Thursday, August 01, 2019

An Eclectic Day - KGB, Cousins Meet and an Underground Crypt

Thursday, August 1, 2019 – Vilnius; The Cousins Meet.

We might have left Vilnius this morning had Art not been able to set up a lunch date with his distant cousin, Lina. Before meeting, we take an Uber to the KGB museum. The museum is understandably depressing but the bleak Soviet Era building is actually the past headquarters of the KGB and the prison cells and killing chambers are in the basement. The horrors of war, the strange lighting and lack of air conditioning leave me dizzy and feeling slightly nauseated.

KGB Museum stairway
Descending the stairs to the prison cells

KGB Prison Cell
KGB Prison Cell

KGB Museum

Shortly after noon, we begin to make our way across town to meet with Lina at a stylish Peruvian restaurant that is close to her work. Lina is blond and pretty and in her mid thirties and looks nothing like Art with his half Okinawan lineage but they share a great-great Grandfather. We order the prix fix lunch menu and after several days of meat and grease laden food, I am thrilled to see a sashimi poke appetizer and a tuna steak on the menu. We visit for nearly two hours but Lina must return to work and Art and I, still not completely cycled into Lithuanian time, return to our hotel for our afternoon siesta.

Lina, a distant Lithuanian cousin to Art.
Tonight is our final night in Vilnius and we spend time wandering the Old Town before being lured into a cafe by a chanterelle and potato appetizer. We sit at street side bistro tables, sip our drinks, people watch and share the mushroom and potato dish (with pieces of ham mixed in.) There was no mention of meat in the description of the dish and I am beginning to think “vegetarian” is not in the Lithuanian dictionary.

Marty at a Vilnius cafe
Art enjoying is favorite drink, Aperol Spritz
Chanterelle and potato appetizer

City gate in Old Town Vilnius
Horn and bone carving workbench
Independent woodworking workshop

Crafter's Co-op
Spinning room

Quilting and printmaking space at the Crafter's Co-op
Our intention is to make our final evening an old town “tapas” dinner and we continue our stroll until a fine clear voice accompanied by soft guitar pulls us into a wine bar. The intimate bistro is packed but there are two seats in a far corner. A dark haired woman beckons us to sit at her table. We order drinks and enjoy the music. At intermission, our new friend, Mira, tells us that the vocalist is from Russia and the guitarist from Chile. She tells us that this is a private party but that two guests didn’t come and so there is room and we are welcome. 

Marty meets Mira and the Russian vocalist
We crash a private party at a wine bar
She tells us that there are some famous artists and fashion designers here and once again, I realize how underdressed Art and I are. Mira is casually dressed as well and she points to a paint smudge on her arm and tells me that she is an artist and that her studio is very close by. She invites Art and me to visit her studio after the performance and we accept.

Mira's underground crypt
Stairs down to  Mira's underground crypt

Visiting with artist Mira in her home

We walk the short distance to her studio where she unlocks a heavy door and we enter a dimly lit cobblestone courtyard. We follow her across the courtyard to her apartment door. She unlocks this door and as we enter her studio, I am hit by the pleasant smell of oil paints intermingled with the musty smell of earth. Abstract canvasses are stacked against the walls and oriental carpets, paisley curtains and knickknacks add to the bohemian ambiance. She sweeps up a blanket from the floor exposing a window to an underground chamber below. We look through the glass into an archeological underground crypt with ancient stone archways. I don’t think twice when she asks if we would like to go below and I descend behind her down a wooden staircase. Below, it is cold and damp and smells of moldy earth.  It is only later that Art suggests that following a stranger into her underground chamber might not have been the best idea and that he hopes I would not have done this had I been alone. After resurfacing we sit in her cluttered living space and she talks about her daughters and shows us photos on her I-pad.

Mira shows us photos on her I Pad
Mira's home and studio

I am intrigued but it is late and we decline the offered drink and she walks us back through her courtyard and points us in the direction of our hotel.  

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