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If only I had a whistle

July 20, 2010

Now on the final leg of a five week round the world tour my last stop is Vilnius in Lithuania for preliminary work on gender equality in Europe. The flight from Singapore was improved by an upgrade to first which was nice, however it’s a lower grade than Business in Singapore Airlines in terms of comfort, entertainment choice, food and service! Arriving at Frankfurt airport in the early hours I fought my way through the multiple confusions of an airport which has always reminded me of a large and sprawling underground car park. The lounge had four showers and one had to sign a book and wait to be called. Rather embarrassing really to hear the announcement Would Prof Snowden please come to the shower now in Teutonic brutal echo around the cramped area.

Now I have never been to any of the Baltic States, and a quick online search had provided horror stories about taxis so I booked one in advance with Visit Lithuania who were pretty outstanding, turning up on time, keeping to the published rate etc. and getting me to the hotel just opposite the Cathedral in time for me to spend the afternoon out and about with the camera. I hadn’t realised that Lithuania has the oldest University in the Baltic States (founded by the Jesuits in the 16th Century, neither had I realised how Catholic the city is and that influence on the architecture compared with say Copenhagen or Helsinki. Nor had the destruction of 95% of the Jewish Community in WWII really come home to me before. For those who don’t know around 40% of the population of Vilnius was Jewish at that time and with a history that goes back to the 12thC. I hope to spend some more time wandering around on Friday morning before I return to the UK and the inevitable mess that follows a long absence.

One real bonus in the early hours of the morning was being woken up by a bunch of drunken students. Now I had gone to bed very early (jet lag catching up on a five hour time difference) which mitigated the pain of an early awakening. However the students were not engaged in the normal obscenities that you get in the early hours while staying in Paddington. Rather they were singing in close harmony some very beautiful songs (folk I think but I don’t know) that filled the square outside the hotel (see photo). In one of those abductive moments I remembered the moment when Ivor the Engine of the Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company is able to sing for the first time with the Grumbley and District Choral Society under the direction of Evans the Song. For those who don’t know the story, search it out; the moment brings tears to the eyes of any civilised person, as did last nights singing.

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