Friday, February 01, 2013

Bem-vindo a Vilnius. A pérola báltica.
Welcome to Vilnius. The Baltic hidden gem.


Literatu street, Vilnius.
Originally uploaded by Andreas Toscano.
Vilnius se parece muito com suas irmãs bálticas: Riga e Tallinn. Além da arquitetura meio similar, as três tiveram (ou têm) uma relação complicada com os russos, que fica evidente só de andar pelas cidades. Curiosamente, esta última semelhança é exatamente o que diferencia as cidades. Afinal, a maneira como cada uma delas lida com esta complicada relação é o que nos permite ver as diferentes personalidades destas irmãs. Riga é a irmã que não esquece. Faz questão de exibir as cicatrizes da invasão Soviética e a insatisfação com a população russa que vive lá. Tallinn é a irmã mais moderna, que pensa para frente e parece tentar esquecer que um dia esteve sob controle Russo ou que grande parte da sua população vem de lá. Já Vilnius é a irmã rebelde. Faz questão de deixar claro que seu povo nunca aceitou a presença Russa. Expõe, sem qualquer receio, o que de pior a KGB fez e se orgulha de ter reconstruído tudo aquilo que os Russos derrubaram ou, melhor dizendo, tentaram derrubar. Um bom exemplo disto são as Três Cruzes. Os russos queimaram as cruzes originais, que eram feitas de madeira. Os lituanos foram lá e refizeram as cruzes, desta vez em cimento. Os russos voltaram lá e derrubaram as cruzes (já que não dava mais para queimar). Os lituanos refizeram tudo de novo, só que desta vez em concreto. São três cruzes brancas enormes no topo de uma colina. Elas podem ser vistas de longe e, para mim, servem como um aviso, um monumento ao indomável espírito lituano. Acredito que este mesmo espírito justifica a fértil e explícita produção artística da cidade. Eu pude sentir a importância da arte como meio de manifestação popular por toda a cidade. Literalmente. Vi muros pintados, “vielas monumento” e até exposições em barragens de rio. Lá, a ideologia por trás da liberdade artística é tão forte que deu origem a uma nação virtual (no sentido antigo da palavra): a República de Uzupis. Este país, criado e liderado por artistas, tem um único propósito: servir de exemplo para o mundo no que diz respeito à tolerância, à liberdade e à solidariedade. Sua constituição (a mais bonita que eu já vi) está pregada num muro próximo à rua que dá acesso à república. Sugiro que você perca 3 minutos e leia o texto inteiro aqui. Apesar de Uzupis não ser oficialmente reconhecida como uma república, sua influência cultural e política na capital é clara. O costume de colocar um ovo gigante onde mais tarde será colocado um monumento nasceu lá e, depois, foi adotado por Vilnius. O Castelo de Trakai não faz parte da lista de atrações turísticas de Vilnius. Mas uma excursão até lá definitivamente faz. Apesar de nunca ter sido oficialmente nomeada capital, Trakai é uma das cidades mais importantes da Lituânia. Por muito tempo, os nobres viveram e governaram o país dali. Lá foram travadas muitas das importantes batalhas e também foi lá que diferentes etinías fixaram residência. Entre elas, os Caraims. Um povo quase extinto, extremamente religioso e de costumes muito peculiares. O mais visível destes costumes é o fato de eles pintarem suas casas de acordo com o estado civil dos moradores: amarelo para mulheres solteiras, verde para homens solteiros, e marrom para casais. Tudo isso em meio a dezenas de restaurantes, barracas e lojinhas para turistas. O castelo em si fica numa pequena ilha, no centro de um pequeno lago. Ao contrário do que se vê na maioria das fortalezas cercadas por água, aqui a arquitetura não parece voltada à segurança dos moradores, nem revela traços de megalomania (comum a muitos monarcas). A bem da verdade, ele parece fazer parte da paisagem, como se ele já estivesse lá antes dos humanos exitirem. Ao cruzar a ponte, fica claro que o castelo foi desenhado tendo em mente a praticidade e não a ostentação: tudo é extremamente simples, lógico e vasto, porém de fácil acesso. Se não fosse pelos vigias locais (que tentam impor sua própria lógica de trânsito aos turistas), caminhar pelo castelo seria extremamente simples. Durante a Segunda Guerra (e muitas outras batalhas), o castelo foi quase totalmente destruído. Em compensação, o trabalho de restauração foi tão bem feito que é quase impossível saber o que é antigo e o que é novo por ali. Para tornar a visita ainda mais inesquecível, dei sorte de ir justo no dia em que eles realizam o festival anual de encenação dos hábitos da época. Ou seja, o passeio foi uma verdadeira viagem no tempo: cavaleiros em armaduras lutando, "servos" forjando metal e moldando argila, além de muita comida típica e cerveja caseira. Incrível.
;)

