Šiauliai

Located in the North of Lithuania, founded around the time (1236) of one of the most epic battle in the Baltic region, Battle of Saule, Šiauliai is the city of the sun, religion pilgrimage,  chocolate, logistic hub, good food and nice parties.

The Lake

During winter it is a fun place to slide on the ice with you normal boots. Don’t be afraid to hit you ass on the ice, it is thick and hard. You can see some people fishing, skiing and skating. It is a good opportunity to see people smiling, laughing and enjoying themselves in here.

During summer, people get their boats, kayaks and strange waterbikes to row on the lake and the curious wakeboarding sport. There are also plenty of ducks and birds you can feed. Walking in the woods is also interesting, if you have bicycles you would have a lot of fun with hidden routes. If you are lucky you can see some big NATO planes flying low on their descent to Šiauliai military airport.

Huge military plane landing in Siauliai international airport

A post shared by Alexandre B. Silva (@chandeaux) on

The City

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It feels empty most of the time, but you can find a lot of people in the city center when the weather is good and at all the time in bar, pubs and restaurants. Every single time I go there I get to discover a new spot with its unique charm and beers. The main street has a large pedestrian way full of places to go and it is nice to ride bicycle as well. There are around 3 shopping centers and an interesting market (Turgus) in which you can find a good variety of vegetables, honey, meat, fish, bread, clothes, etc.

The People

My friends from Šiauliai are all really funny people, very interested in foreign cultures, open to many ideas and have a huge resistance for alcohol. I am able to match them drinking beer, but as soon as they give me something stronger, then I get in trouble.

Places of Interests

There are many interesting (or strange) statues around the city, very artistic. Here are some:

  • ruta1.jpgRuta Chocolate factory: small but really really interesting. Here they tell in images the story on how the chocolate as we know it was used as money by the Pre-Columbian civilizations in American and how the Europeans didn’t like it, but by adding sugar to it created an enormous economic growth with this product we love. After this visit I decided to never eat white chocolate again after understanding the hug amount of sugar it has. There is a shop downstairs with really nice gourmet chocolates. I love it!! Website link
  • frankelioChaimo Frenkelio Vila: a museum that tells the story of this remarkable Lithuanian that built one of the biggest leather factories in the world at the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately the business was over after the wars that ravaged Europe, but his legacy stands. The mansion has a very fine collection of  18th and 19th century articles, a minimalist cinema playing silence movies, some art, etc. I really enjoy it!!
  • Hill of Crosses: it is a hill full of crosses from people all over the world. You might find it scary or exotic. If you are super christian this place is a must, even the emblematic Pope John Paul II has visited the site.

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  • Wakeboarding @ Fox Spot:

Žemaitija (Samogitia)

Lithuania has some non-official regions that sometimes have their own dialect or almost language. Šiauliai is part of Samogitia or as it is know in Lithuanian: Žemaitija. This dialect even has several Wikipedia articles written in this language. This region played an impressive role in the 14th century Crusades since the Teutonic crusaders were never able to conquer this land, despite trying for more than 100 years!! You can find more information about this region and their people not only in Lithuania but also in Latvia since it was part of their territory as well, the entrance of the War Museum un Riga (Latvia) displays the Battle of Saule.

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Battle Of Saule at display in Riga’s War Museum

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Cycling Lithuania

Almost impossible to believe but I learned how to ride a bike here in Lithuania as an adult. It completely blows the mind of everyone I tell this. I even lived one of the most embarrassing moments in my entire life during a team building with colleagues in which I didn’t know in advance that we had to ride bikes to find clues… I had to skip it.. Shame! Shame! Once I even went with my friends Katia and Fernando to Münster, the German capital of bicycles, they were enjoying going around in their bicycles while I had to take the bus to follow them. Shame on me one thousand times. Shame shame shame!
cycling_vilnius

It is very common to see cycloways and self service bicycles in Vilnius

Jealousy and motivation grew in me by seeing so many happy people cycling around the cities. I’ve never seen such a love for cycling in Latin American cities. The fact that Lithuanians walks really fast also was a motivation, since going by bicycle was the only way to match their speed.

