Monthly Archives: May 2013

Luxembourg’s treasures II: Vianden castle and chairlift

People go to Luxembourg to earn money or to buy cheap fuel – the rainy country is not a popular tourist destination. But people who already live there tend to travel quite a bit – travel inside the country, which has the highest GDP per capita in the EU, is obscenely cheap (EUR 1.3 to go by train or bus anywhere in the country), and since Luxembourg wasn’t exposed to wars that much, it has many well-preserved small towns. I have already written about my trips to Echternach and down the Mullerthal trail, and to Esch-sur-Alzette. When I visited a tourist shop in Luxembourg City with my friend, we took note of which towns were marked on magnets with Luxembourg map, and one of them was Vianden. With the help of Wikipedia, we found that the town is famous because Victor Hugo once lived there, and because it has a well-preserved castle. That sounded interesting enough. Continue reading

Luxembourg’s treasures I: The Mullerthal Trail

Luxembourg is not frequently visited by tourists, and I have an impression that the country doesn’t promote itself as a tourist destination. Why should it? The world already comes there to pick up the paycheck. Germans go there to fill the tanks of their cars (lower taxes). Streets are already overcrowded with people who commute to the tiny country from its larger and cheaper neighbors. And yet, Luxembourg’s tourist destinations shouldn’t be missed. Most of them are outside Luxembourg City (I have already written about Esch-sur-Alzette).

Click on the image to enlarge it.
Top: Kirchberg quarter and Echternach, bottom: the Little Switzerland and Grevenmacher butterfly garden.

The most impressive sites in Luxembourg, and one of the most impressive in Europe, is the Mullerthal Trail, which crosses the so-called Little Switzerland – a rocky area at the border with Germany. We did the Echternach-Berdorf part of the trail. This trail is very easy and even children could possibly do it. There is a clear path in most areas. The only difficulty might be finding the trail where it begins. [Click on the images to enlarge them] Continue reading

Unexpected objects and sights in Paris in 2012

For various reasons, I visited Paris three times in 2013. I didn’t feel like blogging about it, because there’s not much I can say about Paris that people wouldn’t already know, and I blogged about it during my first visit there. But as I go through old travel photos in my computer and delete some, I will share a few interesting observations from my trips.

When I first visited Paris, I still had a journalist card, which was very useful in entering museums. Last year, without a journalist card, I visited only those that offered something for free or were super interesting.

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Getting acquainted with the work of Lithuanian genius artist, Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė

I attended an amazing gallery tour by Laima Kreivytė, the curator of the exhibition of Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė’s work. I had seen some works by Rožanskaitė at the National Gallery of Art earlier, and I thought that she was among the most interesting Lithuanian artists of all times, but the current exhibition gives a full picture of her genius. Rožanskaitė (1933-2007) started her career under Soviet censorship, when artistic expression was carefully monitored and abstract art was treated unfavorably. However, her ‘progressive’ topics (modern medicine, space exploration and industrial cities) allowed her to get through the censorship. However, being a child of political prisoners and a progressive artist, she was largely ignored in the USSR. When Lithuania became independent, the artist continued producing innovative art, creating spatial assemblages and installations, addressing ecological and political topics, adored by the young generation. And yet I never studied about her work at art history lessons, and I heard nothing about her death in 2007 from the mainstream press. It’s a typical way to treat women artists.

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It’s green and it’s artsy – the White Bridge area in Vilnius

One of my favorite places to hang out in Vilnius is the green space around the White Bridge.

There is a lot of space, so people fly kites and various strange flying objects, and sometimes there are festivals and concerts (like on the 1st of May). A part of this area was redeveloped according to a controversial plan, which included building a beach volley court. Beach volley in Vilnius, which is notoriously far from the sea comparing to the other Baltic capitals, sounded ridiculous. And yet people really come there and play, so I guess it’s good. Another area is equipped with platforms for skating and showing tricks with bikes. Continue reading

Exploring (and trying not to do it the wrong way) in Tuscany

I didn’t think twice when my friend, who now lives in Tuscany, offered me to visit her there. I only started to explore the Mediterranean region in 2009, when I went to live in Israel, so it was head-on and initially different experience. Later, when I visited Turkey, Egypt, Spain, South France and Portugal on shorter trips, I decided that it would have been a better strategy to start from short vacations – as most people do. To admire the healthy cuisine(s) of the region. To enjoy the sea and the sun without having to solve various cultural and integration problems.

Most things were really intuitive in Turkey, Spain, South France and Portugal. When something was very different, I saw it in a positive light. But Italy happened to be more surprising (socially) in many aspects than all these countries. I’ve already written a bit about my trip to Milan. My trip to Tuscany started after that.

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Impressions from the May Day gig in Vilnius

Many Lithuanians will tell you that it is not customary to celebrate the International Workers’ Day here, because it brings back bad memories to many. Several important holidays that celebrate emancipation were twisted in the USSR. Women were officially liberated, so the authorities decided that there is no point to demonstrate for women’s rights on the International Women’s Day, it is enough to congratulate women with their liberation (nevermind that they still suffered from gender pay gap, double burden and glass ceiling). Since workers were also officially liberated, the International Workers’ Day was a big compulsory parade. But during the past years people have increasingly started seeing themselves as less post-soviet and more European. The International Workers’ Day was reintroduced as a public holiday by the earlier Social Democratic government, as by a coincidence this was also the day when Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, so this day can also be celebrated as the day when we officially joined ‘the family’. So Lithuanian workers can now demonstrate for their rights back in Lithuania, or they can pack up and move to Sweden. The International Workers’ Day is important, because being a public holiday (there are seven religious and five secular days-off a year in Lithuania, of the secular ones, three are connected to the Lithuanian statehood) it gives people time to think about their situation and join a demonstration for making it better. Yet it is far from a spontaneous and bottom-up demonstration – during the past years it is mostly an opportunity for unions and the Social Democratic Party to gain some visibility. Anyway, we are getting there.

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