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27 March 2017
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My name is Erica,
I write from Italy


VilNews has earlier written about the extraordinary Italian – Lithuanian relationship since 1323, mentioning that Vilnius over centuries  was known as ‘The world’s most Italian city outside Italy’ and ‘Europe’s most Baroque city north of the Alps’. Today we tell a contemporary Italian-Lithuanian story, penned by Erica (30) from Bologna in northern Italy. You can also find her story in Italian, at her blog https://mybaltics.wordpress.com/

http://mccltd.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/ironwolf1.JPG

Amazing Italian influence
on Lithuania since 1323

http://vilnews.com/?p=8389

Searching for the Holy Grail? Come to Vilnius!

http://vilnews.com/?p=8381

Santa Claus and Lithuania’s Grand Duchess buried in same South-Italian basilica

http://vilnews.com/?p=8127

 


Erica’s Lithuanian story:

In 2009 I spent the spring time in Lithuania. I fell in love with this country, and here is why.

My name is Erica, I am 30 and I write from Italy. Three years ago I got the chance to be selected within the European program “Marco Polo” [1] for an internship as translator at Via Hansa Vilnius UAB [2], a major tour operator.

For my first real European experience I was confronted with a world which I honestly barely knew. So I left with two huge suitcases and a very superficial knowledge of Lithuanian language and culture with 15 fellows flying to Vilnius, which that year happened to be the “European Capital of Culture” [3], a lucky and appreciated coincidence.

Vilnius through an Italian camera lens
Photo: Erica from Bologna, northern Italy

The first days were not easy,  mostly because of the tough climate and the nordic cuisine, but after a while things went better; also because, I suspect, we were getting cool advices both from the tutors of Mec Baltic UAB [4], where we were attending a course of Lithuanian 101, and from other locals we were getting to know, in my case the girls working at Via Hansa.

Getting to stay in a flat in old town, near the Vilniaus rotušė, meant being able to reach any destination easily, beside having the chance to live in a dreaming contest for any art lover.

So, what can young people do in the Lithuanian capital? Well, we liked gathering in the late afternoon in some park to chat a bit and watch the sunset, or spending the evening in the most popular clubs downtown, the ones usually packed up with young boys and girls, university or Erasmus students. But in my free time I did much, much more.

  • I explored all the Old Town (on foot of course and taking a map with me from the first to the very last day) and part of the most modern suburbs, until I learned streets and places by heart;
  • I took pictures day after day of what struck me most, a habit that I don't usually have, and I collected my favourite shots on my Flickr account [5];
  • I visited churches, monuments, cemeteries, parks and whatever looked interesting after reading about it on Vilnius In Your Pocket [6], my definitive reading since day 1;
  • I travelled around the country – and beyond, since I also took a trip to Riga – to discover the many faces of the “rainy land”: Nida, Klaipeda, Palanga, Trakai, Kernavė, Purnuškės... (and boy, wasn't it raining cats and dogs while I was visiting the coast...)

I felt like I was living in a sort of big village: maybe I did not know the neighbours, but life seemed easier, stressless, I walked a lot, I felt secure even at night alone in the street, I shopped at small shops near home, I took part to the events planned for Vilnius '09, including the amazing “Tebūnie Naktis”. And sometimes, while watching the old ladies selling flowers in the streets, I almost thought I could find my grandmother among them...

I chose to dine sometimes at the canteen near Šv. Onos bažnyčia, to get the chance to taste truly local dishes (more than  Šaltibarščiai or cepelinai, today I miss the taste of grietinė, varškė,  kibinai), and I am proud I did that.

I am glad I explored so much on my own and taking some time for me every day for things like reading a book while sitting on the bank of the Vilnelė or enjoying a dessert in the cozy atmosphere of a Double Coffee.

So yes, I have fond memories of my staying and often long to go back. I know that for many colleagues of mine it is not the same at all, while others... did go back at some point: Lithuanian girls have charming powers!

