Saturday, April 13, 2013

Last day... last stops {{sigh}}

My last day as a tourist, for this trip at least.  Thank you for following my blog.  I hope you have also followed Donna's blog.  If you have not, please take a look at

Friday April 12, 2013. 

I woke up, had breakfast, and asked Jurga to drop me off downtown.  I first went to a tourist office, gathered a map and a narrative of things to do, then I found a nearby cafe and perched myself by the window to develop a plan. Next I went to the big cathedral and took some photos. Then up the hill to the castle (note one of the pictures is a model of how it looked in the 14th century, and 3 of the pictures are a 360 degree shot - taken with a panorama setting - to be stitched later). Back wandering, dropped in a spa to see about a massage for the catch in my hip, but it was an erotic-only spa (didn't say that on the door: "East Indies Spa - Massage"!) so I picked another from the list and had a (poor) Swedish one hour (L150 = $US60) massage which skipped my hands and feet.  Strange.  Went to the Contemporary Arts Center as was told it had a good lunch. The borscht was very good, the Lithuanian empanadas were OK....  Came home for a nap then out to visit with Jurga's parents - always a wonderful experience, great people, fabulous food and times. See the picture of all of us together.  And some published photos of Jone in a Lithuanian magazine. Then home, sleep, shower, pack, and I have cleared security waiting for my flight on LOT: Vilnius-Warsaw-Paris.  Can't wait to see Donna!  8p - 7 hours from now. At the airport I met a woman who owns the model agency that has the agency with the "mother" model with Jone.  She says the junk food craze is making it hard to find models in Lithuania - which for a long time had been a great source.  She said she would email me something about this issue so I can pass the info on. 

Time to go
to Paris
to the woman I love
then I will be home
wherever we go. 

Going "home" is great;  going to be with our kids is awesome. Paris:  je reviens en une petite temp!  Le plus bon cite en le monde avec le plus bon hommes en le monde!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The last stop in this incredible adventure is a 2 1/2 day visit with my friends in Lithuania. I am staying once again in the home of Audrius and Jurga Tulekis - and their 12 year old daughter Jone - the parents of Ugnius who stayed with Donna and me at The Gulch - our home in Georgia - during the summer of 2011. Jurga is the sister of Vladas Stankevicius who spent 3 months with my ex-wife and me after we had been in Lithuania in 1990.  So, friends from a long time - nearly a quarter century.  Audrius met me at the train station and brought me back to their home. He is a professional photographer and Jurga is a project manager with a group that works with the schools. Jone is a pretty, bright 12 year old who wants to come stay in America someday. I hope she will do as her brother and uncle have and come stay in our home.

The first day (Thursday April 11th) Audrius and I went for a hike in the local park. Photos. I attended a Rotary Meeting (photo), met a local attorney Girder Cerniauske)  and described my practice to her, and walked alone thru Vilnius - watched over by these 3 tall specters. Photo

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"The train is broken"

says the Polish announcement at 8:50 - an hour and a half out of Warsaw. We came to a jerking stop in the middle of nowhere.  Although we have not gone very far from Warsaw, it's probably too far to walk back.  Lots of hammering sounds. Snow everywhere. A barn in the distance but no sign of life. Probably 20 miles back to Warsaw. I could turn on my GPS and figure out where we are.... Suddenly we start up again after a 15 minute stop. I have a 13 minute layover changing trains in Sestokai. But that's at 2:57pm. Surely we will make it up. Strange that we are going this entire leg with almost everyone riding backwards. We make a scheduled stop at Makinia. We are supposed to pull out at 9:00 but it is 9:19.  I hope we make up the lost time.

Almost flat land slumbering under a thick blanket of snow except where rivers and streams cross our path. All marginally out of their banks and then frozen in place. The Polish use their land - far different from the French who husband it.

Thank goodness the train's heater works well.  The ride is rougher than the rides in France on the SNCF, Transillian, or TGV and much slower but the seats are similar to those French trains - very different from the trains here I have ridden on before. After that stop we are zipping along. GPS says 75mph!  9:44 departure from Szepietowo scheduled at 9:28. 3 of the 19 minutes made up. 12 minutes late leaving Ally.  We are making up the lost time. 5 hours to make up 12 minutes and the conductor is working on it.  Biaystock - more banging on and shaking of the train. We sit seemingly a long time. Supposed to leave at 10:22am. We leave at 10:39.  I have no Plan B if I don't make the connection.
Next stop: Czarna - what a name! - we've made up a minute. 16 minutes late.

