Monday, August 22, 2005

The Soldier’s Cemetery

Monday, August 15th – is more of a leisurely day for us. We need to do some gift shopping and of course Gvidas comes to our rescue with his little red Honda. He is at our place by 10:00AM ready to go – we are invited later to his place for lunch so this works out well.

We start out by heading to one of the larger outdoor malls – not really a mall as much as a flea market – think Swap O Rama – with small wooden booths that are crammed with clothing, fruit, vegetables, electronics and other goodies. This day we are looking for a “CCCP” shirt that we saw in Vilnius for our oldest boy Steven. We get there and find that it looks awfully deserted – we find out that today it is a Holiday in Lithuanian and most things are closed. There are a few merchants there however and we wander through the rows. We find a few things, however not in the sizes we require.

Gvidas knows of another market that should be much busier and he also has a few places he wants to show us along the way. Gvidas is great for this – he knows his town well as he was once involved politically. He is a great guide who is both informative and respectful when we require space just to stop and look.

His first stop of the tour before the next market is another cemetery simply called The Soldier’s Cemetery. It is a cemetery that is home to only soldiers who have fought in the wars that Lithuania was involved. What makes this unique is that Lithuania has provided separate sections of the cemetery for the opposing forces. There is a Russian portion, a German Portion a Lithuanian portion, and a Jewish portion. Each area is lovingly maintained by Lithuanian so that families of the fallen soldiers can visit at anytime they want. It is really quite an emotional place with monuments to not only the fallen but to the families as well. In the center of the cemetery sits are large monument of a mother, covered in a shawl, bent forward, head down crying in anguish – arms stretched outward – it is dedicated to all grieving mothers who lost their children to war.

Some of the graves date back to the First World War…..

From the cemetery we head to another market – this one is a little larger than the last one and more little shops are open for business. Once again we are meandering up and down the aisles stopping here and there to check out the wares. Once again we fail to come up with something suitable to bring home – it is not a big deal though as the weather is excellent and it is nice to be outside. The sun has finally appeared this morning and the temperatures are in the mid-70’s, perfect weather for us all!

On our way back to Gvidas we look for the Devil’s Museum to stop in at. I heard about this museum the last time we were in Lithuania. A local artist who had a fascination with devil images gathered a collection so large that he eventually opened a museum to display his prizes. Far from a satanic thing – it is more of a study of the way that evil is represented through out the world. Having seen pictures of it I was anxious to check it out. When we finally found it – like everywhere else this day – it too was affected and closed because of the holiday.

So, slightly disappointed we head back to Gvidas’s place for a late afternoon lunch.

Living in an upper floor apartment, we get a bit of a work-out climbing the stairs (only a few buildings actually have elevators). Like almost all of the apartments in Lithuania, Gvidas’s place is a three room apartment (kitchens do not count as a room here) that is very tastefully decorated if not a bit more modern than the rest of the families. We sit in the front room at a nicely set table as Donna brings out plates with a very interesting looking dish on it. The smell is wonderful as we come to learn it is simply a chicken dish. I try and bite and it is wonderfully sweet! While very basic in nature I would have never thought to cook the chicken this way.

Donna took chicken breasts and with a tenderizer mallet flattened them a bit. Then she shredded carrots and finely chopped onions, sautéing them until tender, finally spreading the warm mixture onto the pounded breasts. After spreading the carrot/onion mixture, a thin layer of mayonnaise covers everything. Finally, shredded Swiss cheese is added evenly over the entire production. Broil under golden brown and serve – fantastic!!! I can’t wait to try this out at home!!

Gvidas and Donna are fun. While they cannot speak English – they love it when Lisa’s father translates their smart quips or jokes. We spend another hour or so after lunch before heading back to get ready for dinner with Beruta and Jane!

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