My impression is that the Lithuanian people is “young” but painfully aware and proud of its history and independence.

Unlike what happens elsewhere these years, young people in Vilnius find a job early, they start a family quite soon, their children look much more well-mannered than here in Italy, and generally speaking people just look more relaxed.

But these young people too look conscious of what it took to be finally free, and willing not to waste the chance of living in a country which looks forward, but always paying attention to the past and to the traditions.

I felt like I could breath the attachment to their nation, to their flag, to the historic dates everybody knows very well, children included, but always under a modern europeism optic, in a city where skyscrapers and hovels coexist, in a state which tries to invest in tourism, the way to meet the world par excellence.

If I think back to my experience, I can't help noticing some contrasts with the reality I live in.

For example, it is strange for me to realize that in the capital a taxi is such a cheap mean of transportation, and that it is also cheaper when booked by phone; that a SIM for your mobile phone is sold at a laughable price, including traffic; that you can attend the première of a ballet in the most important theater of the city shelling out the sum that you would use in my country to buy, say, a women's weekly magazine. I also noticed that shops do not have those family packs so popular here and that much attention is paid to wastages; water cooler bottles instead than regular ones, and little assortment of throwaway kitchenware. Napkins are also hard to find in restaurants!

I find it funny that practically each city there brews its own beer, and that many can even think that it is normal to put so much garlic in tomato sauce for pizzas!

It was odd to notice that the immigration is barely noticeable as it mainly regards people from close ethnic groups/countries, and that the beggars you might happen to meet are local old people or young drug addicts.

I still don't get how a house might miss curtains and shutters, when in the summer there can be up to 23 hours of daylight.

I found it amazing that the folk groups coming from all the corners of the country for the “Skamba skamba kankliai” looked more interested in watching other groups' shows (although the dialect could be so different that they might barely understand it) then performing, as a mark of the national unity.

I condemn that a programme so impressive, involving and full of events like Vilnius '09 was quickly forgotten and its traces on the web deleted by winding down its official site. This is a lack of respect for memory, at the very least.

I was always surprised by the vivid colors of the sunset and, while thinking it could not possibily get more beautiful than that, by the appearance of one, two, three, several hot air balloons in the sky, so close I could almost touch them, making the view unreal.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong-learning-programme/ldv_en.htm
[2] http://www.viahansa.com/index.php?m1=9&lang=2&ava=1
[3] http://ec.europa.eu/culture/our-programmes-and-actions/doc2485_en.htm
[4] http://www.mecbaltic.com/index.php
[5] http://www.flickr.com/photos/39635483@N06/
[6] http://www.inyourpocket.com/lithuania/vilnius

More Erica photos:

Category : The world in Lithuania

  • Thanks for your feedback! Actually I really, really hope to go back soon. I am just not sure when, watching some pictures makes me think that fall would be a great season (not too hot, not too cold); but springtime is when most of the events happen. Then, I also love snow, so… I can't decide! Should I rewalk the routes I know so well, or should I discover new places? Should I come alone or take someone with me? Also, lately I am quite afraid to find out that this nostalgic wait will make me feel disappointed once I'm there…

    December 11 2012
    CommentsLike
    • Jenifer Dillis

      Erica,

      Thank You (Aciu) for the tour via your words and eyes!!! You’ve captured much of what I too felt on my one and only trip (so far) to Lietuva. Your memories will last a lifetime. Have you plans to return? To rewalk your route from 2009?

      Great job, and THANK YOU for sharing! Great photos too:)

      JCD

      December 09 2012
      CommentsLike
      • sliupas

        Erica: Really enjoyed reading your story. It is very nice to hear a non-Lithuanian praising our country. Hope you will return and also encourage your friends to do so as well.
        Vytas Jonas

        December 09 2012
        CommentsLike
        • Vytautas

          A very heart warming story. Thank you Erica

          December 08 2012
          CommentsLike

          • Thanks for publishing my story.

            December 05 2012
            CommentsLike



            

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