Vilnius reminded me a lot of its Baltic sisters: Riga e Tallinn. Besides having a very similar architectural style, all three had (or have) a very complicated relationship with Russians that becomes evident as you walk through these cities. On the other hand, this last similarity is also what makes them different from each other. After all, the way each one of these cities deals with this complicated relationship helps you see the different personalities of each of these sisters. Riga is the sister that never forgets. It insists on showing the scars left by the Soviet troops and its dissatisfaction with the Russians currently living there. Tallinn is the modern, forward thinking sister that tries to forget that it once lived under Russian rule and that a big part of its population came from from there. Vilnius is the rebel sister. It makes sure everyone knows that its people never accepted the Russian presence. It exposes without hesitation the worst atrocities perpetrated by the KGB and takes pride in the fact that its people rebuilt everything the Russians destroyed or, better yet, tried to destroy. A great example of this relentless perseverance is the Three Crosses monument. The Russians burnt down the original wooden crosses. Lithuanians rebuilt them with mortar. The Russians returned and took them down (since they couldn’t burn it anymore). Lithuanians went back and rebuilt them again, only this time in concrete. The huge crosses are white and stand at the top of a green hill, making it easy to see them from afar. To me, they serve as a kind of warning, a monument to the untamable Lithuanian spirit. I believe this very same spirit justifies the city’s fertile and ever present artistic production. I could feel the importance of art as a way to manifest opinions everywhere I walked. There were painted walls, “monument streets”, and even exhibitions on river banks. The ideology behind artistic freedom is so strong there that it ended up giving birth to a virtual (not in the digital sense) nation: the Republic of Uzupis. This “country”, envisioned and ruled by artists, was created to serve as an example to the rest of the world in everything that regards tolerance, freedom and solidarity. Its constitution (the most inspiring I have ever seen) has been placed on a wall of the street that gives access to the republic. I suggest you spend 3 minutes reading it here. Even though Uzupis is not officially recognized as a republic, its cultural and political influence over the capital is obvious. The tradition of placing a giant egg where monuments will be placed was born there and then, later, adopted by Vilnius. The Trakai Castle does not figure among Vilnius attractions. But a day trip there definitely does. Despite never being officially nominated capital, Traika is one of the most important cities of Lithuania. For a long period of time, rulers lived and governed the country from there. That’s also where many crucial battles took place and where different ethnicities chose to settle. Among these ethnicities are the Karaites, a community at the brink of extinction with very peculiar habits. The most “visible” of these habits is the fact that they paint their houses according to the civil status of the person living in it: yellow for single women, green for single men, and brown for married couples. All that obviously surrounded by loads of restaurants, souvenir stands and small shops for tourists. The castle itself is located on a small island, in the middle of a small lake. Contrary to what you see in most fortresses surrounded by water, though, the Trakai castle doesn’t seem to have been designed for protection or as a showcase of magalomania (very common trait of many rulers). To be honest, the castle is so well integrated to its surroundings that I had the feeling it was there before humans existed. Once you cross the bridge, it becomes obvious that the castle was designed for practicality and not for showing off: everything is extremely simple and vast but still easily accessible. If it wasn’t for the local guards (who try to impose their own transit logic to tourists), walking around the castle would be extremely easy. During WWII (and many other battles before), the castle was severely destroyed and most of what we see today was rebuilt. On the other hand, the reconstruction was so well done that it’s almost impossible to tell what’s new and what’s not. To make this excursion even more unforgettable, I was lucky enough to be there on the exact day when they reenact all the old traditions. The whole trip was like going back in time: knights duelling in suits of armor, blacksmiths forging metal, “serfs” molding clay, alongside all the typical food and homemade beer one can take. Amazing.
;)

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