Sunday, July 4, 2010

Why is Vilnius special?

Vilnius is special. There's no doubt about it. You may think it's just another European town, you may even think (if you're a pessimist) that Vilnius is damaged by its difficult history, depressive, grey and uninteresting. You may say - and it's probably the worst thing you can say about a city - that it's just a "one-day destination".
Believe me - you will change your mind. Vilnius IS special. It is small and it feels like home, and yet sometimes it gets so fancy and cosmopolitan. It is rough, but in a charming way. Its Old Town looks like a meringue! It's simply sweet. But, if you take time to get to the bottom of it, it reveals its spicy side.
In spite of having been a multi-national town for centuries, Vilnius seems peaceful, slow, a bit sleepy; it doesn't resemble a "melting pot" in the least. Maybe it's this very peacefulness that has drawn representatives of many different cultures to settle down here. They all somehow manage to coexist without conflict (of course there will always be trouble-makers in every town); Vilnius is hospitable indeed, letting anyone live their way without asking too many questions (this is what the "Republic of Užupis" is really about. By the way, note the interesting double meaning of this name: Už-upis means "behind the river", but už means also "for" - like I vote for freedom, love, peace).
The citizens of Vilnius are hard to be surprised and take everyone for granted: they are neither delighted nor horrified when you struggle to stammer out your ten Lithuanian words (which are probably all pronounced wrong anyway); well, it's only natural to speak Lithuanian in Vilnius, isn't it? Even if you're a two-metre tall, one-legged black cross-dresser...
After all, nothing matters more than being able to sit in the grass at the riverbank and read a book in the very centre of a state capital...

See a few of my photographs from Vilnius here

The old and new Vilnius

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