Amsterdam Shadow Wall to Post-Wall Vilnius, Lithuania
Kelley wanted Belgium and I wanted Vilnius. I capitulated and almost gave in to her desire for a trip to Ghent, Belgium. Until I purchased tickets for us to fly from Amsterdam to Vilnius, Lithuania. She was not too excited about my decision… until terrorists rocked Brussels ten days before our trip to Europe and Kelley suddenly liked the idea of flying from Amsterdam to Vilnius, Lithuania and staying out of Belgium. New York Times published a story this week about the chilling effect fear of terrorism has had on tourism and entertainment for restaurants and hotels in Paris.
The big upside to this trip is we visited some new places and Kelley loved Vilnius as a tourist destination for leisurely walks and afternoon lounging in city cafes. We had no issue with finding people all over the city who spoke English. This has been a major change I have noticed since first traveling to Dresden, Germany and Czech Republic in 2000, when I still frequently encountered many places where few people spoke English.
Some 25 years after the break up of the U.S.S.R., Vilnius has its eyes and culture facing westward, yet Russia and Belarus are still on its borders. The culture in Lithuania is strongly nationalistic as a small country with significant central European history.
If it were not for having spent a couple of hours in Amsterdam and Vilnius airports waiting for flights, I might have remained totally unaware of the U.S./NATO military build-up in the country. Nearly every American we encountered over six days was U.S. military, and there were very few Americans we came across in Vilnius. While not apparent from being a tourist on the streets of Vilnius, where life is not too different from many other European cities, and nicer than many European cities, the presence of a buildup in U.S. military and NATO forces in Lithuania indicates post-Cold War Baltic states and Poland military relations between Russia and the West are heating up from all the friction being generated.
Old Town Vilnius
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