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2013 10 9 07:25

The Prince of Winds. First part. Bora (I)

parašė Tomas

Europe of Ideas, or how it all started

“Man, you won’t believe it!” Donatas yelled out into my phone handset.

The sandwich I was eating stuck in my mouth. Lunch break at work is a sacred thing. Lying on my desk, there was today’s newspaper. The news seemed so dismal I could just go and hang myself. On January 16, there was a riot at the Parliament, and the media had been barking about it for the last two months. The national economy was tumbling down, professional unions were on picket lines, reforms were limping, and the impotent heads we watched on TV were mere observers of the situation who did nothing but discuss it among themselves. Could anything cheer you up more than a friend’s phone call?

“Man oh man, my man! We’re going on a sailing trip!”

“Who is we?” I hiccupped.

“Well, it’s you, me, Ričardas, and all of our friends. Everything’s been settled!”

That’s how the conversation that later proved to be a crucial one, started. I knew that recently Donatas had taken up sailing and was crazy about yachts, but I didn’t take it seriously. I am ashamed to admit it now, but at that moment I cared more about the sandwich I was eating. To cut the long story short, I didn’t show much enthusiasm.

“I’m telling you, man, we’re going sailing!” Donatas went again. “I thought everything through: we’ll rent a yacht, pull a crew together and off we go.”

“Not today, I hope?” I attempted teasing.

“No, of course not. In the summer! According to my calculations, the trip would cost us about 800 Euros.”

“All inclusive?” for whatever reason, my interest started growing. “Sounds a little expensive.”

���We could look for something cheaper,” he added hastily. “However, it depends how comfortable we want to be.”

“People won’t sign up.” I said, after giving it a little thought.

“Why?”

“Why?” I asked. “It’s because we don’t have a mission. The voyage should have a purpose, it should mean something.”

“Ah,” he muttered, “a mission.”

That’s how our conversation ended.

It came to my notice that many people do not understand the word “mission.” Sometimes, even successful businessmen or flashy consultants break down having heard the word. However, every boy who spends his days playing computer games knows exactly what his mission is. In all games, it’s given to you in one sentence: “Safely reach the German base and mine the area.” Or: “The civilization should be developed to the level of ancient Greeks.” There are no misunderstandings here, because a mission is a tool of agreement, an instrument which guarantees that the rules of the game are accepted by all. A mission is a prerequisite for a meaning.

Thinking pragmatically, I totally understood Donatas’ needs. He was learning to sail, therefore he needed practice at sea. Under the laws of Lithuania, a helmsman of the first category can take his exam only after at least two seasons of sailing, or after staying on a boat for at least 30 days and making at least 200 nautical miles. “These might be strange requirements, but what am I to do with it?” I pondered. “As a modern person of the 21st century, I must think and be personally motivated.” I purred with arrogance.

His vision was very sweet: a happy family on the Seychelles Islands, resting in hammocks on a yacht they owned. Or, perhaps, in the Maldives. Depending on the mood. Wonderful. It’s worse when you don’t have a vision. When you don’t have dreams. When you don’t know which of those misty islands could be yours. A vision is an image in the distance that gives us bliss and energy to reach for it.

These thoughts stayed in my mind for a minute and then they were gone. However, a few weeks later, Donatas, active as ever, showed up at my doorsteps with a bottle of rum, promising to make “the best grog in the whole entire world”. The sickly shine in his eyes was enough to understand that the man was drowning in euphoria. He could not stop chattering. He was clearly excited about something. I did not have to wait long to find out.

“Read!” he shoved a piece of paper into my face.

Now, as Vilnius and Lithuania are celebrating their millennium, what message could they send to Europe?

