Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for June 28th, 2007

Bagless in Vilnius

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 28th June, 2007

vilnius.jpgI arrived safely late last night in Lithuania’s capital, but my case didn’t make the tight connection in Copenhagen. Being deprived of one’s luggage is always unsettling — and not only because one can’t clean one’s teeth. I’d planned to spend this morning working through a great pile of documents in preparation for a seminar on the political situation in Belarus, which opens this afternoon, organised by the British Conservative Party and funded through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Bagless and paperless, I became a tourist instead, battling my way through the wind and the rain to some of Vilnius’s seemingly innumerable churches. The city used to be one of Europe’s great Jewish centres, but the swirling tides of history — including Nazi occupation — have almost obliterated all traces of that. Instead, profiting from the death of Marxism, Catholicism and other Christian denominations are triumphant. And many of the churches are magnificent. As the Lithuanian language is fairly inpenetrable to the unitiated, I’m glad I learnt Latin at school, so I could read the inscriptions and texts, though I hated the subject atd the time. In fact, I only passed Latin ‘O’ level — an essential requirement for going to Oxbridge in those days — at the second attempt, by virtually learning the set book off by heart. Interesting that it is now coming back into a certain vogue in England, thanks to the proseltysing efforts of Boris Johnson, MP, and others.


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