It took the help of my beautiful, smart, ruthless girlfriend to make my dreams come true. She taught me how to balance myself on her bike in the not so busy city of Šiauliai. It took me a while to make my first real ride, the secret was in trying to go fast at the beginning.
ergocycleThere are many kilometers of cycloways available for you in the city center of main cities and several in wood roads for you to enjoy nature or concrete city at high speed. It also helps that there are no mountains in the whole country so everything is flat most of the way. If you plan to visit another city, there are even special train tickets for bikes. Unfortunately self service bikes are only available in Vilnius, but not when winter hits hard.
I am enjoying while I can the self service bikes from Cyclocity and maybe I can adventure myself during winter time just to feel how it is like. My progress since Augusts 2016 has been impressive, from 3,2 km by bike per month to almost 200 km. You can see how much fun I am having in the stats below
cycling_timeline
Viskas 🙂
cycling_siauliai

Learning how to ride a bike, an epic achievement for me 🙂

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New York vs Lithuania or Europe

On July 2016, I was assigned to to a business trip to New York City, USA and I found the place quite interesting, I had hundreds of cultural shocks per minute and couldn’t avoid comparing everything with Lithuania or other European countries.

NYC = New York City
VNO = Vilnius

Supermarkets

artisan bread

U$ 1,99 french baguette

There is nothing compared with Hyper Rimi, Maxima XXX or big Iki. There are food markets named Trader’s Joe, Whole Foods Market, Union Markets and one semi-supermartket named Target but everything was three times more expensive and sometimes the quality was not so good. A French baguette costs U$ 2,00 but it is not as tasty as the € 0,35 French baguette from Iki. I lost so much weight that my underwear don’t fit me anymore.

NYC pro tip: buy everything you can in cheap places like Target; buy vegetables in Whole Foods, the rest at Trader’s Joe, and avoid Union Market. 
VNO pro tip: I like bread, chicken and Belgian beers from Iki, vegetables and beef from Maxima, raviolis and house stuffs from Rimi, Crossain with almond from Lidl, coffee mugs from Prisma and I´ve never been at Norfa XL

 

Green spaces

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Most of streets in Manhattan have no trees. Many blocks are just like this: buildings, sidewalks and street

There are so many buildings next to each other in Manhattan (borough of New York City) and almost zero green areas between them. Everything was grey and trees look like they were growing from the asphalt. It was so refreshing coming back to Vilnius and see so many green places with many trees. New York has many parks, but they don’t feel real because there is so many noise and pollution around.

NYC Pro tip: Brooklyn parks are really cool and less noisy.
VNO Pro tip: Vingio parkas is really really really cool. You can rent bikes, practice sports and drink beer

 

People everywhere

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Time Square people traffic

There are so many people walking in Manhattan that you feel insignificant but it is nice to see so many shiny happy people moving around. It feels like Vilnius gatve but with 100 times more humans moving around. I was missing this feeling because I am an energetic Latin American, but sometimes I need the calm and serenity of the White Bridge.

NYC Pro tip: Avoid walking the streets nearby Time Square after midnight. A lot of drunk people and girls trying to choke one another. 

VNO pro tip: If you want to see people, go out at a really sunny and warm day. Make sure you bring a coat because it gets windy and cold at night anytime of the year. 

 

Starbucks vs Vero Caif Coffee Inn

For much that I enjoy my frappes while trying to understand the random images on Coffee Inn walls, I prefer the darkness and mystery of Starbucks. Something that shocked me was to find a Starbucks every three blocks in Manhattan. Holy caffeine!
NYC Pro tip: If you need Wi-Fi, look for starbucks, the connection is really really really stable.
VNO Pro tip: The frappes from each coffee place has a different taste. If you don’t like drinks from one place, put it in your blacklist but make sure you taste coffee from other place. 

 

Burgers

Boom

Boom burger in Vilnius

Probably one of my biggest surprises: burgers in New York are not as good as in Vilnius. Americans who visit Lithuania get impressed with the quality of food and specially burgers. Drama Burger, Boom burgers, Indie Bar, Meat Lover pub are all popular places in Lithuania and I even heard that some of them are opening stores in USA.

NYC Pro tipDrinks are huuuuuge but burgers are smaaaaall. Try to check what people are eating before entering any restaurant. 

VNO pro tip: Drama burger has small but really juicy burgers so order beer and something exotic like fried broccoli.  Boom burgers is usually full so try to reserve or arrive mentally prepared to wait in line. 

Museums

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This Van Gogh took my breath away. The details are so amazing!!

New York invested a lot of money in art and there is no match for those amazing Van Goghs. I visited the MET museum but I think that the MoMA has better paintings.

