Tag Archives: urban

Brief visit to Marijampolė

I attended a debate in Marijampolė, the seventh-largest town in Lithuania, which was an occasion to visit this town for the first time. As a regional center of Lithuania’s historically most affluent region, Suvalkija, it continuously appeared in school textbooks. Many prominent writers and Lithuanian independence activists were from this region and had studied in Marijampolė. Still, I couldn′t have named any major landmark. It was not a part of the itinerary of high school trips either. Still, the town has a very interesting history and is worth exploring. Continue reading

Egypt diaries: Alexandria

Why am I writing about my old trip (2011) to Egypt? I explain here.

[Diary] “This used to be a marvelous city,” everyone tells me, and it seems that locals here are more adequate to their environment, more natural. Signboards still remember what it used to be like, some streets have their names still written in French, and the place sort of reminds me of Istanbul. Unpretentious Roman ruins have been rebuilt. People come to the library to use computers. The library staff keep thinking how to showcase its riches better. Movies about Egypt receive disproportionate attention. There is a smell of fish lingering by the shore.

Alexandria library

Alexandria library

[Reconstructed from memory] Alexandria was my friend′s favorite city, and he seemed to take delight in showing it to me. There were lots of ′colonial′ details around there, with the French street names and all. I saw lots of graffiti and remembered reading that some of the main clashes of the revolution happened precisely there. Alexandria felt youthful and cosmopolitan. Its amazing library is a museum and a working hub in the same space. As a visitor, I took time to look at its historical artifacts, but it was just as interesting to observe how locals used the library.

As I took note in my diary, Alexandria reminded me of Istanbul, but the port also looked like Akko, Porto or other Mediterranean cities I have visited. Indeed, going between Alexandria and Cairo one can notice how a Mediterranean feel slowly morphs into a Middle-Eastern one.

Before returning to Cairo, we sat for coffee at a Brazilian-themed cafe.

Hanami in Kaunas

Feeling very nostalgic about my proper hanami in Tokyo in 2009, I attended a Japanese Embassy / Sugihara Museum event in Kaunas, where a Japanese performance artist Kirie Oda cooperated with Lithuanian violinist and singer to create a performance around Sugihara House, which used to be the Japanese consulate before WWII and now hosts a Sugihara museum, foundation, and VMU Centre for Asian Studies. The artist wanted to use this space, with its sakura trees planted by Yukiko Sugihara herself, and a larger green space behind the building.

Japanese-Lithuanian artistic cooperation

Japanese-Lithuanian artistic cooperation – click on the images to enlarge them

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Egypt diaries: Cairo

I went to Egypt in April 2011, but I was so busy that I hardly wrote anything about it. One exception is this article for Cafe Babel. I spent hours showing photos and telling stories to family and friends, but all of them were still waiting to be ′immortalized′ in the blog. I found an old notebook that I used in Egypt, so I guess it′s time to translate and digitize these notes.

Why am I writing about this now? Several reasons. I keep following news from Egypt, and it seems it will never be the same as I saw it. With each day it moves away from what I saw three months after the revolution. Also, my friend whom I was visiting has already returned to Lithuania. Moreover, I recently visited Thailand and, although most people asked me if I had been to Asia before as if other Asian countries made a sort of transition to what I was experiencing there, Thailand felt more similar to Egypt than to other Asian countries. The political system of these countries is built around tensions between populists, weaker middle-class-based opposition, and the military. Both of these countries depend on tourism for their income. So traveling in Thailand made me reflect on my memories from Egypt.

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Cyprus impressions: ancient ruins at your fingertips

As my travel companion Ugnė wrote (in Lithuanian), Cyprus is rich in well-preserved and accessible ruins, particularly in Famagusta, which she calls the capital of antique ruins. As I wrote in my earlier blog post, people interact with objects in a very direct and laid-back way. Sterility of museums seems to be alien to the local culture. There are museums, of course, but even in them visitors can come closer and interact with objects more directly.

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Cyprus reflections: houses and balconies

I continue blogging about my recent trip to Cyprus. I generally enjoy looking at buildings, although several of my friends are by far more knowledgeable about architecture. In Mediterranean countries I like taking pictures of shutters – I think this is a detail that really makes a difference (I found them even on apartment blocks in Metz!). Sometimes I would wander around the old neighborhood of Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv just to compare various buildings with shutters. I also saw lots of nice shutters in Malta. Another feature that is shared between Cyprus and Malta is widespread use of closed balconies.

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Tallinn: like at home, but better

Estonia is often presented as Lithuania’s archetypical competitor, and, judging from many media reports, it seems that the main goal for Lithuania is to be ahead of Estonia one day. Personally, I grew up with my dad’s stories from Tallinn, after he did an internship there in the 1970s, about how Estonia was more western in many ways. Access to Finnish radio was important in forming this impression. Also, Estonia was the second foreign country I ever visited – at the time there were still passport controls at the border, but Finnish tourists were already flocking there to drink. I remember Scandinavian-style dormitories in Tartu, the casual style of Estonians even in rather formal events, and their straightforward talk, in sharp contrast to mainstream Lithuanian habits. I visited Estonia again in 2007 and 2009, and each trip was full of surprises. In 2007, my friend and I discovered a shop offering very interesting, even provocative, jewellery designs. In 2009 I tasted hot chocolate with sea salt, and a cocktail consisting of a shot of vodka, lots of lemon, brown sugar and hot water. This year I was curious to see what surprises this trip will bring.

Ready – aim – shoot!

Abandoned concert hall

Abandoned concert hall [click on the images to enlarge them]

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Gothenburg notes: money and leisure

My most regular readers will think that birthday makes me overly nostalgic. But in fact, searching for some long-lost research notes, I discovered notebooks that I had long forgotten. One of these unexpected treasures is my very detailed notes from studies in Sweden. Below are my impressions from fall 2005.

Some prices are too much even for the Swedes. So they try to get tipsy before going out and only take one ‘symbolic’ drink at a cafe or club. Perhaps this is not even a question of money. When they drink something before going out, they feel more relaxed, because otherwise they feel quite tense. Some tend to overuse [alcohol]. One night foreign students were simply having fun chatting at Cafe Olof while Swedes outside were breaking chairs.

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