It’s hard to believe my five weeks on the goat farm have now come to a close. I’m still processing what long-term affect my time there will have. In the meantime, though, I’m just thankful to have found family in Poland, even if they weren’t Simcoskys.
I spent yesterday in Warsaw celebrating Juliusz Slowacki’s 200th birthday. He’s Poland’s great romantic poet, you know. Zosia and Zuzia’s old high school sponsored a two day festival during which time students past and present acted out the great conflict between Slowacki and Adam Mickiewicz, performed music composed for Slowacki’s poetry, and ate a seven-tiered birthday cake.
From Warsaw I took an overnight bus to Vilnius, Lithuania, which I’ve found to be one of the loveliest cities I’ve ever visited: winding cobblestone, hidden courtyards – that sort of thing. Vilnius is the EU’s 2009 Cultural Capital and all that investment shows, especially in the churches.
Lithuania is at the center of the religious world: to its west is Catholicism, to its east and south Orthodoxy, and to its north Lutheranism. All of these traditions are well-represented in Old Town. You can’t walk five steps with stumbling across a church. I think I wandered into about five services this morning.
What’s truly remarkable about this is that during the Soviet era all of these churches were converted to museums of atheism, and that’s not a euphemism for what many conservative Christians think is happening in more liberal wings of the church. Today, these museums of atheism have been restored to houses of worship and are overflowing with communicants. I couldn’t help but think that all the gray heads in the room remember a time in when that sacred space was a museum to its antithesis.
Tomorrow, I move on to Riga, Latvia, and begin couchsurfing. I’ll be staying in Jelgava, 45 min outside Riga, and assisting in three English classes, Tuesday morning.
Details to come.