, tastefully furnished restaurant specialising on game (unfortunately the beaver and wild boar on the menu were not available, so we settled for elk ham and venison on thyme). The neighbouring tables were full of relaxed middle-class Lithuanians.


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