Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Winding Down

As the days grow longer (sunrise today was 4:40 a.m., sunset will be 10:14), our time in Lithuania grows short.  We have had a memorable semester, and now final exams have been administered and graded, library books and keys have been returned to their rightful owners, and we have had a farewell lunch with Elders Marshall and Petersen, the ranking Mormon missionaries here in lovably funky Šiauliai. 

Inevitably, bidding farewell requires a sentimental journey, consisting in this case of random tidbits and loose ends that have eluded tidying up here on Baltic Avenue.  Better buckle up! 

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One of the things I’ll remember most vividly about Lithuania is that people here are perhaps a little too self-deprecating, which means that Jane and I were spitting into the wind when we argued that the country should market itself more aggressively.  We Americans, by contrast, are so good at marketing that we sometimes forget to deliver the substance of the thing we're trying to sell.  Surely there is a middle ground here between their modesty and our shameless hyperbole.  

That said, I continue to believe that there is room for the Hill of Crosses (see photo, above) on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The marketing campaign on behalf of the site should start with Roman Catholics, but should not be limited to them.  Others likely to be interested in the Hill of Crosses would include cultural tourists, hikers, bikers, and everyone who has ever been to Santiago de Compostela or Canterbury.  

Another Šiauliai site that should be exploited more aggressively by the Ministry of Tourism is the Gubernija brewery, which was founded in 1665 (!) and makes a first-rate beer.  I love their porter.  Who wouldn't want a tour and a tasting?   

I hope, too, now that the magnificent Chaimas Frenkelis villa has been restored to its former glory, that the city fathers and mothers will consider taking on the task of restoring the adjacent tannery complex, which is in serious disrepair, but which should be considered an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of the crafts associated with leather goods, and also the contribution of Judaism (a synagogue and a school were on site) to the history of Lithuanian industry. 

* * *

Before signing off, I wanted to acknowledge a very great debt to Diana Saparniene, chair of Public Administration at Šiauliai University, and to a number of our departmental colleagues who were generous with their time and other resources.  Jane and I also want to say how much we enjoyed the company of several graduate students, specifically Anzelika Gumuliauskiene (pictured above), Jurgita Mikolaityte, and Oksana Mejere.  We met another graduate student, Kristina Kupryte, who is a world-class performer on the Lithuanian harp, called the kankales.  Unfortunately, we never got to hear Kristina perform in person, but luckily, she’s all over YouTube, including here.

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Also, while we were still brand-new residents of Šiauliai, Jane noticed a distinctive graffito—a sparkling diamond (see photo above)—that appears on buildings all over town.  What does it mean?  We’d still like to know. 

* * *

We'll be spending a few days in Vilnius.  When we arrived in Lithuania at the end of January, the temperature was well below zero, so we weren't inclined to be active turistas at that point; somehow we managed to miss Pilies gatve, perhaps the most celebrated street in old town.  Now that spring is ready to turn into summer, we plan to follow a more ambitious itinerary.  We have tickets for a Handel performance at the Vilnius Opera, and we intend to visit Trakai--and, if possible, Kernave, another UNESCO World Heritage site.  So, stay tuned for another week or so. 


  1. Mr. Kolson,
    I am another sister, Haley, of Brother Petersen's and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog to learn more about Lithuania and specifically Siauliai. Thanks for giving us a small glimpse of the country! I will miss your updates.

  2. Thank you, Haley. We, too, are members of Elder Petersen's fan club. He showed us photos of you and your family; he has quite a big and boisterous cheering section. We have three or four more posts in pipeline, and then Baltic Avenue will go to sleep.. It's been good, thanks to loyal readers such as yourself.