Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vilnia + Užupis = Sunburn

For starters, today was hot. Very hot. We're talking, the-street-tar-by-the-bus-stop-was-melting hot. However, despite the humidity and heat, we loved it!

Started off the day be heading into town around noon.  We were hoping to go to the vintage shop, but it was closed. So, we were hoping to go to Uzupis! We couldn't find it. Then there was this basketball competition, a McDonalds bathroom and British stores.... and we ended up going to the little river behind Gediminas tower :)
The Neris is the bigger river that ultimately connects to the Neman river in Kaunas. The smaller branch is the Vilnia river, and where we went!
It was SO fun to play in the water. Elise and I wore out swimsuits, waded out into the cold water, and had a jolly ol' time.
Vilnia River - so pretty!

Elise and Bailey exploring the river

Elise getting in the water whilst I try to summon the courage to do so

In my defense, it was freezing at first. Then you got used to it, and it felt heavenly.

After we had goofed around in the river long enough, we all decided to go to the one (and only!) Mexican restaurant in Vilnius. Sometimes, I miss Mexican food. So, we went there and I got an awesome Chicken Chipolata salad!  Life was good, our waiter spoke English and we made an American friend named JT (he recognized our American accents, and came over to say hi! He's here on an internship with the embassy).
Oh, and while we were eating our Mexican food, a random HS Marching Band tromped by.

Complete with cheerleaders. It was rather odd. Welcome to Lithuanian, home of the random festivities :)
After we had finished eating, Elise and I headed back to the river, while the rest of the girls wandered to Old Town.  Elise and I played in the water some time longer, then discovered a nifty little path that followed the river along. We decided to walk alongside and see where it took us, when lo and behold - we popped out in Užupis!

Now, Užupis is a dandy little place, albeit extremely weird.  In Lithuanian, Užupis  means "on the other side of the river", and refers to the Vilnia River. Basically, Užupis is a the bohemian section of Vilnius, and houses tons of art galleries, artists' worships, cafes, etc. Apparently, it's comparable to Montmarte in Paris.  The fun thing about Užupis - on April Fools Day, 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic (The Republic of Užupis), complete with an army of 12 personnel.  A President and bishop were appointed, four flags were designed [one for each season], a National Day was declared (April 1st) and a suitable constitution was duly drawn up.  I still haven't quite figured out if the whole thing was done as a joke, a political symbol or just a group of artists being odd.  I mean, look at their boundary sign:
The Mona Lisa, and a population of 40. Great. And and by the way - no driving your cars into the river.
Funnily enough though, that's actually the place where Artūras Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, is living.  And take it from me - this mayor is awesome. Not only is he working to improve Vilnius, but he does cool things like this:
Trust me. That video's worth watching :) 
Anyway, it's a pretty nifty little place! We wandered around for a while, and saw a couple fun sights:
The Užupis angel - this is the statue that was put up when Užupis declared it's independence. There is a complimentary statue in Old Town - a statue of a giant egg. Not sure where it comes from, but it's said that this angel hatched from that egg. Couldn't tell you why.

The mermaid statue under the bridge crossing Vilnia

SUCH artists, right? It looks amazing though.

Kooky fake floatations in a tree.

It seemed that any and every flat surface was painted in Užupis.  It was actually pretty beautiful, in it's own odd way.
My FAVORITE part of Užupis though was not the paintings - it was their constitution. Part of the declared independence of Užupis meant that they had their own constitution.  There is an entire wall in the city dedicated to this constitution, and it's written out in 8 different languages. The 41 rights which form the constitution are engraved on mirrors, attached to a wall on Paupio Street.
Paupio street, with the Užupis symbol (the hand with a circle in it) and the constitution, written on mirrors.
 Just because I loved the Užupis constitution so much, I'll add that in as well :)

1) Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.

2) Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.

3) Everyone has the right to die, but it is not a duty.

4) Everyone has the right to make mistakes.

5) Everyone has the right to individuality.

6) Everyone has the right to love.

7) Everyone has the right to be not loved, but not necessarily.

8) Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous.

9) Everyone has the right to be idle.

10) Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.

11) Everyone has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.

12) A dog has the right to be a dog.

13) A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in difficult times.

14) Everyone has the right to sometimes be unaware of his duties.

15) Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not a duty.

16) Everyone has the right to be happy.

17) Everyone has the right to be unhappy.

18) Everyone has the right to be silent.

19) Everyone has the right to have faith.

20) No one has the right to violence.

21) Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.

22) Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity.

23) Everyone has the right to understand.

24) Everyone has the right to understand nothing.

25) Everyone has the right to be of various nationalities.

26) Everyone has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday.

27) Everyone shall remember his name.

28) Everyone may share what he possesses.

29) No-one can share what he does not possess.

30) Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.

31) Everyone is capable of independence.

32) Everyone is responsible for his freedom.

33) Everyone has the right to cry.

34) Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.

35) No-one has the right to make another person guilty.

36) Everyone has the right to be personal.

37) Everyone has the right to have no rights.

38) Everyone has the right to not be afraid.

39) Do not defeat.

40) Do not fight back.

41) Do not surrender.

I LOVE this constitution. Do you see what I mean about being unsure if it's a joke, or actually serious though? Some of the rights are just ridiculous and make you giggle, while others have stuck with me and impacted the way I see others.  Sometimes, everyone really does have the right to be misunderstood, or personal, or to make mistakes.  Everyone has the right to love and be loved, but not necessarily since you can give up this right according to your actions.  
As for the last 3 lines, that completely embodies the Lithuanian people to me. Do not defeat. Do not fight back. Do not surrender.  This explains their peaceable but stubborn reaction to the Soviet occupation and their stubborn efforts for conservation of culture.  New Goal - get a copy of these Užupis rights before going home. I love it. 

After we left Užupis, Elise and I waited for the bus, had a random tourist ask to take our picture, and eventually made it back to the apartment. We met with the girls and finished off the night with bannanagrams, pedicures and Star Trek.  Slightly contradictory, but fun nonetheless.


  1. Reading through that list of laws reminded me very much of that night coming up with 101 uses for a snowflake.... :)

  2. When I was reading about playing in the river, I wanted to tell you the it went by Uzupis! But then you figured it out. :)

    And, you found the angel statue! Scavenger hunt item: crossed off.

    I've been wondering what your sentiments are as your time in Lithuania begins to wind down? That place and those people are going to be forever a part of you. (And, really, how fortunate that you get to hold such a wonderful place and people in your heart!)