Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Random observations on Lithuania

  • Lithuania used to have an empire which stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. That’s something I never knew.

  • In the supermarket I saw a can of something described as “Beef in its Own Juice”. What’s that then? Blood, I presume, or possibly cow mucus.

  • Lithuania is obsessed with basketball. It is way more popular than football, which makes Lithuania the only European country in which football is not the most popular sport. (I have just made that last fact up, so don’t take my word for it. I may have overlooked the Liechtensteinian love of cricket or the Albanian passion for jai alai)

  • Vilnius is a very beautiful city, with a nice wide river, a very nice old heart, and an excessive amount of churches.

  • Lithuania was the last country in Europe to submit to Christianity. I use the verb specifically because their paganism was so shocking that various crusading forces were launched against them so that they would finally accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour. Given that fact it’s quite surprising that since their eventual conversion they have clung to Him quite so readily and enthusiastically.

  • The Lithuanian language is said to be the closest modern language to Sanskrit. It’s Indo-European but of the Baltic group, which means it’s only related closely to Latvian and basically nothing else. Not Slavic like its large Polish/Russian neighbours, nor Finno-Ugric like Estonian.

  • All male nouns in Lithuanian have to end in “s”. Thus there is a bankas, a baras, and various other things that end with “s”. Georgeos Bushos, for example, gets a mention in the papers. Seriously. The Australian themed bar is called Kuko-Baras (clever huh?)

  • Two famous sons of Vilnius are Adam Mickiewicz and Feliks Dzerzhinsky. Both of them were ethnic Poles born in what is now Belarus and educated in Vilnius. Mickiewicz, a great poet, is claimed by both Poland and Lithuania as their own and you would upset a Pole if you called him Lithuanian and a Lithuanian if you called him Polish. Dzerzhinsky was the founder of the KGB and is less desperately claimed. Or even mentioned anywhere. I didn't ask anyone about him, but I'm guessing Lithuanians would call him Polish and vice versa. Or maybe both nations would call him Belarussian. Either way, he's not exactly the most popular man in Lithuania.

  • Shamefully I have no recollection of the events of January 1991 when Soviet tanks killed 13 Lithuanian civilians in an assault on the TV Tower in Vilnius. I have now rectified that gap in my knowledge. (In my defence it was a time of my life when I had no TV or ready access to news, and it was apparently simultaneous with the beginning of the first US-Iraq war, so got a little buried in the global coverage).


  • Oh, and finally,

  • Lithaunia is very similar to England. Lots of interesting old buildings, a green capital, an imperial history, and above all, constant and unending rainfall

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

About its own juice: this tuna can has some details on the juice:

http://www.hopa.ro/poze/mare/pic19912_1148078051.jpg

"Ton în suc propriu (apă)"

"Tuna in its own juice (water)"

--Bogdan

romesperi said...

Another interesting observation about Lithuania: it has the world's highest mobile phone penetration rate, with 4.81 million subscribers and 140% penetration. That's significantly higher than most other EU countries.

Kerry S. said...

Hey Andy,

I'm so glad you went to visit my homeland- good fact-finding mission! Yes, I'd go with your assessment that basketball outfans (new word, like it?) soccer (futbol).

If anyone is planning a trip out there, please let me know and I'll tell you the "Must see's" of the country. Vilnius in your Pocket is a wonderful local publication.

Aahh, how I long for a beer in one of the old pubs, sitting at long wooden tables, listening to live music and watching the passersby. Kids, work, and home renovations... it all seems so far. But you can visit in memories.. And this summer we're building a traditional Lithuanian sauna- right here in Brattleboro! Next time you're in town come for a sauna! Take care! Kerry (PIM 58)

Petrus said...

Sveturis was my life when I was there - for one month this July.

Loved it, and loved the kids at the summer camp where I taught.

AND - I did learn to count to 10 in Lithuania... vyenus, du, etc.

bathmate said...

This is wonderful posting. Thank you.


Bathmate