Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Welcome to Barbara Elias' Travel Journal.
posted by Barbara Elias 7:58 PM

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. As I prepare for my return trip to Lithuania I remember some of the things that happened when I was last there.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:09 PM

Sunday, May 12, 2002

One of the greatest thrills as a grandparent is to have a grandchild take an interest in one of your hobbies. Yesterday Faith Rose Maxwell, who is just 10 years old, spent the day with me at a Grandmother and Grand Daughter joint wall-hanging class at her local quilt shop in Guelph.

To be honest Faith did most of the work. She cut out blocks, (with my rotary cutter no less) designed the wall hanging and did nearly all of the sewing. She discovered how to make a log cabin block and how to create applique. I discovered once again, how smart she is for a ten year old.

We both learnt something new about each other and strengthened our wonderful bond.

Although I love all my overseas projects I sometimes wish could spend more time with her. She is such a delightful companion.
posted by Barbara Elias 11:59 AM

Mothers Day today. My daughter Dawn, her husband Russell and my grand daughter Faith are taking me out to dinner to Faith's favourite restaurant the "Train".
posted by Barbara Elias 11:53 AM

Sunday, May 19, 2002

All over the world performers do their thing in all styles of venues. Mostly they are entertaining for the moment but unmemorable. Very occasionally you come across a performer and say Wow. I went to a small smoky jazz club in the old town of Vilnus last night and said WOW. Neda Malunaviciute flutist and vocalist, a small lady with huge talent performing in a Jazz Trio I could have listened to all night. Probably one of the best scat artists I have ever heard. Will def. try and catch her performance again. Sadly she had not made many recordings but I am going to try and get a tape of her singing before I leave.

Today, Sunday the sun is shining and although its still a little chilly its an ideal day for walking around this interesting old city.
posted by Barbara Elias 4:38 AM

Saturday, May 18, 2002

5/18/2002 1:06:54 PM | Barbara Elias]
Saturday in Vilnus. Today I had a chance to explore the old city of Vilnus. Founded in 1323 AD the city is alive with side-walk cafes and busy shops. People throng the narrow cobble-stoned streets enjoying the warm sunshine. Having only shed the chains of communism and Russian rule since around 1991, the Lithuanian people are slowly learning the joys and the tribulations of a market econnomy. On the edge of the city a sparkling new indoor shopping mall (where I bought a new pair of pretty pink sandals), complete with skating rink and numerous restaurants and high class shops sits amidst crumbling, souless high-rise apartment buildings that most Lithuanians living in the capital call home. Walking along the tiny streets I viewed the mult-coloured art-deco facades of old historic buildings. The centre of the city is quite small and from my hotel I can walk to almost all of the interesting sites.

The hotel Grotthuss is small, only 21 guest rooms, but quite delightful. Check it out at

My work here is very diverse. Training staff on internet marketing and getting the hotel listed on as many travel websites as possible, creating travel packages and marketing them internationally, training the new marketing assistant how to make direct calls to sell the hotel to international visitors to local businesses, making changes in the dining room and its menu, training the wait staff and, most important creating a Wintergarden restaurant in the courtyard. and as always, endless problem solving. Its a challenge and I am enjoying it imensly, mostly because all the young people I am working with are so delightful and anxious to learn.

On a more personal level I a spent a delightful evening watching the Lithuanian Opera Company perform Aida in a soviet built opera house, totally devoid of any charm whatsoever. Tonight I am going to a Jazz club which should be fun Tomorrow I will take a one hour "city tour" by open top bus. After which we will sit at a sidewalk cafe and watch the wolrd go by, visit the street vendors and inspect their wares and probably buy some local crafts.

posted by Barbara Elias 4:38 AM

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Today is fine and sunny again but still rather cool. The hotel has a charming courtyard with a sheltered patio area and some very comfortable redwood chiars. I try and spend at least a few minutes there a couple of times a day as most of the time I do not get outside of the hotel.

My day is divided between training meetings with the new manager and the staff of different departments and planning and development meetings with the owner. The hotel has a lot of potential but being small a number of limitations too. However the owner is very anxious to have the very best boutique hotel in the country so I get lots of co-operation which is nice.

The old town is very small and I know my way around quite well so its fun to walk around a poke my nose into little courtyards and tiny laneways. There is so much history here and always something new to discover.
posted by Barbara Elias 6:38 AM

Friday, May 24, 2002

Went to the Ballet "Blue Danube" which was very interesting. It was performed in the same soviet theatre on a stage that was so shiny it looked positively dangerous. The stage props were minimal, the back-drop creased in places and the lighting was simple but the enthusiasm of the dancers was obvious. I thought of the National Ballet of Canada and their huge production expenses and it occured to me that we have something to learn from countries such as Lithuania when it comes to the performing arts.
The audience was interesting too. Lots of older people in rather shabby but very elegant clothes and lots of very young girls, probably budding ballerinas. The price of admission, around four dollars, makes the entrance affordable to most, which is more than can be said for the National Ballet performances..

Sitting proudly next to me was a delightful little girl of about six, in a gold vevlet dress and white leotards and my mind flashed back to the time when I took my two elder grandchildren, Faith and Maddy then aged six, to see the Nutcracker. They wore purple velvet dresses with big white sashes-grandma deisgn of course and looked so delightful as they pranced down the aisle to their seats. How quickly they grow up. They are still totally delightful of course but at ten years old, no longer interested in purple velvet grandma made dresses - so I treasure that memory as I do the many special moments it has been my privledge to share with my grand daughters.
posted by Barbara Elias 3:18 AM

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Went for a trip to the beach this weekend. Nida is a small tourist town about 350 km from Vilnius and I was not looking forward to the drive. However the roads have greatly improved since my last visit to Palanga, another popular coastal town, and the journey was very pleasant. Lithuania is mostly an agricultural country and it is gradually becoming world famous for its cheeses. Most of the land is quite flat, ideal for farming and the only town of any consequence we went through was Kaunas, a university city with an interesting old city centre and the usual ring of ugly soviet style concrete buildings surrounding it.

We drove to Klaipeda, a port somewhat infamous as the receiving depot of train-loads of stolen cars headed for Poland and Russia. The last time I was here I gave two seminars to the Hospitality classes at the university and visited the maritime museum.

A short car-ferry ride later we were on the peninsular. Only about 2 kms wide it is over 150 kms long with the beaches and sand dunes of the Baltic sea on one side and the Kurshiu Inlet on the other. We pass through small resorts with smart houses and small hotels to reach the popular town of Nida. Nida has a small harbour, lots of outdoor cafes and a life-span of about three months a year.

Passing through Nida we reach a viewing point at the top of some giant sand dunes. From here we can see Russia, which we could drive to in five minutes if we had passports, visas, permits and about ten other pieces of paper, including a declaration of how much money we are carrying. Yet if we cared to we could walk into Russia through the forest or along the sand dunes without question. The realities of life are different to those posed by Bush, currently in Moscow.

From our vantage point, once marked with a giant stone sundial, (it was torn down in a tornado a couple of years ago) we can, on a clear day, also see Denmark, Sweden, Norway.

Returning to Nida we strolled the area around the jetty, where preperations for the opening concert of the season were being made. Small stalls were set up by local crafts people. Our host for the weekend bought us all jaunty locally made hats which we all wore with great glee. Mine was a white crochet French sailor beret with a peak, made of cotton and linen. Tres chic. One of the stalls showed items made in a local residence for the handicapped. Most of the items were patchwork cushions made from upholstery fabric samples. My quilting friends will attest to the fact that some things never change.

Lunch was at a sidewalk cafe and, as in most of Lithuania, the food was quite good and the service less than so.

My hostess for the weekend, the owner of the Grotthuss hotel, has two historic wooden cottages in a large garden on the waters edge. They are delightfully rustic with modern facilities. I was pleased to see that, in her renovation of these cottages, at one time fishermens' homes, she had kept much of the old woodwork, old beams and doors. So many of the renovations in the area are ugly, modern affairs. Sadly many people do not understand the value of the old buildings and tear them down to build new homes with little or no charm.

Well now I am back at the hotel and its to work as usual. However there is still the last day of the folk festival beconing me and its warm and sunny outside...................
posted by Barbara Elias 6:53 AM

Monday, May 27, 2002

The history of Lithuania is checkered to say the least. It is only since 1991 that it has been an independent country with its own parliment and president. From around 1940 to 1991 it was part of the Soviet Union. During this time the people of Lithuania suffered greatly. All forms of religion were banned and churches were closed or turned into warehouses. The wonderful cathederal became an art gallery and many of the old art-deco buildings fell into disrepair.