NYC Pro tip: You can pay whatever you want to enter some museums. One of my friend paid $ 1,00 and everything went alright. Museums get a lot of private company money, so don´t feel so bad

VNO pro tip: The money museum and the genocide museum are really interesting

 

 

Beers

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Time Square people traffic

European beers are light years better than anything you can find in other continents, but I found interesting how many IPA and Belgium inspired beers you can find in supermarkets. There are a lot of crazy beers with strange flavored, but I still prefer a Šviturys or a Belgium Leffe or Duvel.

NYC Pro tip: Buy Belgian beers. Leffe Blond at Whole Foods has the same price as in Europe. 

VNO pro tip: Wheat beer are something new for me, try Svyturys Baltas. Ungurio Kojos is my favortie Lithuanian beer (try it at Republic bar groud floor), I personally detest Kalnapilis, you can find Belgian beers at Iki. 

Amusement parks and fun

I had no idea Coney Island was so cool. I would have never had expected to see an actual Brazilian style beach side by side. Also a crazy hot dog event is held in there every year and I must admit that the hotdog with lemonade was really tasty. Unfortunately I cannot find anything similar in Vilnius, Palanga, Nida nor Klaipeda.
NYC Pro tip: Use sunscreen, there are no shadows, do not wear long pants, one Brazilian girl that was with us almost fainted and had to buy some shorts. Bring swimsuit and towel just in case, I really wanted to jump on the water. 
VNO Pro tip: there is a fake beach named Žirmūnų paplūdimys. Go to the city Palanga if you are young, go to Nida if you want to relax.  
Coney Island

Coney Island: Roller coasters, beach and hot dogs

 

Public transport

Subway HelveticaMy friends and I found the subway quite confusing during our first days in New York. Also the subway is very hot and dirty if we compare with Madrid. But the coolest stuff about the metro is everything written in Helvetica fonts.
NYC Pro tip: Make sure you are in the correct side of the street before entering the platform. Many times me and my friends got into the wrong side. You have to know where you are and the regions of New York (Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) in order to know the direction of the train. Usually:
Downtown = Brooklyn
Uptown = Bronx, Queens
VNO pro tip: Buy the bus card “Vilniečio kortelė” and charge it, it is 40% cheaper than buying the ticket with he bus driver. 

 

Laundry WTF

seinfeld laundry

Seinfeld “pilot” episode criticizes the boredom at a laundromat

The are so many self service laundries (laundromat) in New York because some apartments do not support the machines, WTF? I heard that is something related to the water pressure. This is quite uncomfortable and a waste of time to walk around the streets with your dirty clothes. It takes one hours to wash and dry everything but at least I could read some books but I would prefer to do it at home. You can easily find one laundromat in every block at residential areas. Most probably a Starbucks nearby as well 🙂

NYC Pro tip: Laundromats sell washing powder for ~ U$ 1,00 and the machine costs U$ 2,00 (You need to insert four 25 cents coins, the laundromat person can change bills for coins), the dryer is tricky, I would advice to use it for 30 minutes to make sure everything is dry. 

VNO pro tip: I think there are no Laundromats in Vilnius, avoid getting dirty.

 

Conclusion

Both are interesting places and everything is even better with friends. I enjoyed so much hanging out with my friends in NYC and I simply adore all the things I do with my friends and my girlfriend around Vilnius. So many things to discover around here and at NYC as well.

 

 


About Lithuania: Cultural shocks | More Cultural Shocks | Girls | Cuisine | Friendship |  Beach, flowers, quiz and mosquitoes| Lithuania and RussiaKissing and the SunWork Environment |

About Europe: Madrid | Portugal | London | Amsterdam | Vatican & Rome | Three Years in Europe

Other: New York vs VilniusAIESEC


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Life In Lithuania #10:Three years in Europe

Sveiki everyone, first I would like to inform you that I am not lost or on long vacations or partying like crazy, but I decided to rethink my values, goals and the meaning of life. I am still writing some posts about life and random things in my webpage. I am also developing a webpage about Lithuania in my own words: history, facts, curiosity, culture, basic phrases and words for foreigners. Also, part of my blog will be there. If you want updated from any source, please follow my facebook page

summerfestival

Summer festival/party in my company

Some things that have happened in the last year:
  • Lithuanians habits are becoming part of my life and I am becoming one
  • I visited Druskininkai and Šiauliai, both cities have super interesting museums, Gruto Parkas and  Chaimo Frenkelio Vila (I had no idea who was Chaimas Frankelis and it was a super awesome surprise to learn about his life)
gruto