It is a terrible thing to be Polish. Caught between the "motherland" of Russia and the "fatherland" of Germany its history is one of seeming endless wars on its soil as marauding, pillaging, raping, destroying, abominations of genocidal hordes swarm out of the steppes and plains to the east dashing to avenge their villages which were similarly devastated by Germanic hordes seeking what their (and our) governments always seek: power and money and land: a frenetic testosterone-driven rampage following close on the heels of the last one and quickly followed by the next.  More and more in a bloodlust unquenchable and immune to logic, reason...humanity. Just pure hate-driven evil.  All across Poland the armies have trampled exhausting their blood and treasure - akin to the reactionary vitriol that spews on our Muslim brothers and sisters who had the misfortune to be the source of Amerikan enmity. That Poland's people - its survivors - are industrious can be no surprise as only the most industrious could survive the infernos to pass on their genes. Not beauty. Not gentility. Not aspirants. Only those who are industrious. Add to that mix the cancer of the rule-based Antichrist organization known as the Catholic Church which commands -in the name of my Savior who constantly condemned their rule-making and gave the Most Precious Life to set us free from Satan's grip- that in every respite from war the crowds are to be recreated and launched again in pogroms and invasions back and forth. It is a terrible thing to be Polish. I would not survive here on my own.  I can't imagine the terrors facing young Polish women as the cannons rumble...approaching from afar. But I understand why they reach for the Risen Savior - if only they were not often blocked by ancient pedophilic priests and higher ups concerned only with show and personal perquisites. God has forgiven me; so I can request no less for others....

Our next scheduled stop was Sokolka. We arrived 17 minutes after our scheduled departure. And left 60 seconds later. They are trying to get us to Sestokai in time. At D'browa we had made up 2 minutes.  3 hours to train change. 16+ minutes to make up.  Here we go.  56 mph

It's amazing how sometimes the obvious I overlook.  Sestokai is the border. I changed trains there 2+ years ago. There is a train there, sitting empty on the narrow gauge (formerly) Russian tracks. We just get off this train, walk across the tracks, and get on that train. Once that is done, the train in Lithuania leaves.  Then the issue is the train change in Kaunas. I have 15 minutes to change to the 5p train.  It's not far. If I miss that connection there surely is another. I'd get some Litas from an ATM (?), buy a Lithuanian sim card, and call my friends to tell them I am late.  No problem.

Now imagine this: I am on an all day Polish train which has 25-30 cars and there are NO refreshments sold anywhere on the train.  I'm glad I loaded up on sandwiches and bottled water for the trip - just in case - before I left Warsaw this morning.  Even more strange: I discover that Poland's National Poem - "Pan Tadeusz" - begins with the words "Oh Lithuania, my Fatherland....". It's written by a poet from Belarus.

Suddenly a conductor and a woman frantically race through the car just after we left our most recent stop.  The train stops and she gets off - a mile from town.  I guess she overslept and missed her stop so the driver stops the train that is trying to make up lost time so this frantic woman can get off. She races back, gathers her stuff, and exits.

Ah, Suwalki - I remember YOU well. My last visit here everyone got off the train, the heater was turned off, and no one was in sight.  This time it's not dark, people stayed on the train, and we left - again going back in the direction from which we just came - only 7 minutes late.  I THINK Sestokai is on Lithuanian time which means it's an hour away. If not, then 2 hours. It will be nice getting back to Lithuania. Too many Russian ghosts here.

4 minutes late into and out of Trakiszki    
We made it - no problem.   And the train for the last hour into Vilnius is very clean and modern.  Completely unlike the train I took 2+ years ago.   I'm less than an hour away so I'll end this post here and pick up blogging about my friends in Vilnius. 

In the photo inside the train that's my bag at my seat - the train is not crowded!


Joined the walking tour of Warsaw with about 20 tourists and a guide named Beaca (I think I got that right).  We toured the buildings re-built by the Russians to look old - like the cathedral (photo) but not far away were the gut-wrenching photos of the complete destruction of central Warsaw which accompanied the murder of its 300,000 Jewish inhabitants. Photos.

