One of the greatest characteristics a city can have is versatility: to provide with the modern and the old in the same time, give you great bars and great parks to relax in, give you the yin and the yang. Many cities in Eastern Europe, which have seen a great economic boom, provide just with that: new, flashy building right next to a soviet bloc. There is a lovely mix of the new and the old in Vilnius.
The soft, warm bed had certainly been a trap. A pleasant trap in which I would like to stay forever. Had there not been these huge boomboxes across the river tainting my sweet sleep. As well as the end of breakfast that was approaching.
The city had returned to life, the stalls once again popping up everywhere on the main street, today sectioned by a city-wide marathon. We caught what I would assume to be the last people in the event, small pockets of crowds clapping, in a rather sad manner, for them in support.
The main church square is very airy – which reminds me of parts of soviet Kyrgyz, more Lithuanian madness ensuing, there being a marathon made for parents with baby strollers, innocent baby faces included. Some were sleeping, some were alarmed at the sheer spartan way of them being handled.
We crisscrossed through town, ending up in a rather eery, deserted part of the city. What looked like a prison turned out to be a former concentration camp, a beautiful derelict church nearby, windows smashed. I have always found a fascination with deserted buildings, the decay bringing a strange sort of beauty to the otherwise potentially plain aspect of it. Never sure if it comes from a fascination of death, or whether it’s the unusual factor of such building not being cared for.
In Freudian psychology, humans have two different drives: “Eros”, the drive to life (and, because it’s Freud, obviously sex) and “Thanatos”, the drive to death and self-destruction. As Lana would say, we are born to die, so the drive to death is the body pushing us towards our ultimate, natural demise. Perhaps this is what I see in the broken windows of the church, in the falling bricks and dust that gathers. I see Thanatos. Not my own demise, but simply the strength and power of death. Power, that awes, becomes beauty. Life is amazing, yet death can be equally powerful.
Let’s move on before we succumb to depression. In a daring move we decide to move across the river and explore the great beyond. The area is suffering a metamorphosis, giants of steel and glass trying to pry the land away from their distant, soviet brethren.
We decided to venture to the North side of Neris river (that big river smack in the middle of Vilnius), where we found a bustling new area of skyscrapers and modern life. As Kai said, it was a Canary Wharf in the making; though still plagued by the old soviet building – which, in truth, have a charm of their own – it was clearly an area with lots of investment and potential. I mean, Canary Wharf was basically a marsh before it became all shiny and clean.
A great place to go at night is the Sky Bar, located at the top of the Radisson Blue, where you can sit back, order a nice Cosmopolitan, behold the flickering lights of the great city-capital of the Lithuanian nation and ponder on your life and successes. On your dream to dominate the world and become the next Masterchef. Because that is what traveling is, in essence, for. To reinforce our daily lives, our goals and our values. To inspire us for more. And make us long for other travel.