Gruto parkas

  • Winter is not so fun anymore
  • The new apartment that I am living is cozy, but still cold during winter and spring (why ?????????)
  • On the other hand, I don’t get more electric shocks 🙂
  • Now I can easily distinguish Lithuanian language to any other
  • Long summer days are still the best thing ever
  • In my company, I got promoted and have more interesting challenges
  • 0867-reeperbahn-200x100

    Hamburg. Sex sex sex everywhere D=

    My new responsibilities require me to visit Hamburg in Germany. In there I met my friend Carlos after a long time not seeing each other. I realized Hamrburg has a red light district more active and crazier than in Amsetrdam. The city is amazing !! There is also a Turkish or Arabic area in which I ate the best kebabas (döner) in my life !!

  • Cloudy days make me feel sad, sunny days make me feel young
  • I tried to learn how to skate on ice and it was hard !!skate1
  • Finally got the balls to walk and slide on a frozen lake
  • The threw an arrow into my heart and put me together with a fantastic and unique Ukrainian girl 🙂 We’ve been in a relationship for one year. She is totally completing me and making me a super happy human being.

And viskas for now. Remember to subcribe to this blog or follow me on facebook. I have many challenges for this year. The best is yet to come 🙂

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Life In Lithuania #9: Lithuanian-Russian relations

Goodbye Lenin

Goodbye Lenin

Last Sunday (July 19th, 2015), the soviet statues from the green bridge were removed. It wasn’t a great celebration, but many people were happy or relieved, they don’t want to give them impression that they miss the soviet times and say that they should be at a museum, not at public display. But some found this exaggerated and feel the statues should be kept there. Click here to read some opinions.

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Removed Russian translation from a Street Name

In Latvia, the neighbor country of Lithuania, almost all the population speaks Russian as a second language, but it is not an official language. A referendum took place to officialese Russian as a second language but people said no. That is how things are in the Baltic states. Russians are welcome but signs of a turbulent past must not come back.

Destruction of Catholic churches during the russification era

Destruction of Catholic churches during the russification era

The Russian Empire tried to eradicate the Lithuanian language from the face of the Universe. Lithuania established its independence in 1918 and won two European Basketball Championships (1937, 1939 In the original post I wrongly wrote 1941, but that championship was cancelled due to the World War), before being annexed to the USSR (Soviet Union).

During the Second World War, Lithuania got invaded by the Nazis, then by the Soviets.

The Soviet regime, consisted on an extractive system (a “small” group of individuals do their best to exploit the rest of the population) and was afraid to change its politics. The perestroika and glasnost triggered the feared transition to an inclusive economy (“many” people are included in the process of governing). With more freedom, the nations within USSR claimed independence. Lithuanian was the first ex-soviet republic to proclaim independence. Soviets troops attacked Vilnius TV Tower in order to regain control, but 600 were injured and 14 got killed (the images I saw at the museum were really disturbing). Personally, I was shocked to see Gorbachev acting like that.

Soviet Occupation in 1991

January events 1991

Visit Georgia ad in Vilnius Streets

Visit Georgia ad in Vilnius Streets

You can now understand how Lithuanians feel about Russia. The Russian language is losing its influence. I met some people that refuse to learn it and prefer other foreign languages (English, German and Spanish). There are laws that forbid the use foreign characters to the name of new businesses. When Georgia and Ukraine had conflicts with the Russians, the Lithuanians were the ones to give the biggest support. As of today, you can see many Ukrainian flags in any city for sign of support (I’ve seen the same in Warsaw as well), and Georgia is so loved that has become one of the top touristic destinations. If you go there and say you are lithuanian, you get a free shot of chacha.

iceland

Celebration at Islandijos street

Iceland was the first country to recognize Lithuania as a sovereign nations, for that one of the most famous streets in Vilnius for named after the country. There is even a day to celebrate this and you can find Icelandic beer in the supermarkets.

A cartoon that went viral, about the powerlessness of LT compared to RU

A cartoon that went viral, about the powerlessness of LT compared to RU

This year [2015] things are getting worse. The conflict between Russian and Ukraine has taken the spotlight. The Kremelin claims it is not involved in the conflict. The president of Lithuania (Dalia Grybauskaitė) told in an interview to Latvian television that the country is already being attacked by Russia with cyberattacks and propaganda. They are non conventional but first elements of war. She states there are increased militarization with the border of Kaliningrad.

