When she first learned that we would be going to Lithuania, my wife was...perplexed, in that she had never heard of the country and no idea of its location. Once she had found 立陶宛 (Lìtáowǎn) on a map and had learned of the long, cold and gray winters in the Baltics, Shu-E proclaimed that she was looking forward to spending the next couple of years in Vilnius. Like many Taiwanese, the idea of snow fascinates her (Hokkaidō 北海道 in winter is a popular tourist destination for Taiwanese tourists), and she is looking forward to a white Christmas.
I, on the other hand, am somewhat warier. Yes, I was excited when it snowed in Japan or in the Washington, D.C. area, but those snowfalls were relatively brief. Vilnius is different, however. It isn't even officially winter yet, but snow covers the ground and the temperatures are falling below freezing. True, our apartment is well-heated and for the most part I'm adequately dressed for the weather. However, icy surfaces are a serious problem here. I've slipped on sidewalks a couple of times already, the last time being earlier this week in which my wrists, tailbone and back are still feeling sore. Just in time, an order I'd placed through Amazon for Yaktrax finally arrived and this weekend was the first opportunity to put them to the test. I'm not prepared to turn into an unpaid shill for a commercial product - let's just say that so far I've managed to remain upright. Stay tuned as winter approaches...
Appropriately enough outside the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense, my daughter prepares a weapon of mass destruction:
Stopping in to check out what was on offer at the International Women's Association of Vilnius Christmas Bazaar, held in the former Town Hall. Dense crowds and a lack of small bills and change prevented us from purchasing anything:
The Gates of Dawn (Aušros Vartai) is the last-remaining of five openings that were built into the Vilnius city walls in the early 16th-century. You can still see the round openings that were used for cannons:
Sitting above the Gates of Dawn is the Chapel of the Gates of Dawn, which dates from 1829. It's also known as the Gate of Dawn Chapel of Mary the Mother of Mercy, and holds the Madonna of the Gates of Dawn (c. 1620), a venerated painting of the Virgin Mary among Catholic, Orthodox and Uniate (Greek Catholic) pilgrims. I've visited it a couple of times, and of both occasions people were kneeling on the floor and fervently praying in front of the revered image. Photography isn't allowed, so I've cropped the photo below to get a closer view of the painting (as well as lifting a photo from Google Images):
Doing some early Christmas shopping at Aukso Avis, a gallery on Pilies gatvė opened by Vilnius fashion designer Julija Žilėniene. What and for whom shall remain a secret:
Pilies gatvė at around four in the afternoon. Notice how early it gets dark here this time of year:
The Christmas village in Cathedral Square, which opened on November 26 and runs until December 29:
Gedimino prospektas lit up in the late afternoon:
Amber sits on a giant pea pod while an enormous red dress hangs from the rafters in the background at the Gedimino 9 shopping center. You can't make this stuff up:
On Sunday evening, Amber and I returned to the Christmas village in Cathedral Square, this time with Shu-E in tow. We made sure to wear the long underwear in addition to the yaktrax as the temperature was hovering at around -7°C (19°F):
A Czech beer with dinner at Asia Tasty:
Ordering and then eating a caramel pancake at the Christmas village:
Enjoying a Taiwanese-style hot milk tea in the cold evening air: