Monday, July 6, 2009

Theresa's Lithuania Trip

So, I guess today is the day I get caught up on some of the blogging that I haven't done in quite some time!!!

Where to begin...

In June (I can't believe it's already been a month since we were there!) my Grandmother took my Mom, Cousin Jenna, and myself to Lithuania with her. We were able to see a good bit of the country. From the Capital, Vilnius, to the coast of the Baltic Sea-Klaipeda & and Palenga, to the south region Druskininkai, and most memorable for me...Taurage, the town Grandma was born in and lived until she was 11 years old. Her family had to flee because of the war efforts between Germany and Russia.

I never realized before that most of the foods we ate growing up were Lithuanian! It was really neat that we could find food that we truly enjoyed. We never went hungry! It was all beautifully presented!

We also, had opportunity to meet one of Grandma's distant cousins and his family. I think that could have been one of the most memorable parts of the trip for me. Her cousin's name was Juozas. He is a historian and knew many of the people in Grandma's extended family. He was able to tell us stories (all recorded and in Lithuanian). His Granddaughter, Gabriele (17) was able to translate for those of us who speak English.

We were also able to get some information reguarding some of Grandma's Mother's family and we found out that she has a first cousin still living in Chicago. Grandma is anxious to reunite with him.

We also had a lot of fun touring the country! The rural countryside is beautiful, breath-taking really! It was very green and plush, there was a lot of flowers begining to bloom. Most families have vegetable gardens growing and taking up their whole yards. It was interesting to see the difference between American's who simply like to have "pretty yards" and Lithuanian's who use every square inch of their yards to produce their food for the upcoming year.

We visited the Hill of the Crosses. This hill was the site where the Lithuanian people-against their government rule-made the statement that they would believe in their God reguardless of what the government was forcing. People would cross the river secretly at night to place a cross there on that hill. It became a ritual for many to make at least a yearly trek to come and place a cross here. The Russian Army many times attempted to burn it down in order to stop the Lithuanian people from coming here. As you will see, it was to no avail. This site was incredible! To see Crosses that had been placed there...some a long time ago, some with names and dedications to people who had died...some, from people remembering the times of Russian Rule. It was very cannot express.

At one museum we visited Grandma found a swing like one her neighbor friend had. Grandma allowed me take many pictures of her as she reminisced about those days long ago. This was a moment I will not EVER forget!

Driving there was also something I will not soon forget! Translating all of the road signs was difficult...thankfully the tour guide drove the first couple days so that we could ask her a lot of questions about what signs meant. But the drivers there were pretty aggressive and some of the roads were very narrow! I actually got 3 driving violations in one! Thanks to Grandma who was able to speak to them in Lithuanian and "smooth things over"!!!

Violation #1...Speeding in a construction zone (right at the beginning of it...I was going 110 km/hr (the regular speed limit) in a 90 km/hr zone (because of construction). One thing I learned...Lithuanian drivers pretty much SLAM on their brakes ALL the time!

Violation #2...Who knew you were supposed to have your headlights one from September through June. -A new law, they have to be one because School is in Session-through June!

Violation #3...OK...So...The police officers carry a little white wand with a red dot on it...who would've guessed that when they pull it down and then up again in front of your vehicle it pull later!

What I learned...When a Police car flies up beside you and cuts you off, should stop! Hahaha! At least I got that one right! :-)

Thankfully Grandma convinced them that I didn't do it on purpose but that I simply didn't understand. One of the officer wanted to charge me 1,000 Litas (about $500), but the man writing my ticket said he would charge me only 100 Litas...then when I went to pay...he only accepted 50 Litas (about $25)-which Grandma felt bad, and paid for. Needless to say...I wasn't too excited about driving after that! (For the full story...ask me later!)

All in all, it was a trip I will never forget! I enjoyed spending time with my Mom and my Grandmother and Jenna, too! I thank the Lord for allowing me to share Grandma's homeland with her!

Here are a few of the nearly 2500 pictures that we took. Enjoy!

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