I suggest that your sailing journey should be in the footsteps of Mikołaj Krzysztof “the Orphan” Radziwiłł, a Lithuanian nobleman who travelled to the Holy Land in 1582-1584. He was best known as a commissioner of the first precise map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This historical figure is also of major importance from the deeper perspective: immediately after the voyage, he funded the construction of an early baroque Jesuit church in the city of Nesvizh in 1586. The church was built upon the example of the Church of the Gesu, which was constructed in Rome in 1583. This indicates that the cultural phenomena of Western Europe reached the Grand Duchy of Lithuania without any delay. This fact should be deeply conceptualized because it means that Lithuania was changing to become a truly integral part of Europe already in the 16th century [...].

Professor Dr. A. Bumblauskas (From the historical justification of The Gold of Lithuania)

After reading the beginning of the passage, I sat with my mouth open for a while. Then I read a few more pages. In them, the Vilnius University professor was historically justifying our itinerary: from Nesvizh, the home town of Mikołaj Krzysztof “the Orphan” Radziwiłł, to Venice, from Split and Dubrovnik to Durrës, Athens, Tivoli, Haifa and Jerusalem, from Alexandria to Rome …

“You’re crazy,��� I didn’t know what to say.

“Soon you’ll be crazy too, man!” my friend exclaimed.

He was standing with his back towards me, heating “the best grog in the whole entire world” on my stove. The aroma of cinnamon made my appetite rise.

“According to your estimations, how long will this trip take?” I furrowed my forehead as I read the long list of cities.

“Three months,” Donatas turned around and offered me a steaming glass.

“Are you sure?” I tried to express my doubts.

René Descartes once wrote that a person needs to doubt everything at least once in his lifetime. How would you not doubt a sailor who was putting together a sea route for the first time in his life? After all, neither he, nor I knew anything about winds. We’ve only read about northeast trade winds in books. I am ashamed to tell you, but in spite of the fact that I grew up by the sea, the words nord-ten-west or ziuid-ziuid-east to me sounded more like spells than commands.

“How long did you say the voyage will take?” I asked again.

“Whew! The Orphan traveled for two years!������� he retorted.

“For how long?”

“I don’t know. Half a year perhaps? I didn���������t speak to the captain yet,” Donatas corrected himself. “I’m meeting with him tomorrow. Cheers. Let’s toast the voyage!”


2013 8 12 12:44

Kurti Šventosios uostą? Kurti Palangos uostą?

parašė Tomas

Kai prieš savaitę buvo išplatintas atviras laiškas politikams ir atsakingoms institucijoms, koš�� užvirė kaip reikiant. Šventosios uosto problematika nuvilnijo per žiniasklaidą, turbūt kai kas ir atkreipėte dėmesį, kaip netrukus buvo pristatyta nauja Šventosios uosto vizija, imta kalbėti daugiau, atviriau, aiškiau.

VšĮ “Gold of Lithuania” delegacija apsilankė Klaipėdos Valstybiniame jūrų uoste ir susitiko su generaliniu direktoriumi Arvydu Vaitkumi bei infrastruktūros plėtros direktoriumi Vidmantu Paukšte. Pokalbis buvo įdomus ir prasmingas, daugiau sužinojome apie Šventosios uosto viziją, apie tai, kad problemos žinomos, tačiau Aplinkos apsaugos ministerija ir Susisiekimo ministerija kol kas negali duoti atsakymo apie tai, kaip vystyti jūrinį mentalitetą, arba to tiesiog nenori. Ką gi – paskatinsime juos iš kitos pusės.

Asmeniškai aš nesu kovotojas prieš kažką – valdžią, biurokratiją, įstatymus ar žmonių bukumą… Esu kūrėjas, ir mano darbas yra kurti. Esu linkęs prisidėti prie tų, kurie nori sukurti stiprų pramoginių laivų uostą Šventojoje, kurie svajoja apie tai, kad mažųjų laivų prieplauka galėtų atsirasti ir Palangoje, Rąžės upės žiotyse, tarp didžiojo tilto ir pagrindinės gelbėjimo stoties. Sakote, kol kas visa tai tik svajonės? Taip, kol kas tik jos. Ir tai, k�� matome šiandien Šventojoje – skersai uosto vartus braidžiojančius vaikus su mamomis, nė iš tolo nepanašu į nuotrauką, kuri iliustruoja uosto kūrėjų viziją.