During this time if a farmer owned too much land or too many animals, they were put on a train to Siberia. Upon arrival in Siberia the train stopped every five miles and one family was made to get out and had to survive in any way they could. A great many perished in this cold and barren land.

All young men were forced to join the red army and to fight for a Russian cause. Many of the young women for forced to become nurses in the red army or worse.

After the Chernobyl disaster in Russia, many young Lithuanians were forced to go and help with the clean-up. Many became very ill and many more became sterile. They still suffer today.
posted by Barbara Elias 7:51 AM

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

On of my jobs here is to check out new hotels and restaurants and see if they are doing anything that is of interest to our guests or to this hotel. Last night this lead me to a new bar/cafe called Soho. Run by a Brit., its one of the most pretentious cafes in the city - which for them means good.

Food presentation was mile high. Imagine Liver and Onions with mashed potatoes, real comfort food, presented with the mashed potates on the bottom, topped by several slices of liver, topped by rings of onion, topped by a very heavy sauce (well it had to be to get it to stay there). The thing was at least 14 inches high and of course everything toppled down the minute I put my fork on it.

Met a couple of real British Characters at the bar. Two young men, quite new to the city, pretending they were priests. Had a lot of fun razing them and it reminded me of numerous ill-spent nights in The Green Dragon, The Coach and Horses, The Whitehouse Inn and other fine establishments in my part of Yorkshire, when I was a young woman. which was of course just a couple of years ago.

Am on the last two days of my work with this hotel and the owner is telling me that she can really see the differences I have made-thank goodness. At least I know I am not wasting my time here.

My second project is rocky at the moment as the client has not got the hotel completed ready for opening. I may be home sooner than I think. However before that I have two wonderful weeks in Yorkshire with my daughter Dawn and my grand-daughter Faith to look forward to. What a delight and a privledge to see the world through the eyes of a bright, inteligent child.
posted by Barbara Elias 7:50 AM

Friday, May 31, 2002

am waiting for my ride to the airport and 18 great days in the UK. I will definately be returning here on 18th June until 7th July.

Had a great time last night in a Jazz club with a retractable roof. Early in the evening it was open to the sky then, as the music heated up. they closed the roof. This was not in a modern new fangled building but in the centre of the old town.

The renovation process is very interesting in the old town. No matter how much they modernise the building on the inside, it must keep its old appearance on the outside. Plus parts of the original walls must be left exposed inside. This leads to facinating glimpses of old arches, ancient decorations and carvings. It really adds character to the buildings and I think its wonderful that people care enoiugh to retain their heritage. I thought of this at a folk festival last Sunday. People, including children, wearing their traditional costumes of hand-woven wool and linen, dancing traditional dances with such great pleasure.

Away now, Barbaqra
posted by Barbara Elias 5:06 AM

Monday, June 03, 2002

Oh to be in England now that May is here. The sun is shining, the grass is green, the `may blossem is covering everything and the country is in celebration mode for the Jubelee of the Queen. 50 years on the throne-glad old Charley boy is still cut out.

It is interesting to see that every village and town is dressed for the occasion. Everywhere is coloured in red white and blue. Flowers prance in coloured rows, even the faces of some of children are painted and union jacks fly everywhere.

Yesterday we went to Witley Court, a stately albeit ruined historic house in the style of Blenheim `palace.

The entertainment was cira 1400, and the battle of Crecy. Hunting with the long bow, dancing stately dances and much more. The best part was when the children of the audience were invited to "squire study". Children, some as young as three years old, dressed in tunics flaunting the colours of their Knights picked up the tools of war of the 1400's and practiced fighting.

The previous night we went to the local village celebrations. Dancing to music from the 50's and 60's, warm beer and cold pork sarnies and a truly magnificent firework display to end it all.

posted by Barbara Elias 5:51 AM

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Tuesday was Jubilee Day and I learnt more about the British royal family in one day than I have done in my lifetime.

My girl-friend and I sat in front of the TV set all day and most of the evening. We tried to identify the numerous minor royals as they got in and out of cars, carriages and yes, a regular bus. Then she looked them up in her history of the Royals book and read who they were related to and how they became to be British royals. Some of them have very checked pasts I can tell you.

