Reading Oh Comely a few weeks ago, I came across a Welsh word which made think about my feelings for Lithuania (and reminded me that I got halfway through this post in May then forgot about it…)
hiraeth -a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past
Having left aged 3 I’ve only been back a handful of times, but when asked what my nationality is never hestitate before saying Lithuanian. Often it feels a chore to visit and I definitely wouldn’t want to move back there, but I will fly to it’s defence if someone says a word against it.
On our most recent visit, we made time to see more of Lithuania than just the inside of my grandparents flat, which I think resulted in me and my sister returning more patriotic than we ever had been before.
The thing that struck me most was the contrasts this tiny country holds. We never normally venture beyond the Soviet landscape of Alytus (below) and as silly as it sounds, had never visited in Spring when the sun is out and the trees aren’t bare. The brightness of the season made even these old towerblocks look less depressing. Staying in Dzukijos Dvaras, a lovely hotel just outside the city but far from civilisation, felt like venturing into silent, deserted, fairytale woods.
While visiting a friend we also had the chance to see sunset over Kaunas Reservoir, and I think that’s when I realised just how beautiful the country I always remember in concrete actually is, the picture speaks for itself.
To top off our manic weekend, we also managed to squeeze in some time in Vilnius before our flight. Starting in the historic Cathedral Square we walked up to Gediminas Castle, a symbol you can’t escape in the capital. Looking at the skyline, it’s clear to see how long the city has been here and how far it’s come. It’s strange to see such a mix of historic church towers, glass highrises (I don’t think they quite qualify for the name skyscraper…) and Soviet relics.
While I will never call it home, I am definitely proud to come from this strange little country which has progressed in leaps and bounds, and that’s just in my living memory! For once, a visit to the homeland left me rested, happy and excited to return.