http://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/ekonomika/4/23073/gaivins_smeliu_uznesta_sventosios_uosta_

Vis dėlto Uosto direkcija planuoja atstatyti Šventosios uostą. Esą jūroje nutiesus kelių šimtų metrų molus, uostas būtų apsaugotas nuo smėlio sąnašų. Nors pripažįstama, kad valyti akvatoriją vis tiek reikėtų.

Į Šventosios uostą jau investuota apie 10 mln. litų. Skai������iuojama, kad molų, krantinių ir kitos infrastruktūros statybos kainuotų dar apie 200 mln. Didžiąją dalį lėšų numatoma gauti iš Europos Sąjungos fondų. Statybas planuojama pradėti 2015 metų pavasarį.

���2014 metais baigus projektavimo darbus, mes iki 2015 metų galime turėti rangovą, jeigu yra užtikrintas finansavimas. Tokiu atveju pastatyti uostą iki 2019 metų yra tikrai pakankamai realu���, ���Klaipėdos valstybinio jūrų uosto direkcijos Infrastruktūros departamento direktorius Vidmantas Paukšt��.

Prie Šventosios uosto atkūrimo ir miesto plėtros ketina prisidėti ir Palangos savivaldybė, privatus verslas.

Ką siūlo uostas? Ogi skelbti viešąjį konkursą ir išnuomoti Šventosios uostą verslui. Tiems, kas norės galvoti apie jūrinį mentalitetą, tvarką ir naudą Palangai bei Šventajai. (Jei kas norėt�� kartu su VšĮ “Gold of Lithuania” dalyvauti šiame konkurse, prašome kreiptis). Vienas lauke ne karys. Reikės ir buriuotojų, ir žvejų, ir kaitininkų, ir vandens dviratininkų ar motociklininkų. Reikės jūrinių reikmenų ir drabužių parduotuvių, laivų pardavėjų ir remontininkų, žuvų turgaus ir rūkyklų, amatininkų ir suvenyrų parduotuvėlių, reikės viešbučio ir motelio, kavinės ir nedidelio restoranėlio, kebabų ir ledų kioskelių – jei norime, kad uostas gyvuotų, reikia kurti jį iš esmės – ne vien tik pirsai, molai ir uosto prievaizdas.

Bet tai – toli. O šiandien štai pradžiugino toks raštas. Mielieji Lietuvos Respublikos politikai ir valdininkai, gal nebeignoruosite savo piliečių? :)


2013 8 6 07:20

A Tale of Two Cities

parašė Tomas

By Tomas Staniulis

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness

(Ch. Dickens)

Those, who have been above the Arctic Circle at least once, know that one can hardly fall asleep there at the night of July. Especially if one forgets to cover its eyes with a piece of dark cloth.


(photo: www.flickriver.com)

Polar Day is like an eternal sunset, when the sun is swinging at the edge of the horizon, forgotten about the direction of the East and the West, as if a soccer ball striving to stay in the game. Nine pm: light as noon; ten, eleven, twelve pm – still the same… At one am you start losing confidence in your senses, you stare at the sky, feeling vertiginous from the proximity of the sun not less than from vodka, and start wondering what kind of force prevents it from descending. After several hours of contemplations –  when the fatigue starts prevailing – at five o’clock in the morning you step down the street all suffused with light, wondering: how strange it should be for a person to go to bed when the sun is still not tired.

The action takes place in Kirkenes a town situated on the coast of the Barents Sea, near the Norwegian-Russian border. The old Sami tribes, which lived in strange black rocks, did not even think of the treasures hidden underground. Until 1906, when the newcomers stated that railway tracks, bridges and guns can be produced from the black rocks. At that time only a few families lived here, a few sagged cottages and a small house of worship were standing in the centre, determining the name of the town: “kirkes” ��������������������������������������������������������������������� “a church”, �������nes” ������� “a peninsula”.