After a couple of hours walking around looking at new reconstruction where old buildings had been (made interesting by our guide's stories)  she brought us to a vodka bar where the owners provided us with vodka and herring, gratis. We then completed the tour and some of us returned to the bar for v&h again. I had 4 of each!  I met an architect and business manager who were from Murcia and two doctoral candidates from U of Warsaw. We had an interesting talk... and more vodka.  Then it took me about 4 hours to walk it off at which time I returned to the bar and called Trevor to meet me.  He and I then had ... you guessed it ... vodka and herring. Then we walked to another bar for...v &h before finding a sushi bar ... with green tea. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A day in the life of a Warsovian

Got up and had breakfast with Trevor - he cooked - and went with him to see his office.  Then I went to the train station to buy my 2nd (intermediate) class train ticket from Warsaw to Vilnius on Wednesday. I'm leaving at 7:30a for a 10 hour train ride with one train change. That is 244.27 miles in 10 hours. No TGV in Poland!  But flying to Vilnius seems wrong.  It was not possible in 1990 when I first went. I took the train in 2011 when I went back, I have an extra day to use up before arriving in Vilnius... and it will be fun.

Next, being completely unaware of the lack of bullet trains in Poland I inquired in the main tourist office about trains for a day trip to Krakov or Gdansk. No such thing. So I planned on the 11a walking tour of Warsaw (same idea as Rollin and I did in Amsterdam) Tuesday. Then I headed off to Rotary where I presented a Canton Rotary flag to their club. Photo.  One of the people in the room had been a Georgia Rotary Student at Ga Tech!  His name is Cristiano Pinzauti. Then, with a couple of hours to kill, I went to see "The Host" at the downtown mall.  Then, on the bus home, a guy fell over in the aisle, face down. The driver called an ambulance, everyone but he and I got off the bus, and about 20 minutes later the comatose guy got up and staggered off the bus.  I then had my private bus home.  Trevor and I then went out for a pierogi extravaganza.  We split 3 plates of 9 and then had a plate of blueberry pierogis for dessert.

It's now Tuesday (4/9/13) at 9a. Trevor left earlier. My back still hurts so I'm going to go join the walking tour after breakfast downtown - walking helps my back - and then I may go get a massage to help it more. Stay tuned....

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Warsaw....You saw....I saw

Out to CdG and boarded SAS to Copenhagen to change to Warsaw.  Last view of Paris from my window before the flight... but then a family wanted to sit together so I moved from row 35 window to row 7 aisle at the steward's request.  It took awhile as it was counterflow then when I requested a sandwich and beer he would not let me pay.  So different from the US cattle cars in the sky.  One other strange thing: the business class seats are identical (including legroom) with coach - they just move the signs!  Photo.

The next event of some note happened as I exited the international concourse in Copenhagen: a Rotary International collection box for spare money. My guess is there is over $5,000 in various currencies here.  Photo.

The flight ahead of mine was also on SAS - to Berlin.  It was overbooked and so they offered a 300 Euro ($400) travel voucher to take the next flight in 4 hours!  We would never see such an offer in the USA on such a short flight. 

Bought a hot dog and beer for 49 kroner after I figured out to divide the cost by 7 to convert to $s.  Landed, found son Trevor, went out for Polish Mexican (?) which was pretty good.  Took photos on the way there. Back at his apartment - headed to sleep.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Last Tango

52 days flew by!  Tomorrow, day 53, I fly to Denmark and then to Warsaw to spend a few days with my son Trevor. I love Trevor, and I love visiting with him. The best visits with him are - like this coming trip - when it's just him and me: no siblings, spouses, or friends.  I missed out on the vast majority of Trevor's growing up because of an ex who used her power to limit my contact as a way to inflict pain, and because of a judiciary which enforced its belief that the only parent which mattered was the mother. So, when I spend time with my grown son I constantly am amazed at his talents, abilities, and heart. So, I'm really glad to get to see him.

As our Last Tango in Paris, Donna and I tried to go to the north end of RER C, but the line was closed at both stops we tried. So we went over to Place de Vosges (photos) and environs where Henry IV ruled and lived 500 years ago. PdV is the first example of urban planning and was built to entice Italian silk workers to come to Paris. Note the tea merchant's window sign: selling tea to Paris since 1692!  Then to Hotel de Sens (photo) and home to gather groceries.

Great, great trip.