Still it was a wonderful day and although I did not really plan to be in the UK during the time of the Jubilee I was very glad that I had the opportunity to be in the thick of things as it were.

Now I am in East Yorkshire staying with some very old friends and we will take part in local celebrations this weekend. The Brits do like a good "knees-up"!

My daughter Dawn and my grand-daughter Faith arrived from Toronto this morning and are now trying to sleep off jet lag. When they wake up we will take the shooting dogs, two lovely black labs. for a long walk, which will do all of us some good.

posted by Barbara Elias 11:26 AM

Saturday, June 08, 2002

My friends live in the Yorkshire countryside, close to the banks of the River Humber. They have a substantial pig farm, although they do not live in the farmhouse. Their son Russell Underwood is popular on the horse show-jumping circuit and also schools and boards horses for other show jumpers. Living on a working farm is a new experience for my grand daughter Faith (aged 10) and she delights in trying to catch wild baby bunnies, in discovering a grass snake under a rock and in peering around the reeds in the fish pond to see the huge goldfish.
She has yet to go riding as everyone connected to the horses is away on the show jumping circuit but she is waiting impatiently for them to return next week.

Last night we went to a local village event, the weekly bingo. The prizes were very interesting, no cash but parcels of great meat from the local butcher, lots of boxes of chocolates and an odd assortment of household items. As all the prizes are donated there are probably some unwanted Christmas gifts being passed along!
Faith was excited to win a large box of Quality Street chocolates as there are her mothers' favourites. The box was topped with two huge chocolates in purple paper, one of which she ceremoniously presented to me.

Today there is a village fete in honour of the Jubilee with childrens races, stalls and game booths plus entertainment. Hope the sun stays out. The English weather is very capricious.
posted by Barbara Elias 5:39 AM

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Yesterday we went to yet another Jubilee celebration, a traditional village fete, complete with maypole dancing (lots of tangled ribbons here as its not a normal activitiy). Faith had a great time on the rides which included two blow-up things for jumping and sliding. We stufed ourselves on home-made scones with cream and jam and drank gallons of tea. The sun shone and the music was mostly traditional folk songs, although the local drama society did a fine job with musical performances from the fifties and up. For the first time \i heard the Lords Prayer sang to the tune of Old Lange Syne, it was rather nice.

Food being a subject dear to my heart, I must say that the damnation of the British Cuisine no longer holds true.
Of course the Brits have always done a great job with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast lamb with new potatoes and fresh green peas and of course fish and chips but now, due to the drinking and driving laws, most village pubs have become centres of culanary art as well. It has long been a tradition for city folk to drive out to a village for a night of downing a few pints of tap beer and playing a game of darts or doninoes and that still continues but now the beer consumption is considerably reduced and "going to the village pub for a meal" is now the rule. So pubs compete with each other serving fine French food, great Italian and everything else inbetween.

Cafes offer great baked potatoes stuffed with everything you can think of, all kinds of salads and wonderful cream cakes. Plus here in my part of the country, a delightful Yorkshire curd cheescake which bears no resemblance to cheescake as we know it.

Will have to diet when \i get home!
posted by Barbara Elias 4:49 AM

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Yorkshire is a large county with rolling hills, barren moors and lush vales. The coastal area has many popular sea-side towns and we visited a number of the today. Bridlington with its great harbour, its crab-potted fishing boats, and wonderful wide beaches, Scarborough and the many tacky amusement places and, best of all Whitby with the ruins of its great abbey and the very best fresh fish and chips in the whole of England.

We drove up the coastline and back down to Hull through the moors and the valleys with so many pretty villages, their stone houses surrounded with great cabbage roses and vines.

Our last stop was Castle Howard and three centuries of history. It is still lived in today, although it could hardly be called homey. The art, the china, the mosaics and so much gold leaf made a very dramatic background for the wonderful furniture. Costumed characters played their parts, making the great house come alive, although the tourists in their jeans and sneakers looked somewhat out of place.