World War I along with the increased demand of iron impelled the first settlers of industrial society to come to Kirkenes, where they had to adapt to long summer days and winter nights. During World War II, the Nazis sent here 30 thousand soldiers who were supposed to attack Murmansk – the only ice-free port in the European part, which Russia preserved during the war. Nevertheless, the operation failed: within one day the Red Army simply sowed the town with bombs – only 20 houses were left unimpaired. The General Marshall plan helped to rebuild Kirkenes, despite the fact that the Soviets considered the plan to be the deceit of capitalists. So now, after the recovery, the city has been famous for its skilful craftsmen able to work the iron for already forty years.

Most of the four-thousand inhabitants of Kirkenes probably already pay no attention to the white nights. Especially because each of them comes unnoticed. Simply at a particular time of the day, birds stop flying, mosquitoes stop biting, cars rest at the street edges, people retreat into their warm nests and wait for the hour when the alarm-clock announces that the time has come to get down to work. Only Russian sailors can be met hanging around: up to a half a thousand reside here at different times of a year. Not surprisingly: one of the most important industries in Kirkenes is ship repair. To get off to a foreign port and not to have a cup is tantamount to a sin for a sailor. As a result, they are hanging around overcome by existential anxiety: the Homeland is just a few kilometres away, and the vodka is at least ten times more expensive.

Local people say that the criminogenic curve of Kirkenes directly depends on salary-payday in Russian ships. They are the reason why the townspeople have been looking for stronger locks in recent years. If the repair works of some old fishing boat ligers, your bike should not be left on the street – it will be stolen. Fortunately, the crimes are relatively trivial. According to the local people, the last murder was committed here in 2000. Similar legends probably hover in every smaller town of the world: a man returned from the mission early, found his wife with another man … Ah, no one is immune.

The second largest source of revenue for the town is tourism. Nearly one hundred fifty thousand tourists visit the town over a year. Of course, it is not our Palanga, which is devastated by such a crowd within one Midsummer weekend. Nevertheless, one must agree that tourism is a solid support to Kirkenes budget. And entertainment for tourists is marine – as appropriate for a town born on the coasts of northern sea. Salmon fishing, sea crab hunting with a picnic (all inclusive), an excursion exploring the fjords, or ��� for the sake of salt ����� to the Russian border. After all, it is just around the corner.

Therefore it is not a surprise that street names in Kirkenes are written in Norwegian and Russian – the relationship with Russia is quite strong. The writer Morten Strøksnes, born and raised in Kirkenes, acknowledges in consolation that he feels being “a child of the Cold War” – it is easy to understand why. He tells that he spent his childhood secretly exploring the military car convoy, feeling helplessness and anger. “War” after war took from people so much that it is hard to imagine. His friend, for example, lost both legs while blowing up a mine left from the war. Up to the groins. It is painful. And he himself, wandering into the woods like Heraclitus, gazed at the river and Russia meshed in wires on the other side, asking himself: �������what are those people who live there?” Peter the Great and Stalin? Lenin and Gagarin? Strange … After all, in Norway only deer are kept in such paddocks.

Brothers of the Cold War

Strange. Since here I also remember that I have seen a similar fence. In my childhood town – the most pleasant resort of West Lithuania – Palanga.

Under the windows of my bedroom, the garrison of the border guard was situated. Thus I got acquainted with a bleak everyday-life of the Soviets from the very early age. I could see the soldiers exercise under the Michurin’s spirit: how they feed pigs and chickens “in the local” stable, how they train dogs. I was very curious to watch the guys seated for a rest in the sunshine with a gun in one hand, and with a cigarette in another. It was very interesting to furtively watch from the balcony how the salagas (“recruits”) cleaned their AK-47; it was interesting until not a childish thought occurred in my mind: �����what would happen if those guns fired?” Like in a good play. Where all the guns shoot.

