We arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, but didn’t stay long. Crossing the Vilnele River, we left the capital city and entered the Republic of Užupis, a small but fiercely independent country completely enclosed by Lithuania. It has a population of 7000, of whom 1000 are artists (meaning that the unemployment rate is one out of seven, a distressingly high figure for these times). It has a president, a flag – actually four flags, one for each season, and a patron saint: Frank Zappa.
We knew we were in good hands when we saw Užupis’ guardian angel, ready to sound the alarm if there was anything amiss.
Passing down the street, we took the obligatory stop to review the Constitution of Užupis, conveniently posted on the street in 23 languages, including Yiddish, Sanskrit and Hindi. It contains the Užupian motto, “Don’t Fight, Don’t Win, Don’t Surrender” and a list of 38 unalienable rights and responsibilities. Among these are:
“Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnele, and the River Vilnele has the right to flow by everyone.”
“Everyone has the right to love.”
“Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.”
“A dog has the right to be a dog.”
“Everyone has the right to understand.”
“Everyone has the right to understand nothing.”
“Everyone is responsible for their freedom.”
“No one has the right to make another person guilty.”
“Everyone has the right to be individual.”
“Everyone has the right to have no rights.”
“Everyone has the right to not to be afraid”
Needless to say, Maggie and I fit in right away. We met an Irish writer in a bar (where else?) who told us to not follow the guidebook, but wander around and make some new discoveries. Good advice. So far we’ve discovered a hall of graffiti art, where to get the best croissants, and two wine stores that have a huge selection of wines that we’ve never heard of. Lots left to discover.
Gotta go – as a payment for his good advice, we promised to leave terrible reviews of the bar on TripAdvisor, so no more tourists will come in.