Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vilnius

Even though the Federal Government is shutdown, the State Dept is still able to use previous funding to support some of its missions (which highlights the understandably frustrating inconsistency in the federal government as to what activities are essential). Lucky for me, at least two of my projects fall into a/the "supportable" category, so I was authorized to travel (even though it's entirely possible that I get furloughed while TDY, and then who knows how that would all work out).

My first stop is Vilnius, Lithuania. But to get there, I had to leave on Sunday, meaning that I would actually be working on Columbus Day, a Federal holiday, during a time when the federal government is partially shut down. Situations about government ridiculousness like this is probably why Parks and Recreation is the first thing I look for on the in-flight entertainment. If there's more than one episode, it will be a good flight. And this flight had 3 episodes.

As it turns out, I can't drink coffee while watching Louis C.K. For example, this "compressed area of bad thought" in "Oh My God"I had just sipped some coffee out of one of those little Styrofoam cups as he launched into it. I know it's so wrong on so many levels, but I couldn't swallow because i was smiling, and I couldn't stop smiling because i was trying not to laugh, and I was trying not to laugh at how ridiculous it was that i was in this situation because i was listening to a guy describing such an awful turn in logic.

Arriving in Vilnius, I finally got out into the city just before sundown. I walked down Gedimino Prospecktas, which was lined with trees at the height of fall colors, the golden leaves shining like stars beside the streetlamps. 

It seemed almost like a movie scene: a clean boulevard that was just busy enough to not be distracting as the camera follows some romantic comedy couple. 

Dinner was at Kompanija (Gedimino Pr 31). A pancake with ham served with butter and creme, a delicious lamb stew, 0.5l of Pilsner Urquell, and some sort of fried ice cream balls with berry compote.

Also, the old white buildings blend in to the overcast sky, so that gold plating really gleamed. Vilnius feels very much like what I think many Americans imagine a European city to be. The streets were mostly paved with bricks, the old buildings ranged from modern to soviet-era and much much earlier.


Everywhere you look, there were slender people in dark clothes that look like extras on their way to film a elf scene in Lord of the Rings. 

One of the folks I met with told me that Lithuania translates to "land of rain", which would be apt as there was some form of precipitation(fog, rain, drizzle, mist) almost the entire time. But i like that kind of weather.There were also lots of electric trolleybuses that I think look like they could be left over from Soviet times, kind of neat. I didn't ride on any, but maybe next time. Actually, considering it was overcast and gloomy most of the time, I'd have to imagine that living here before independence would have been a bit depressing.

Anyways, the next day's lunch was at the Ukrainian Borsch restaurant.  Soup, chicken, potato, and bread. Super fast with the set menu. Had some "Kbac" pronounced "Kvass", tasted a bit like apple beer. Apparently, kvass can be made from anything fermentable.


I got to the airport over two hours early, even though our car had to pass a minor accident between a large truck & a small car on overpass. Since the policy here is you don't move anything until the police arrive, it blocked one lane of an already constricted road. 

Since I had some litas left over and I doubt that very many money exchanges outside of Lithuania probably want them, I bought a little amber cat (35 litas) for my trinket collection then changed my remaining litas into euros. I got back some change in litas that didn't quite add up to a Euro bill, so I pulled out the representative denominations of the coins and used the left over change to buy a Fanta limonade that tastes like bitter bubble gum, and a bag of skittles. 

So, yeah, my overall experience here gets Lithuania added to my "places i'd like to go back to" list...that I don't really have. Not sure if I should start one of those...it might get overwhelmingly long.
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