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Monday, July 24, 2023: G.O.A.T.

Vilnius means ripple or waves and gets its name from the Vilnia River. Six hundred thousand people live in Vilnius. One can get anywhere in 15 minutes. It was first mentioned in 1323. Vilnius is celebrating 700 years this year. The Old City has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cathedral Square was built on the site of a pagan temple.

Vilnius Cathedral has three saints outside on the pediment that bless those who pass by.
This is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. There are a lot of churches. No matter where you stand in Vilnius, one can always see a church. It can be referred to as The City of Weddings as many are observed on the weekends.

Our guide said the second religion in Lithuania is basketball. They also swim and cycle, not much soccer.

Churches during the Soviet times were turned into different things. Some were turned into saunas!! One was an art gallery. Today it remains as a museum of sacred art. On one side is the Old Testament and the other side is the New Testament.

The St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church was built by an Italian at the end of the 17th century and has around 3,000 stucco statues.

It is said that if one hasn’t visited St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, one hasn’t been to Vilnius.

The Shroud of Turin here in Vilnius??? Who knew??? It turns out that it is an official copy given to this cathedral where it is now housed in its own special chapel.
The statue can be seen as you exit. Its message: Whether we are royalty or a pauper, death awaits us all.

It is said that you are two people in church – when you arrive, you are one person and when you leave, you are different. You have changed in one way another by what you have heard and experienced. Otherwise, what is the point? I believe that is a sign of a good church. Churches in Vilnius have made a comeback. Services are very well attended. They got a big boost when John Paul II came to Vilnius in 1993.

John Paul II was everywhere. In fact, we have come to look for evidence of his presence in every Catholic church that we visit. Vilnius Cathedral was no exception and was one of the first churches that he visited, a month after Soviet troops left the country.

Pope John Paul II was an honorary Globetrotter by the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. During his more than 27-year papacy (1978–2005), polyglot Pope John Paul II visited 129 countries, more than all his predecessors combined.

We saw this church from the Gediminas Castle Tower. It is sometimes called The Red Church and is classified as flamboyant gothic. Now that’s one that I never heard of!! Later we walked to it.
Napoleon saw St. Anne’s Church church, and exclaimed that he would like to take this church home with him in the palm of his hand. People like to pose like Rob. He makes a good Napoleon, don’t you think?

Vilnius had been referred to as the Jerusalem of the North. Forty percent of Vilnius was Jewish prior to WWII. The Jewish quarter remains the most beautiful part of the city despite bombed synagogues.

Famous Jewish violinist Jascha Heifetz was born in Vilnius and is regarded by some as the greatest violinist of all time. That makes him a G.O.A.T. While performing at age 10 at an outdoor concert in St. Petersburg before a crowd of 25,000, he got such a rapturous reception they had to call in the police to protect him.

Two hundred thousand Jews from Lithuania were killed in WWII which was 95 percent. Today the religions are integrated and mixed.

Lithuania has only had one king, King Mindaugas, and that was in the middle of the 13th century. To commemorate his coronation the Lithuanians sing the national anthem on July 6 at 9pm Lithuanian time wherever you are. This is to celebrate Statehood Day. In order to secure the alliance of the Roman Catholic Church, Mindaugas converted to Catholicism, and was proclaimed the first Christian King of Lithuania.

People directly elect the president of Lithuania unlike Estonia and Latvia where the president is elected by parliament. The President doesn’t belong to a party. He is often a banker or economist or historian. He is in office for five years. When we asked our guide if he could be reelected, she thought so but wasn’t sure. I guess if your government is only 30 years old, you don’t have a lot of years to draw upon.

While we were walking by the Presidential Palace, the past popular president named Valdas Adamkus drove up and he got out of his single car with a driver and another security man and walked in. He was about 10 feet from us. That would NEVER happen in the USA.

People in this part of the world will say that they are from a certain city as opposed to a certain country since, historically, the country name changes so often.

We drove out from the city to a goat farm. Our local guide on the left translated for the farmer on the right. One question was about goat yoga!! Hmmm.

When Lithuania gained independence, there was a process to have one’s property returned. Our goat farmer got back the land that her grandparents owned 27 years ago. She wanted to farm. It was overgrown. She had no money but big dreams. She started with nine goats and one was a male. She lived in the garage with no water and no electricity. It was cold. She didn’t have a car and had to walk to town and often encountered wolves. After lots of hard work and sacrifices, her cheese is now considered a National Heritage.

She showcased all of her goat cheese products.
She claimed to have 500 goats but we only saw this one.
Our time in Lithuania ended with a lively show of dancing and singing. We even were asked to participate. Rob was a dancer and I played the tambourine.
Now we are headed home. This is a sleeping pod that we see in the Helsinki airport. I would have enjoyed trying one out but they were locked. I am on my way home to my favorite sleeping pod … HOME. Thanks for coming along with us!!!

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