Tea in the garden with roaming peacocks and a tour of the magnificent rose garden completed our day.
posted by Barbara Elias 3:48 PM

Yesterday we went into the City of Hull. It used to be a dirty, industrial centre with lots of trawlers and fish docks right in the heart ofthe city. Now it has been transformed into the "Gateway to Europe". Most of the trawlers have long left the city, some scrapped, many sold to fishermen in Spain. Overnight super ferries (complete with discos and casinos) skim across the waves to Holland and other Europian ports. Hull is also the receiving port for many travellers from Europe.

Hull is a very old city and some of the narrow streets still bear cobblestones and have names like "Land of Green Ginger", "Blanket Row", "Scale Lane" and "Silver Street", so named because of the commercial activites the streets saw at the time. Excavations have discovered some of the original city walls and entrance gates, in particular "Whitefriargate" which originally was made of wood and later reconstructed in brick. Thankfully the City Fathers have been aware of the value of these excavations and they are protected but on show for all to view.

William Wilberforce was a politican who brought a bill to the Houses of Parliament for the abolition of slavery. We visited his home on the banks of the river Hull and saw dramatic illustrations of the shipping of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean-not a pretty sight but I think that by being reminded of our past mistakes we are less likely to repeat them. Faith, who is only 10 years old was totally shocked by what she saw and found it hard to understand how people can be so cruel to each other. Mans' inhumanity to humanity - some things never change.

Our second museum was much more fun, the history of transportation in Hull including old wooden street cars and penny-fathing bycycles. (were they really that big?)

Lunch in an old pub, cira 1300's complete with inglenook fireplace and mullioned windows and a ride on the train back to Brough completed our day out.
posted by Barbara Elias 3:37 PM

Thursday, June 13, 2002

If you ever saw the TV programme All Creatures Great and Small, or read any of the James Herriot books, you will know a little about Yorkshire. You may not know that James Herriot was the pen name for Alf Wight a vet, who lived in the market town of Thirsk from the 40's. His home is now a wonderful living museum with lots of hands-on things to amuse and educate children and adults alike. Our visit to this house was the highlight of our travels yesterday as we continued to explore the countryside and many small towns and villages of Yorkshire.

The house is just as he lived in it, pipes and tobacco on his desk along with country magazines of the day. The kitchen life goes on with flour and eggs to mix for the Yorkshire scones and ironing airing on the overhead rack.
It seems as though he just stepped out to visit a farm. You can learn more about this facinating home at

We stopped at a cafe in Thirsk and bought great freshly made baps (large bread buns) stuffed with salad and prawns which we ate at a picnic in the grounds of the ruined Rievaulx Abbey. Then onto the ruins of the great Thirsk Castle with charming craft studios and a wonderful rose garden. Of all the flowers that are currently in bloom here, the rose is the queen. Flowering in great abundance over old stone walls, climbing in abandon around cottage doors and standing primly in rows in formal rose gardens, the colours and fragrances assult the senses everywhere you turn. Its something to do with the clay soil and the warm, often wet, climate I think.

We have a visit to the great old City of York planned for later in the week, but on our way back to Hull, we could not resist a quick drive into the old walled centre and a quick look at the majestic York Minster. Severly damaged by fire a number of years ago it has now been restored to its former glory Build of yellow Yorkshire stone, it is an awesome sight. Can't wait to go back there and explore it more.
posted by Barbara Elias 4:53 AM

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Knaresborough is a very old town close to Harrogate in North Yorkshire. In 1588, Mother Shipton was born in a cave in Knaresborough, 15 years beforethe birth of Nostradamus. She has been England's most famous prophetress for 500 years. The site of her birth cave and the nearby petrifying well have been tourist attractions since 1630. This was our destination yesterday in spite of dark angry clouds in the sky and frequent rain showers. We even managed to have a picnic under the trees, although sitting on my rain jacket neccesitated my putting a plastic shopping bag on my head to keep my hair dry!

The petrifying well is really a small waterfall under which objects have been hung. As the water, with its high mineral content, flow over the objects, they slowly turn to stone. Many everyday objects have been hung there, favourite teddy bears, a firemans' helmet and objects left by famous personalities such as the bridal bouquet from the TV wedding of Jack and Pat Sugden on the Emmerdale TV serial. Queen Mary visited in August of 1923 and left a shoe there (how, do you imagine, did she get back to the royal coach). Anyway its an interesting place and the riverside walk is very beautiful with its views of the ruins of Knaresborough Castle and the old hunting lodge frequented by Henry the Eighth on the other side of the riverbank.

