The Final Week

I can’t believe this time is finally here.  Chuck is totally done as of Wednesday about noon–all finals given, graded, and grades in.  He hardly knows what to do with himself.  He went over to clean out his office this morning and to have lunch with some faculty friends and then he was going downtown to get some Euros for our trip which begins this evening.

Before leaving though, late this afternoon we will have the faculty recognition and farewell party and then, immediately following, Chayah’s 4th birthday party.  Rachel, with her usual skill at such things, has decorated their apartment with butterflies and little girls attending will make butterfly mobiles.

After the festivities, John will drive us to the ferry port and we’ll be on our way to Kiel, Germany.  After two weeks of taking photos, I hope to have to wrap up our blog with a couple of posts on our trip before taking off for home on the 18th.

My worst fears have come to pass–they want Chuck to come back.  Although I’ve had a good time here, I am not thrilled at the prospect of returning.  Perhaps after being home for awhile I’ll change my mind but another cold, wet, windy winter does not look so appealing right now.

As you may remember, last weekend we were blessed with a visit from Fr. Frank and Hope from Orangeburg.  The weather was, surprisingly, very good while they were here and I think they had an enjoyable time exploring Klaipeda and the Curonian Spit and trying some local cuisine.

Hope poses in front of the palace where the King and Queen of Prussia resided during the year of 1808.

Fr. Frank and Hope try out kepta duona.

By the Curonian Lagoon on our trip to the spit.

The weather has improved significantly but we still have a few chilly, windy days.  Despite that, we are just done-viskas!-with the big coats so the three generations of Milliken ladies decided to pose in our “Eskimo” coats before putting them away.

We had a cute visitor a couple of nights ago when a fellow faculty member caught a hedgehog and brought him in for us to see.  I was thrilled as I had never seen a hedgehog before.  He was pretty shy and not at all aggressive. He was safely returned to the place where he was found.

One of the few remaining things on my bucket list was to walk down to the campus of the Klaipeda University which is not far and take some pictures of their really great neo-gothic buildings.  This group of buildings, given to the university once the Russians had gone, once housed the Prussian Army and later Germans and then Russians.  The complex makes for a lovely college campus.

I planned to add more to this post but suddenly I am unable to upload any additional pictures. We’ll see if it works when we return but for now–we’re off to Germany.

Viso Garo and Auf Weidersein,

 

 

 

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The Hill of Crosses

Yesterday I had the opportunity to tag along when a visitor to the university from the US requested a visit to one of Lithuania’s most famous sites, The Hill of Crosses.  I had wanted to see it but it had never worked out as it is two hours away and therefore not convenient.

This unusual site began in the early 1800’s.  There was once a fort on the hill and the first crosses were placed there after the 1831 uprising against the Russians as a tribute and remembrance to those lost in battle whose bodies had not been recovered so there was  no place of burial for the mourners to give respect to their fallen.  After another uprising in 1863, more crosses were placed there and by the early 20th century it had become a sacred place.  During the Soviet occupation the hill was completely destroyed four times: the wooden crosses were burned, the metal ones turned into scrap metal or buried and the hill was bulldozed.  It was even flooded with sewage a couple of times and the Soviet authorities made plans to build a dam there so that the hill would be under water.  But although guarded by militia and KGB, crosses kept reappearing on the hill.  Finally, it was left alone and after the Soviets left it began to grow rapidly.  Now it has become a pilgrimage site for Catholics and was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It is sort of symbolic of the perseverance of the church despite oppression.  By now, there are easily millions of crosses there and it covers a much large area than I had imagined as I had only seen pictures of the main hill.  I took many pictures because there were so many interesting crosses so here are some which I hope will give a good idea of what is there.  The making of crosses, wood and metal is one the the most important folk arts in Lithuania and it is listed by UNESCO as a cultural heritage.

Of course, the Man of Sorrows showed up here as well.

A student, Ruta, drove us on our journey yesterday and it was interesting to talk with her.  She asked me what South Carolina was famous for and I said, “It started the Civil War.”  I thought that would all be pretty murky to her but was so surprised to learn she had read, Gone With The Wind!    At lunch I mentioned how amazed I was at all the varieties of juice available here and she said, having visited the US, she couldn’t believe all the varieties of cereal we have.  It is interesting to see what differences people notice.  When I told Marina (our friend at Bible Study) how I was struck by all the metal sculpture everywhere, she looked surprised and said she had not noticed that.

