Soviet Architecture in Vilnius, Lithuania

While Vilnius, Lithuania is a destination known for its sprawling old town, abundance of churches, and quirky Užupis Republic, its well preserved examples of Soviet architecture is what enticed me most prior to our trip (and the shopping, but I’ve already written about that).  I make no attempt at hiding my affinity for the style (if one can even call it a style…), and whenever I travel in the Eastern Bloc (which is almost every time I travel these days), I do some heavy scouting on what Soviet or Communist-era relics remain in my chosen destinations.

So, as a preface, let me say Vilnius is mostly known for things like this:Gediminas Hill, pretty. Read more

Roadside Attractions in Rural Lithuania

When you’re on a road trip (through the Baltics, or anywhere, really), one of the challenges in keeping things interesting is finding places to stop in between your destinations.  I can say from experience that this can be difficult when you’re driving, for example, the vast stretch of land in Southern Idaho – just flat enough to be totally boring, and conservative enough to be pretty scary.  However, when driving from Klaipeda to Vilnius in Lithuania, as we did on the last day of our Baltic Road Trip Honeymoon ™, we found no lack of interesting/kitschy/somber roadside attractions to keep us entertained.honeymoon-jpegs-15_21464890172_o

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses is located just north of the city of Šiauliai in North Central Lithuania.  I know that every time I talk about a church or other religious site, I preface with the fact that I am not a religious person.  Let me repeat that, I am most certainly not a religious person.  That said, I very much enjoyed visiting the Hill of Crosses.  Gift shop aside, the site was very impressive.  Hundreds of thousands of crosses piled on top of one another as a monument to the nation’s Catholicism.  It is uncertain when folks started placing crosses there – Wikipedia says sometime in the mid 19th century.  The real action at the Hill of Crosses, though, took place when Lithuania was under the Soviets.  The story goes that the Soviets tried many times to destroy the monument – burning the crosses, bulldozing the hill, etc.  But the Lithuanians continued to put crosses there in silent religious protest to the atheist Soviet regime.   Read more

How to Shop for Kitsch in Vilnius, Lithuania

While the typical tourist kitsch of shot glasses and refrigerator magnets can be found on every street corner in Vilnius Old Town, shopping for the more discerning tourist proved to be a bit difficult.  I should actually say that shopping in Vilnius and Lithuania is great for those not afraid of a little challenge.  Because the types of things I shop for (Soviet kitsch, really random religious knick knacks, etc.) took some sleuthing to unearth in Lithuania’s vibrant capital (and surroundings) .  

I should start with the Hill of Crosses, which surely deserves its own post, for all its quirkiness.  The Hill of Crosses had the best gift shop in all of the Baltics.  Hands down, bar none.honeymoon-jpegs-14_21287846290_o honeymoon-jpegs-13_21449676406_o Read more

The Hippie Homo Baltic Honeymoon (+Malta)

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonibm/

Hey friends – there’s about to be a couple of weeks of radio silence here, as I do not plan on doing any heavy blogging while I’m on my honeymoon (maybe some quick pictures here and there).  So I thought I’d write up some of the details of our trip.  I’ve got a list of potential posts a mile long that I’m planning from the trip, but if you have any insider tips on the destinations listed below, I would love to hear from you – either in the comments or via email at nick@concreteandkitsch.com!

I’m excited as this will be my first big trip I’ve taken with intent to blog.  I’ve got all my kit ready like a kid on his first day of school, and I’m really excited to share the details (good, bad, weird, funny, and clumsy alike) with you when I return!

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Changing Plans, or the Baltic/Balkan Conundrum

So last I explained, my partner David and I had cancelled our plans to road trip around Tunisia due to some the terrorist attacks targeting tourists in Tunis and Sousse.  While I was upset to cancel my plans to see the North African nation, I was also secretly excited to plan an entirely new trip to a new destination.  For me, much of the joy of travel comes in the pre-work.  I am a meticulous researcher and am prone to map comas – and the need for a location change provided me with an opportunity for both.

Tunisia was the plan - where to now?
Tunisia was the plan – where to now?

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