Saturday, July 25, 2009

Acclimating to Vilnius

Today was an unscheduled day for us to get our bearings in the city in which we’ll be living for the next month. We began our day with brunch at an outdoor café in a central plaza in the old section of the city. There we learned that the Lithuanian national dish consisted of baked bowels with mashed potato stuffing, and decided to opt for more traditional fare.

It was a good vantage point from which to people watch. We looked up in amusement when we saw a Volkswagon with clanking tin cans announcing a newly married couple as they ceremoniously circled the plaza. This was followed by the arrival of an antique convertible bedecked with flowers out of which elegantly stepped another bride and groom who proceeded to pose for photos in front of the central fountain.

As we watched, this scene was repeated at least seven or eight times. We seemed to have stumbled into the main photographic venue for every wedding in Vilnius.

Our next stop was at a nearby grocery store to get some basic provisions for our apartment. We soon discovered that most packaged goods were described in Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Russian and on rare occasions even English. When we couldn’t translate what was written we relied on photographs or package illustrations. We began to feel like natives as we trundled our shopping bags several blocks back to our apartment.

Our afternoon exploration was locating the University where we are supposed to meet tomorrow for registration and orientation in the Yiddish program. The University is just a few minute walk from our apartment. We learned that the University is the oldest one in Eastern Europe, founded by Jesuits in 1570. Its attendees have included many well known artists such as Chaim Soutine and Jacques Lipchitz.

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