Hardly the Soviet Union could have been proud of such a procedure or the fact that citizens feel safe with it. The sickle and hammer crossed is not a real cross. “I did not feel secure” – I confess it to Morten. He nods his head, apparently understands what I’m saying. “But do we need to talk about the worst times?” – I assign him the question. It doesn’t matter what they were…

He is offended by the latter sentence – he set his lips in a “cold English way”. Personal reminiscences are too intimate to be easily forgotten. Not to mention that he is edgy – tonight he was earnestly devoted himself to his “great work” and now, when long evening is going to an end, Morten has already drunk three cans of beer… I just do not understand why hatred is reflected in his voice, when he speaks about his hometown. The sore must have burst long ago since Morten immigrated from Kirkenes more than two decades ago. And I am shuddering. From the thought how a man can have so many to get square with his town even after so much time.

All it takes only a moment – we are reconciled by deer. A small group of them descends from a nearby hill and starts nibbling the humps of grass at the railway track only a few meters from us. It should be noted that Kirkenes has this magical feature – to consistently reward with such wonderful phenomenological insights, against which any rage is powerless. The town stuns with its greenery, forests and scrub, fantastic bays, echoing seagulls – they seem to be reached by hand – flying with their open wings, roly-poly, ready for even the coldest winter… Or, for instance, here: five pairs of branched horns trundle in front of me, although the town centre is just around the corner! I even whistle. Five pairs of brown eyes glowing with kindness turn to me with peace.

I stretch out my hand to a Norwegian, who presses it with a serious face. After all, we are so alike ����� brothers of the Cold War. So what that our summer is almost three times longer, we still keep complaining that it is too cold for us. Without taking into account the fact that we have three months of the most beautiful spring and three months of the most colourful autumn. There, in the north, snow falls in early October and stays up to May. And when the polar night begins, the sun does not slip through the veil of darkness for several months.

“It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us” – so I want to continue to quote Charles Dickens. I bow my head before this romanticist of the nineteenth century, who has been able to discern the essence of the past. Morten and I looked at each other: our and his pasts are alike. The town of my childhood and his hometown have experienced a similar story. Although a few thousand kilometers separate them.

Following Stalker

When being in Kirkenes I heard someone speaking about exotic Russia, I smiled quietly: I have been there earlier. Once I myself saluted the flag in the pioneers’ camp, touched a dirty rouble, choked with “Stolichnaya” vodka. Therefore, I was pretty sure that the wooden Matryoshka would not admire me. Russian border, border guards with “Kalashnikovs” on their shoulders, carefully counting tourists in a bus for a number of times – all this was also familiar to me. I used to play football with some of them in Palanga; when they decided to entertain themselves, they used to climb over the fence and offered the elder boys of our yard to play for a packet of cigarettes.

Looking out of the window of a bus wheeling to Russia, – eyes are squinting from the greenery. During that short time of warmth, trees are struggling to come into leaf and grow new branches. The customs office, named after Boris and Gleb – the two saints, conservators of Slavic Russian, ����� and here we appear in another country, where even the clocks are obliged to show Moscow time.

Our destination is Nikel, the administrative centre of Pechengsky District, located approximately 210 kilometres from Murmansk. What makes it special? Nickel refinery, built as early as in 1940, is operating here and providing employment for nearly every working man in the town. Every year, about 7,5 million tons of copper-nickel ore are extracted from the nearby mines. All of it is processed here at the factory, which also receives a significant part of ore accumulated by the global business conglomerate “Norilsk Nickel”. The extracted metal is mainly used in the military industry, therefore it is not so easy to get inside the factory. On the other hand, it may be inspected from the outside – everything is perfectly seen when driving uphill, leaving Nikel aside. A valley stretches on our left, where a factory building is situated with three steep chimney phalluses, which produce the smoke landing on the nearby town as dark mist…

The view is shocking; how only one plant managed to turn the green valley into a bleak desert? The Stalker of the famous Andrei Tarkovsky probably did not realize that there is some place under the sun worse than the zone: the grass poisoned by the acid rain, upstanding miserable wooden sticks ��� overcome with horror I gaze at the burnt wasteland extended up to the horizon. I take a deep breath and feel black nickel dust irritate the lining of the nose, the mouth eventually starts feeling something slightly sweet and nasty. If death has a smell and taste, most likely it is just like that.