Zero points to Russia :(

Zero points to Russia 😦

I would also worry a little bit since there is a patriotic theme park being built in Russia with Tanks and military weapons. There has been some small aggression between Russian planes and NATO planes and ships. Also, in Eurovision 2015, Russia brought a really good singer that has gained the sympathy of many European countries, but not enough because San Marino and Lithuania gave zero points to Russia. I was really SHOCKED when I witnessed this moment. (Usually in Eurovision, countries support their neighbors). If you go to the north, in Siauliai, you can easily spot a lot of fight jets performing exercises in the air (they are rare in Vilnius). Some of the lithuanians I know have been call to the army. Things are getting serious.

rungtyniu-akimirka-50226b813c48eI will finish up by saying that I have many Russian friend and I really like them a lot, some I can consider as one of my best friends. They do not support the current government agenda but I love to learn everyday from them and it is interesting for me how Brasil and Russia have some things in common. The movie Leviathan even reminds me of things that happen in Latin America. This might be the reason why we are in the BRICS. I LOVE Russian classical music and Shostakovich 7th’s Symphony brings tears to my eyes, it makes you feel the struggle of the people during the siege of Leningrad (today’s St. Petersburg). Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony, Stravisnky’s Firebird and The Rite Of Spring, Horowitz playing Scriabin Etude’s. So many good music. Do not think that all Lithuanians are against Russia or want to initiate a conflict. Russia is part of the Lithuanian culture and you can speak the language that many people will understand you or talk to you with no hate.

Check my other posts related to Lithuania:)

#1 Work Enviroment
#2 Cultural Shocks
#3 More Cultural Shocks
#4 Kissing, streets, sun and soviet times
#5 Girls Girls Girls !!
#6 Food
#7 You are (not) my friend
#8 Beach walk, flowers, quiz and mosquitoes
#9 Russia

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[LINK] Working for client services in Lithuania

So here is the link to a short interview I gave to the marketing team of my company regarding my two years working in Lithuania. Enjoy 🙂

CS_Heroes

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Life In Lithuania #8: Beach walk, flowers, quiz and mosquitoes

2015-03-21_23-23-55Table Football – It is fascinating how much Lithuanian boys and girls simply LOVE table football. You can easily find them in most of the bars and also a huge line of people waiting to play. There are mini-table, normal tables and huuuuuuge tables. We have two table football sets in our office building and they are occupied 99,9% of the time. There are many tournaments. I love to watch lithuanians playing it, because they start cheering, screaming, swearing and displaying a lot of emotion (things they don’t usually do).

2015-03-21_23-33-04Quiz – There are sooooooo many quiz events in bars and restaurants, it is amazing. You can have your team and participate in a quiz on monthly basis. It is a clever way for owners of restaurants to make profits. I like to participate in some of them, but sometimes I just want to go to a sport’s bar to watch a football game, but have to wait the quiz to end in order to watch the football match 😀

beachWalkingLove for Nature – 99,9999% of Lithuanian girls I met enjoy waking into the woods and the beach shore. In Latin America, going to the beach means to take a sunbath and swim into the water, but Lithuanians usually just walk by the shore. Walk and walk and walk and walk and walk. One of my friends told me:

“The sea is magical, I like to listed to the sound of it, it gives me a good feeling. Sitting, relaxing, walking and looking at it. Not like you Alex, I know you go there just to look at girls’ asses :DDDD”  – Greta

2015-03-21_23-34-39Flowers – Maybe I was never a romantic person, but I’ve never seen so much flowers in my whole life as in Lithuania. WOW. Shops selling flowers are everywhere !! And during valentine’s day and international women’s day you will find the double of shops. You can also find them in many Facebook profile pictures.

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Mosquitos protector clothes. Essential in Lithuanian summer

Insects – It is stupefying the fact that there are so few insects. I might have seen two spiders in the whole time I lived in my apartments. In Latin America, if you pour by accident a couple of sugar on the table, you will see a million ants going after it some minutes later. WOOOW It is so cool lo live without ants. But not everything is perfect. Try going by the river during summertime, you might get eaten alive by mosquitos. If you go to the forest camping during summer, BUY A LOT OF REPELLENTS otherwise your weekend will become a terror movie.

Check my other posts related to Lithuania:)
#1 Work Enviroment
#2 Cultural Shocks
#3 More Cultural Shocks
#4 Kissing, streets, sun and soviet times
#5 Girls Girls Girls !!
#6 Food
#7 You are (not) my friend
#8 Beach walk, flowers, quiz and mosquitoes
#9 Russia

Posted in Europe | Tagged , , | 1 Comment