Things are really winding down and every day we are thinking of how few days we have left. We have really enjoyed our time here and Chuck is so sad to leave.  Although I will miss our life here–especially the children and grandchildren–I’m ready to go home.   Still, there is always sadness in saying goodbye and I feel like I’m not quite finished looking at things–I just discovered a new street and a great new restaurant when we took Rachel out for her birthday last night.

Today is especially exciting because Father Frank Larisey and his wife, Hope, coming all the way from Orangeburg, SC,  will be arriving–in just a couple of hours– to spend the weekend with us here in Klaipeda.  We were hoping for good weather for sight-seeing for them but it looks like Klaipeda is going to be as advertised–cold and wet.  At least the wind is not so  bad today.

A final picture for you today—some cute little pirates who live close by.  Sorry–sometimes I just can’t resist showing pictures of the grandchildren.

 

VISO GERO!

 

 

More of Curonian Spit and Random Thoughts

 

Easter Monday was a holiday here so time for another day of exploration.  Friends from Toledo, Dick and Linda Ward, joined John and Rachel, Chayah and Noah, and Chuck and I for a visit to the Curonian Spit.  You might remember that when we first saw it, the dunes were covered with snow.  There are several things to see out there so even a second trip did not cover everything.  We took a bus from Klaipeda which crossed over the lagoon to the spit on a ferry. Noah liked the boat but was disappointed there were no fairies.

This trip we went as far as Juodkrante which is about half way down the spit.  The day was sunny and not so cold–lovely.  We had lunch at a nice little restaurant and then took a walk up the Witches’ Hill and across the spit to the Baltic.  The children kept up wonderfully–in fact they walked ahead with “Papa Chuck” while Old Grandma Bonnie hobbled along–last in line.(The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.)  Witches’ Hill has many interesting wood carvings along the way, most of them representing characters from folk tales which we are not familiar with, and some of witches, and devils.

Pretty lunch! Sort of Chicken Kiev with spinach, ham, and cheese.

John photographs entrance to Witches' Hill.

A funny bench--a heavy load for the characters carrying us.

My favorite carving,

Probably an interesting story here.

One more example of these interesting carvings.

Hiking with Grandpa.

We reach the Baltic. This beach stretches for miles and I'm sure John and Rachel will be visiting it several times this summer.

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Here are a few Lithuanian curiosities to share with you.

First:  Juice in Lithuania.  I have been amazed at the large variety of juice available here.  Not only do they have the familiar Orange, Cranberry, Tomato, Pineapple, Apple, Grapefruit, and Grape–they also have Peach, Pear, Blueberry, Plum, Cherry, Blackberry, Red Orange, Kumquat, and even Banana juice. There are also mixtures as we have.  I had never even  realized Bananas have juice.  The juice display takes up quite a lot of shelf space in all the grocery stores and Chuck has tried quite a few varieties.  I stick to OJ.

Juice as far as the eye can see

Packaging of Ice Cream:  Not all of it is packaged like this, but I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it is to deal with ice cream in a flimsy paper tube.  Sometimes Ice Cream is named “Cow Candy.”

Ice Cream roll.

Napkins:  Sorry, no photo.  When you go out to a restaurant, there is a napkin holder on the table which has cocktail size napkins in it.  Only once have I gotten a normal dinner napkin.  When we went to the Lithuanian home, we also got the very small napkins.  The larger ones are available in the stores but not the big packs we are used to.  I suppose Lithuanians are much neater than we are and don’t need to wipe up as much.  Obviously, they do not eat fried chicken.

Here is the most popular appetizer in Lithuania, Kepta Duona which means fried bread.  The dark bread is cut into strips, and fried and then served, usually, with a sort of cheese sauce on top.  It has a very strong garlic flavor.  Nearly every restaurant offers this.  We like it.

Would you believe that, with the exception of about 1 hour of Animal Planet when we first got TV in our apartment (in February), we have not seen any TV since leaving home and don’t miss it?  Would you believe that I have not seen one airplane since we arrived on one in Vilnius–not even when traveling?  In the US, planes are always going over somewhere but here we are definitely not under any airline routes.

That’s it for today!