Saturday, February 7, 2009

New Year in Vilnius

Diana invited me and my brother Soso to Vilnius last year. We planned the trip sometime in Autumn, but we were unable to make it until the very end of the year. We departed on December 29. I was quite nervous, because it was my first flight EVER, but everything went just fine -- the sight of lovely Baltic stewardesses quickly soothed my anxiety (that and a quarter of a sedative pill). Unfortunately, there were no direct flights from Tbilisi to Vilnius, so first we had to fly to Riga, then change the plane to Vilnius.

Diana met us in the airport. She lives in Avižieniai, which is a suburban part of Vilnius, so we took quite a long ride, while enjoying the view of a snow-covered city and listening to the mini-tour provided by the hospitable cab driver.

It was freezing cold outside -- for a heat-loving Georgian like myself, that is. But inside the house we thawed out very quickly thanks to the most cordial welcome (and the central heating system). After hot shower, substantial lunch and a long rest, we were as good as new. Now it was the time to unpack the presents.

Among other things, we brought a small piece of Georgia with us -- in the form of chichilaki, a traditional Georgian Christmas tree, made of soft wood with curled branches. It looked great beside its traditional Western counterpart.

It was Soso's birthday on December 30, so we decided to go shopping to get him a present -- and to see the city while at it. It was some 18 degrees of frost outside, but the buildings were well heated. Besides, we were dressed like Amundsen's crew in their South Pole expedition.

We have some large stores back in Tbilisi, but what we saw in Vilnius just made us drop our jaws. Seriously, one could roam these giant multistory markets for days. You can practically live there -- eat, drink, rest and even play hockey!

I bought Soso a warm sweater (with a special holiday discount!), then we ate some pizza, hunted for some souvenirs in a local tourist trap of a market, and returned home towards the evening, tired and happy. Later that night we celebrated Soso's birthday, demonstrating the basic principles of Georgian Art of Feasting to our hosts. After that, we fell asleep without hind legs, like Russians say.

We woke up the next morning with some thick heads and high expectations -- it was the first New Year for us to meet outside Georgia. The day before we saw some promising preparations on the Cathedral Square, but we decided to stay at home and watch the live translation from the safe (and, most importantly, warm) distance.

Our expectations were fully met, I must say. The fireworks and the lightshow were simply spectacular. Reportedly, you could see the flashes of light even from outer space. Lucky aliens!

The next few days passed quietly. Soso left for Panevėžys, a small city in the North, to visit a friend. Diana had some work at her University, where she teaches German language and literature, and I was drawing "Lonely Putryoshka" -- another picture from my political series.

Then Diana asked me to help her with her computer, which needed some minor upgrades. So we went out shopping again -- this time for some hardware. I was pretty impressed with local computer stores, they had some really cool stuff there. We bought a terabyte hard drive to replace the two old 40MB ones and some other stuff, but were unable to find the RAM suitable for her machine -- it was holidays, so everything was sold out. But I was still content, because I had a chance to eat my favorite pizza once again -- this time in the middle of a huge trade center called Akropolis, right next to a life-size rink, where children played hockey while their parents shopped.

Just in case, we called Soso and asked him to look for the chip in Panevėžys. Surprisingly, he was able to find it -- apparently, the population of Panevėžys wasn't so hardware-hungry this year. Soon he returned with the long-awaited RAM and we were able to complete the upgrade. Then we reinstalled the operating system and some basic software. Diana was very happy -- now her computer worked faster and had much more free space.

Two weeks flew by really fast and it was already time to return home. But I was in a good mood, because this time Diana was flying with us. The trip back was very pleasant and interesting, despite the five hours we had to wait in Riga airport. I already got used to flying and in fact was even enjoying the process. We arrived in Tbilisi early morning, very tired but full of live impressions. The only thing that spoiled our happy end was Soso's baggage, which lost its way somewhere between Vilnius and Tbilisi. Fortunately, it arrived home and dry in a couple of days.

Thus ended our magic holiday trip to Lithuania, leaving many pleasant memories and the hope for another journey sometime in the future.


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