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Traki, Karaites & Kibini Pastry

Sunday, September 5th, 2004

Trakai, on the outskirts of Vilnius, Lithuania, is a small settlement placed in the middle of five large lakes that is home to about 350 members of the Keraites, a minority community originally from Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) who later migrated to Turkey. Keraite literally means “reader”. Their religion is a form of early Judaism mixed with reading of the Koran. (Imagine that !!—maybe we should inquire whether they have insights for current situations.)

Traki used to be one of Lithuania’s many capitals and the Keraites served as guards to the palace/castle…which Bob wanted to buy and occupy. We tasted the Karaites’ traditional dish called Kibinine, a small piping hot pastry stuffed full of delicious chopped meat and onions…juice squirting down one’s arms with each bite.

In an area selling crafts I met a woman who was exclaiming over two drunk locals…I asked her what country she was from and she said “San Francicsco.” She went on to say she was enjoying herself “but they won’t take our dollars here!” Speechless, I decided against asking if she had thought of visiting a money exchange window.

Life Becomes More of Adventure

Sunday, September 5th, 2004

Old Town Vilnius is now on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sights. Some graffiti seems significant in this country where a staggering 91% of the 64% of the population who turned out to vote gave a resounding yes to membership in the European Union and that just this last April became a full-fledged member of NATO: “Your Life Becomes More and More of Adventure” and “The important Thing Is To Express Yourself!” are examples of graffiti everywhere.

One of the more vivid images of Europe this year, but especially of Vilnius, is the sight of slim, long-legged beauties strutting confidently with an air of success in slip-on spike heels and showing off flat tanned bare midriffs above skin tight jeans that come within an inch of the pubic bone. There are solariums (tanning beds) on every other block…no fish-white bellies here. I asked a young woman in former East Berlin what is behind the styles in dress and she answered “It is self-expression…we want to dress according to how we feel.” I asked if the school authorities allowed the students to wear these clothes to school and she said they wouldn’t DARE prevent us from dressing the way we want to dress!

But on the other hand Sasha, our guide to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, will say “these are nice girls…not prostitutes…but they have $100 in each eye!” There will be no going back to rigidly defined socialist customs in these countries!

Exact Center of Europe

Sunday, September 5th, 2004
On the outskirts of Vilnius is European Park where The French National Geographic Institute places the center of Europe at 54 degrees North Latitude, 25 degrees 19' East Longitude. Recently a monument was erected that is topped with golden stars ... [Continue reading this entry]

Interesting Lithuania

Saturday, September 4th, 2004
The Baltics...Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Are these in Central Europe or do we call this Eastern Europe...where is the line? We stop a few days in Vilnius Lithuania on the way to St. Petersburg Russia. It is ... [Continue reading this entry]