Thursday, 10 May 2007
Developing 16 - Lithuania pictures (2)
Aboe is the last of my Vilnius piccies. It was a really good trip. The place is interesting but not overwhelming. The old town is quite a bit like Prague although not as big but, on the plus side, there are way fewer tourists. Luckily what tourism there is seems to be aimed at UK or US visitors so a lot of signs or menus etc are translated into English - very helpful as my Lithuanian is poor...!!
We spent a couple of days just wandering around and taking in the sights but on the last day it was rainy so, instead of heading out to a National Park with a fairytale castle set in a lake out in the country, we stayed in town and took in a couple of museums. The National Museum was lovely, not too big but well laid out and fascinating (well, apart from the historical/religious stuff about ancient kings etc which got a bit tired).
But the stuff about the Soviet occupation and the deportations in the 1940's and 1950'2 was fascinating and heart breaking. I knew theoretically that being occupied by Stalinist Russia would not be "a good thing" but seeing the photographs from the partisan fighters and the pictures of life in the labour camps of Mongolia and Siberia was very moving.
Apparently over 120,000 Lithuanians were deported to labour camps all over the Soviet bloc between 1944 and 1953 only returning from 1956 onwards. We have it easy over here - really!
We were all affected by different items - my breaking point was a silk square embroidered with the outlines of 2 baby hands and 2 baby feet. It was done by a mother in the short time she had before her baby was taken away from her to an orphanage in Magadan (Mongolia)- unimaginable.
After that we went to the Museum of the Victims of Genocide - it was as cheery as it sounds! Set in the old KGB headquarters in the centre of town. In the basement there were the actualy cells, torture room and execution chamber. Grim grim grim. But, you might ask, why did we go? I suppose to see how the recent past has shaped the people of Lithuania and to appreciate how far they're coming with their modern shopping centres and smart developments - they are truly citizens of Europe now but their very recent past is a damn sight grimmer than ours.
Anyway, off my soap box now. Diet wise, I found it all quite easy after the first night when tiredness made me struggle. I loved the feeling healthy and fit in the mornings and being able to walk as long and as far as any in our party. I loved not baulking at climbing the steep hill to the castle or not nagging to take a taxi which I probably would have done if I had been carrying an extra 6 stone. I loved not feeling sweaty or even, God forbid, having the dreaded chafing!!
What have I learned about travelling abroad while dieting??
I have learned above all that I can do it and stay in the plan! I think the travelling, the sights and the company is what you go for, not the food. The food is nice part of every trip of course, but not the point of the trip.
I have found that slightly relaxing and saying to myself that, if I really struggle, I can have another pack or even eat something, really helps - I have never actually had the extra food it but the thought that I would let myself if I needed to, seems to release some of the panicky feeling.
What else? I have learned not to try to do too much - if you're tired stop for a tea before exhaustion sets in rather than after. If that means giving up on a plan, well, so be it. Drink warm drinks if you're feeling cold - they're reviving. the tea in Vilnius was gorgeous and I tried both peppermint and forbidden fruit tea!! The latter was a mistake but I thoroughly enjoyed it and refuse to feel guilty about one teeny fruit tea!
And finally - use the hotel gym if there is one - you feel unbearably smug - even better - go for an early morning run - you see loads of the town and can drop it into conversation for ages after and make your travelling companions feel like slugs!!!