Follwing our visit to the well we went to an Arts and Crafts centre close by. Here we went into workshops for pottery, bead making, weaving, wood working and many other crafts, all made by members of the Institute for the Blind. It was a humbling experience to view the work for sale in the pretty litle show, knowing that the artists never got to see their work.

We completed our day with an evening of Bingo for prizes of household items in another local village. The village of Gilberdyke. This village holds rather horrid memories for me as it was to Gilberdyke that I was evacuated as a small child, during the worst of the bombing of the City of Hull during the second world war. I hated it, not only being separated from my beloved father (mother came with me) but being a "towny" in a country village, not knowing the country ways and not speaking the Yorkshire dialect properly. I drove past the two room old stone schoolhouse where some of my worst childhood nightmares took place. I had no desire to go back inside!
posted by Barbara Elias 4:57 AM

Sunday, June 16, 2002

I am surethat Football World Cup feaver is all over the world but it has been interested to be in the UK at a time when England has been playing. Many factories and offices opened late, schools brought in TV sets so the pupils would not stay home to watch and pubs (the heart of social activity and interaction, particularly in small towns and villages) opened at seven in the morning and did a roaring trade in traditional English Breakfast with beer. Me? I stayed in and watched TV with my friends.

Sorry about Ireland losing, now England via Ireland in the final, that would have been something.

My visit to England is now ending and I return to Lithuania tomorrow, with an overnight in Frankfurt. Faith and Dawn will stay a few more days then they too will be heading back home with lots of their own stories to tell.
posted by Barbara Elias 4:22 PM

Friday, June 21, 2002

I am now back in Lithuania but this time my client is a delightful country resort called victoria or in Lithuanian, Viktorija. You can check it out at

Currently it is mostly used by Lithuanian people and the problem is that most of them only come for the weekends so that the resort is often rather quiet during the week. So now we are making a great effort to get the property listed on as many web sites as possible in the hopes of attracting people from other parts of Europe and even further afield. So far we have made a great fishing package. The resort is situated on the banks of a huge lake known as Vistytis and in part a national forest. The lake has three boarders on it so when I look across to the other side I am looking at Russia and if I look to the left I am looking at Poland. There is a road connecting Lithuania to Poland only 3K away however as there is no border crossing control, the road is unpassable. There are plans to open it up in the near future. How near? HAK.(heaven alone knows).

The area is totally unspoilt and there is hardly any development around the lake. Not like the Muskokas. In the forest near by are a lot of wild plants and trees, many of them very rare and only found in this area of the world. Right now there are also lots of wild berries ripe for the picking. Later on there will be wild mushrooms. The forest is home to wild pigs, deer, elk, hare, wolves and wild cats. Beavers dam the many streams and of course there are lots of birds.

Talking of birds,I had a funny experience coming into the area. Going through a small village I saw, perched on the top of a pole by the front of a small house, a huge, very shaggy nest and, standing regally in the centre, a large plastic stork. What a funny dfecoration for a house I thought, then I saw another one - must be some kind of village mascot I said to myself. We came upon a third one then suddenly the "plastic" stork flew off. They were all real. What a wonderful sight, I must go back there to take some pictures although I have been assured that I am likely to see them here also.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we will be celebrating St Johns Day which coincides with the solstice - the shortest night of the year. We will build a huge bonfire, drink great quantities of beer and eat until we keel over or fall asleep, which ever comes first. As I am not very good at staying up too late I think I will fall asleep before I keel over.

Next weekend I will be celebrating Canada Day at the Canadian Embassy here, where there is also a farewell party for the current ambassador, Peter McKellar. From the sublime to the gor blimey as my dear departed father would say.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:00 AM

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Had an interesting experience on Sunday evening. We built an outdoor Russian Sauna by the lake. We made a small pile of logs and paper and other inflamable stuff, then we built and arch of big rocks over it. We lit the fire and in about three hours the rocks were very hot. We then made a totally enclosed tent of plastic and proceeded to throw water on the rocks. Everyone sat around in bathing suits for as long as they could bear it. Some beat themselves with birch branches. When people came out they jumped into the icy cold lake. Maybe we could try this on the roof of Arcadia sometime.
posted by Barbara Elias 5:44 AM

