July 12th

I am sitting tired and sunburned in a non-descript hotel in the middle of nowhere in southern Lithuania and I feel very happy. I haven't felt like this in quite a long time. I had a pretty good day overall — drive to Kaunas went smoothly, there were no controls of any kind on the border (even to check the Covid vaccination), driving time was only a little over 3 hours and I could start exploring the city. I enjoyed Kaunas a lot — there is a good mixture of history (from the founding of Lithuanian Duchy to XIX century industrialism), a very nice and long pedestrian-only promenade with countless shops and cafes and restaurants, an interesting park at the confluence of Nemen and Neris Rivers that are very important in Lithuanian and Polish history:

I’ve noticed two interesting things there outside tourist stuff —

This modern sculpture of Jesus in St. Micheal Church in Kaunas has a very strong resemblance to pagan sculptures in the way the body is presented. That is no coincidence and the fact that the church allows it to be prominently displayed is very telling (Lithuanians were the last people in Europe to fully accept Christianity and local pagan beliefs survived under cover until XIX century).

Also very telling is this —

Lithuanian national flag prominently displayed in the same church. And not only in this church, but there were also Lithuanian flags in other churches as well. And I think, based on precedences in history, we already know where a marriage of nationalism and religion, sanctioned by government and church, will lead a small and mostly impoverished country — straight to authoritarian, fascist rule to give those who have no voice some semblance of self-importance.

I am staying overnight in a hotel in Sakiai, a small town in a rural area of southern Lithuania. I went to explore the town, but there is literally nothing interesting at all — just a normal, regular local center for the local area. I went to an old Jewish Cemetery there — now it’s just a meadow with a small monument, no traces of any kind of graves at all….

There at this cemetery are two magnificent oak trees — one is in the opening photo, and the second below. This one has a birch tree growing (it looks like) right from the oak, never seen anything like this! Somehow that made me smile and my overall mood got even better. I feel really good!

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