Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Klaipeda Calls - Part 2 – Our New Best Friend!

Klaipeda Calls - Part 2 – Our New Best Friend!

Bellies full – we pull from the lot and take side roads to Klaipeda – another 30 – 45 minute ride away.

Founded back in 1252, Klaipeda is the third-largest city in Lithuania. Ravaged in World War II when it was used by the Germans as a submarine base, the city is now undergoing major business revitalization. As a key port city in the European Union, it is a window to the world of international trade for Lithuania. Its significance as a strategic port is exactly why the Russians fought so hard to not allow Lithuania their independence.

Cobble stone streets wind through the ancient town around antique shops to a brand new casino off of the main square – Klaipeda is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new. Located at the mouth of the Dane River which leads out to the Curonian Lagoon, many Lithuanians come here to cross the lagoon and vacation at the Baltic Sea.

Egi’s office supply store is located in the heart of the downtown area and it is our first stop so that we can pick up the keys to the apartment. Once we have the keys we are headed back to the apartment for a little rest. Tonight is a big night – tonight we get to meet a friend that Lisa and her father have been speaking with for a few months now through Skype.

The apartment is small, just like most in Lithuania but very comfortable. It has a Spanish feel to it – deep, rich reds accented with dark walnut wood. When you walk into the door – immediately to your left is the master bedroom – to the right is the bathroom/toilet – all one room – a nice change from what we’ve gotten used to. Next to the bathroom and across from the living room is the spacious kitchen with a small breakfast nook. The plush living room will be Alberti’s room for the evening – we quickly deicide that the screaming bird – who does not seem to like our presence in the house – should be relocated to the bathroom for the night. The apartment comes complete with a DVD player, so Egi and I settle in to watch “Resident Evil 2” and write a bit in my Blog. Our meeting is scheduled for 6:30 PM at the main square by the statue of Anike – a famous actress during an older time.

Jurgita (Your Ge Ta), our new friend from Skype, has been communicating with Lisa and her father for some time now. During a recent conversation, before we left for Lithuania, Lisa & Alberti mentioned that we would be in the country soon and thus a plan was born to meet up with her in Klaipeda.

We get to the main square shortly before 6:30 PM – Egi giving us his cell and kindly telling us to just call and he will pick us up later. The square is buzzing with activity. At the base of the statue of Anike an accordionist plays a friendly tune will his partner follows subtly along on a flute. People are milling about browsing the little stands set up to sell various types of amber and other souvenirs. We know that Jurgita lives and works very close by so we expect her at any minute. Almost at 6:30 PM sharp, Lisa spots Jurgita walking from a street into the square and runs to meet her – arms thrown open wide as she catches her and embraces her in a hug! Jurgita is all smiles, roughly the same height of Lisa, her round face bordered by soft brown hair, her blue eyes welling with tears – she is obviously very happy to see us. Quiet as in soft spoken, she greets us all with a cute smile and a pretty twinkle in her eyes – we all say hello, hug and take a seat in the square. So many things go through your mind when you plan a blind meeting like this. What if you do not like the person you are meeting? What if they do not like you? What if you just don’t get along at all?

Suffice to say none of that was true. Jurgita is a wonderful person and host. Eager to show us the sites, she allows us the opportunity to explore the city – she leads us along the Dane River pointing out beautiful pieces of art and monuments – taking us to picture perfect spots to take the city in. We find out that Jurgita is a Civil Engineer, working on some of the very biggest projects in Klaipeda as an estimator. Her knowledge is vast and she is happy – if not a bit shy – about answering all of our questions. We wander the city for nearly two hours before realizing that we have not had any dinner yet.

Our first stop is a very nice restaurant located just on the main square. Inside the restaurant is modeled after a theater from the 1920’s. It looks very expensive and once we get the menus – we realize that it is. Trying the make the best of it – we go through the menu hoping to find something tasty yet inexpensive. I can see that Jurgita is a bit uncomfortable, as am I, with the prices (we have offered to buy her dinner) – so I suggest finding a warmer more inviting place that will allow us to happily converse with out having to whisper. Everyone agrees and we follow Jurgita’s lead to a neat little bar/café located just around the corner from the main drag. Once there we quickly realize that this is the place to be and it becomes “our” place!

Our dinner is great – we have potato pancakes that are filed with bits of bacon and topped with sour cream. Jurgita treats herself to what looks like a very tasty salad. The dinner is good – the company, even better!

Soon, too soon, it is time to start heading home. Since it is late we volunteer to walk Jurgita home which affords us some more visiting time and another view of the city.
After walking Jurgita we turn and head back to the main square to meet up with Egi for the short ride home.

As we are walking back a strange and slightly horrific thing happens – a black dog runs into the street, just shy of a blind corner and is struck by a speeding van. The van’s front end catches the dog by it’s backside with a loud, soft “thunk” – the dog literally screams out in pain as it is spun 360 degrees in the spot it is standing. The bastard behind the wheel slows just enough to get around the dog and speed away. From a walkway a woman begins to scream and wail in Lithuanian – pulling at her own hair another smaller dog following closely behind her, she begs Alberti to help. He tries to talk with her to calm her down as the dog lay in the middle of the street looking very dead. Unable to communicate with Lisa’s father that Grandmother turns and runs back up the walkway, her wails echoing off of the building drawing a considerable crowd to the windows.

It was then that I noticed the dog lift its head and moan slowly. I run out to the street to keep cars away while Lisa runs to tell her father that the dog is still alive. Her father calls down the walkway “Baba (Grandmother)” to tell her the animal is still alive. She is now running back apparently screaming what she should do. Alberti tells her to go get her dog and bring him in. She rushes into the street – crying, sobbing as the dog lifts his head to greet her. Carefully she scoops him up and the injured animal lifts his head and lays it on her shoulder. Sobbing, her face buried in the dogs nape, she carries him back up the walkway.

We continue our walk back to the square; Lisa is visibly shaken but better knowing that the animal was at least still alive and had a chance. What kind of chance, we are not sure – but at least he is still alive.

We are back in the square in no time and Egi has us in the relative comfort and safety of the BMW headed back to his friend’s apartment. Tomorrow morning we will once again meet with Jurgita and head on the ferry over to the Baltic Sea.

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