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Last night was the end of my visit to Viktorija Resort and Victor the owner asked if I would like to have trout for dinner and I said yes please. Around six in the evening he came to the office door with a fishing rod in one hand and a spade in the other. We now go catch dinner he said but first we dig for worms. At that point I thought I would rather have the Lithuanian staple of fried pork. However out we went to the trout pond and sure enough I was expected to catch my own fish. Well I tossed the hook into the pond as best I could and wham, I almost got dragged into the pond with a huge trout on my line. Others were not so lucky but finally we had six fine speckled trout which went on the BBQ. It was a great meal but no so good as breakfast this morning, which turned out to be a large tin of Russian black caviar, home made bread and home made butter.

Actually I needed all the help I could get as the three hour drive to Vilnius was undertaken at speeds of over 140K with the driver Victor taking on the cell phone all the time. We got stopped by the police once and their was a bit of a discussion, with both police and Victor getting on their cell phones for quite a while. Finally we took off again, Victor with a big grin on his face. Seems he knows the chief of police, often gets stopped for speeding but never has to pay a fine. Such is life in Lithuania.
posted by Barbara Elias 1:56 PM

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Now back in Vilnius, such a lovely old city. This coming week there is an international classical music festival with performances in many of the churches, courtyards and other open-air locations. Most of these will be free so I am looking forward to walking down the cobblestoned streets and catching some of the shows.

On a personal note I broke a back tooth off at the root and had to have rather painful surgery to extract what was left. Fortunately the RR here has contacts at the Dental University so I got expert treatment and a fraction of the price in TO. In fact I think if I ever need major dental work done I would come here, even with the cost of airfares and hotel, it would work out a lot cheaper.

Had a visit from the Manager of the Amrita Hotel, In Liapia, Larvia. It reminded me of the time I was working in his hotel and was watching the kitchen activities. The cook was making a cake, first she walked the length of the extensive kitchen to get some eggs, then she walked the other way to get butter, then to the side wall to get milk and so it went on. When the cake was finally produced I announced it as the "Two Mile" cake. No she said in a puzzled tone, its a chocolate cake, no I insisted its a Two Mile Cake bacuse you walked two miles around the kitchen to make it. I was pleased to hear that after my suggested changes to the kitchen layout, they no longer make Two Mile cake at the Amrita hotel.
posted by Barbara Elias 7:44 AM


Monday, July 08, 2002

My last week in this old city has been busy. Tuesday I went to a gallery opening showing the work of Joyce Weinstein, an artist from Washington DC. Her work is a mixture of paintings, collages and clothes. Very interesting. If you like art check out her website

Saturday I walked through the old town to a park where there was a huge intrnational folk festival taking place. There were hundreds of people in their national costimes, many singing national songs as they walked along the roads. The weather was warm and sunny and perfect for a day in the park. Lunch was a beer and two large, deep fried potato pancakes with sour cream. Didn.t do much for my cholestoral but it tasted great.

I am going to by-pass Frankfurt airport from now on. When we were about to land there on my way to the UK, our plane took a very deep, sudden climb up. There was a disabled plane right in the middle of the runway the pilot had been cleared to land on. Heart-stopping stuff when you're a passenger in these troubled times. Yesterday we landed safely and we were taxi-ing to our gate when the plane came to a violent and very sudden stop, skidding as it did. Another plane was taking off right in our path. Shall try a different route in future, but maybe not over Swiss Air rights.

I am now finally home and back to the land of reality. Being away on a project of necessity removes you from the normal hassles of day to day living, paying the bills, grocery shopping etc. Sometimes its hard to get back into the grove of life in Toronto. When I have spent several weeks talking to a lot of people for whom English is not their first language, I seem to develop a sort of kindergarden shorthand-English, which works fine but it sounds very strange to my friends when I come home and keep lapsing into this form of speech.

So this is my last entry covering the past 7 weeks of adventures in the UK and Lithuania. This journal will now go into "Past Adventures" on my web site and I will start a new journal for my next trip. Maybe Warwaw, Poland, maybe Siberia manybe somewhere entirely different.

Bye for now, dear friends, thank you for all your kind and encouraging emails about my web-site. Please keep checking in now and then, I have great plans for changes and improvements to the site - at least I hope they are great.
posted by Barbara Elias 7:28 AM

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