Saturday, April 5, 2014

On the Pedestrian Street Where We Live

I have often walked down this street before;

But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.

All at once am I several stories high.

Knowing I’m on the street where you live.

                             --Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, from My Fair Lady


Spring has sprung here on Baltic Avenue, and our neighborhood on Vilniaus gatvė, a pedestrian thoroughfare—the first in the old U.S.S.R, and one of the first in eastern Europe—is in the midst of a pretty dramatic facelift.  Work crews are arriving, and trucks are backing into position to allow for the unloading of the more or less prefabricated decks and patios that will accommodate al fresco dining and drinking once the weather has warmed up just a little bit.  Meanwhile, the buds are popping, the patrons are materializing, and the kitchen of every restoranas, kavinė, and baras is in the process of growing an umbilical cord to nurture its offspring.

It’s quite a sight.  This (above) is not my photo, but it’s pretty much the way Vilniaus gatvė looked when we arrived in Šiauliai on February 1.

Here’s my photo of the same street, looking in the opposite direction, taken today.  In the right foreground is a deck being constructed for a café called Presto.  A little farther, on the other side of the street, is the deck at Kapitonas Morganas (Captain Morgan’s), which is already open for business.

And here’s a close-up of the deck at Captain Morgan’s.

A block away, down by the building that houses Šiauliai University’s humanities faculty, Čili Pica (pica is Lithuanian for pizza) is spilling into the street, as is the competition across the way at Gedimino’s Pica (above).

At a Chinese restaurant around the corner, two decks are being constructed, one for Pekinas and the other for either the Japanese sushi bar or the Thai place next door in Šiauliai’s version of “Little Asia.”

About a kilometer away, at the other end of Vilniaus gatvė, an accordionist emerges from somewhere on sunny days to entertain the residents and passers-by.  Wide and lively sidewalks, as Jane Jacobs observed  a half-century ago, can make the earth move under one’s feet (or was it Carole King?)—and that’s what’s happening just now on the street where we live.

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