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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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September 3. VILNIUS "Europas Parkas - The Center of Europe" We made good and sure that we were up in time to get off to the Europas Parkas.  Within minutes of catching our connecting bus on the other side of town we were in wooded countryside.  The park only lied 25 kilometers north of Vilinius and the bus ride didn't take very long.  We were dropped off at the small road leading up to the park entrance.  The weather was beautiful but there weren't any other people in sight.  The young woman at the ticket booth made sure that we had the bus schedule back to town.  Since we were in the off-season the bus schedule didn't leave us many options to get back to town. 

The park consists of 55 hectares of wooded land with pathways leading every which way for exploring the vast and varied collection of modern art.  The map was a bit vague so we just headed down the roadway until we reached the famous television sculpture titled "LNK Infotree".  The maze of stacked TVs has been recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest artwork of TV sets ever created.  Its creator, Lithuanian artist Gintaras Karosas, was the initiator of Europas Parkas.  The park was established in 1991, the year Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union, after the French Geological Institute determined in 1989 that a latitude of 54˚54' and longitude of 25˚19' marked the geographical center of Europe.  The park is situated 17km from the actual center but its assembly of artwork from over 90 artists from 29 countries is a grand monument to Europe's center.

The "Infotree" had several entrances leading down narrow alleys flanked by racks of televisions.  These "roots" ended when you reached the trunk of the tree where the pathway widened.  At the top of the trunk lied a dilapidated statue of Lenin, arms broken, head falling off and laying on its side in the dirt with a noose around its neck.  From Lenin a network of paths broke off in several more directions, all of these branches came back on themselves and ended up at Lenin again.  The televisions that lined the walls of this maze were in various states of disrepair, never to work again.  And the toppled and deteriorated Lenin would never again be the heart of the information network.  A poignant expression of the dead "Big Brother".  It was in powerful contrast to the many parks from Mongolia to Moscow that still centered around the dictator in his preaching pose.

After losing ourselves in the television madness we ventured off onto some vague paths, only marked from the walking of Europas Parkas' 65,000 visitors a year.  The park was not meant to be tackled in an orderly fashion and one time we completely lost ourselves and ended up in the back of someone's yard.  The size and abstractness of the artwork varied from the snake-like coil of black cabling nestled in amongst the ivy, aptly titled "Snake" by Japanese artist Akihiko Kuwayama, to a field of boulders titled "Space for Unknown Growth" by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz.  As you passed through the boulder field the ground sloped and the boulders got larger, giving us the feeling that we were shrinking. In reverse it should give the feeling of growth.

Some winding and exploring led us to a building that housed the museum shop, restaurant and post office.  In front was a monument to Europe's center, a pyramid encircled with the names of all the European capitals, showing the direction in which they lied and the distance.  We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant and sent some post cards.  But the next bus back to Vilnius was nearing and the one after was much later so we hurried to see some of the other exhibits before catching the bus.

For dinner we returned to our Zemaiciu Smukle.  As we were sitting down we noticed a familiar face arrive, and older man in casual clothes.  We had seen him eating there the night before as well so when our eyes met we had a chuckle over the coincidence and decided to invite him to join us.  His name was Gene Daily, from Estes Park, Colorado, and he was traveling through the Baltics on this own.  We had a room in the tavern all to ourselves except for a lone Japanese man sitting a couple of tables down.  Overwhelmed by the sizable portions of food he had received he kindly made a gesture to offer us some.  We asked him to join us as well.  He didn't speak a great deal of English but with my Japanese we managed pretty well through out the evening.  Oddly enough all of us had a connection to Japan.  Gene's daughter and son had both lived in Japan as well.  Kato-san was also traveling solo through the Baltics and he was on his way back to Tokyo soon.  It was a fun evening of sharing stories and travel tips, not to mention an abundance to hearty Lithuania food.  Gene was departing Lithuania the next day but Kato-san was still in town for a few more days so we agreed to meet up again for dinner the following evening.  

LITHUANIA Vilnius Aug 30 Aug 31 Sept 1-2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

ESTONIA Tallinn Sept 6-8

FINLAND Helsinki Sept 9

ESTONIA Tallinn Sept 10-11

LATVIA Riga Sept 12-13

LITHUANIA Vilnius Sept 14-15