A guide explains that the Norwegian government “pushes” Russia to take actions on nickel ecological situation. It is estimated that the nearest “clean town” has almost two times lower number of infant malformations than Nikel. “How about people? – I ask the guide. – How do they live here? “This is how they live” – she is reluctant to discuss. This is her “square����� defence. Apparently, she considers me to be a stupid foreigner who pokes his nose into other people�����s business. “Probably, they get sick… Often? Are malignant cases more frequent? – I ask with pauses. “They not only get sick, but also to die” – she snaps out turning away. While listening how she continues to tell our group something about the history of the region, I catch her look again – it reflects distrust.

Are my questions really so naive? Socrates learned from his mother’s midwife, to ask people various things – this is how the Socratic dialogue was born. Poured with questions women in childbirth would forgot labour pains, while the Greek philosopher, acting innocent, used this method to “pull��� the true essence from his interlocutors. In this case I am in worse situation since I have to understand the essence on my own. What if Nikel is nothing but the reproductive settlement, which aims at delivering strong homo sapiens employable in this hell machine?

We descend down the mountain to the town and we can take a closer look at this “triple-phallus” monster. There are also smaller chimney-pipes; like Franz Kafka’s beetle, magnified perhaps a thousand times, the plant moves and hums, lets cars in and out of its territory, puffs and seems to be slightly gradually moving towards Nikel. As if a mockery of the whole – a modest cemetery appears nearby. Some sort of mystique – the average age of people sleeping under headstones is only 44…

We enter Nikel. This town that raises fifteen thousand bodies of inhabitants is far from resembling a prosperous administrative centre rich in useful minerals. A block of decrepit slums welcomes at the first place, then a network of garages, behind them – weary church (Boris and Gleb), which was turned into dom kultury during the Soviet times, when people were forbidden to believe in God. Dante comes into my mind: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”… We reach the downtown, where there are five-storey residential houses and dilapidated shacks with broken windows, covered with bags and shut with plywood, polyethylene, etc. The gastronome and the market, crammed with cheap Belarusian and Chinese commodities, the store “Raduga”, the beer bar “Tri bokala”, the restaurant “Bielyje nochy” – of course! ��� How to do without them?

We stop in the yard of blocks of flats ��� cars “Moskvich”, “Zhiguli”, a group of retirees in the shade on a bench playing domino. In the middle of the yard ������� Nikel Historical Museum, the building probably is better than a barn, however, recalls nothing but a warehouse of the Soviet-style, where a ���deficit����� was stored: latticed windows, wrought-iron doors. Although, in fact, there is nothing even to store. Merely one old-fashioned Sami cradle with a voo-doo doll, a few icons and a rich legacy of socialist-realism era. Here���s a sculptural composition: “A proletarian, a hammer and an anvil”, a painting kitsch – “Workers pour nickel���, the art of photography – �������Construction of a new block of the plant, 1956���, under the glass – “The work of proletarians” – a poem of a local poet, printed in a yellowish local newspaper half a century ago.

Nevertheless, it is stupid to think that belief can be inspired by propaganda. Perhaps it took human victims as well. The next room of the museum exhibits the Coat of Arms of the Soviet Socialist Republics in its full beauty, the exhibition is decorated by a light machine-gun, anti-tank mortar and outdoor kitchen with a leaky boiler. History tells us that on the 18th of October, 1944, the Red Army liberated Nikel from the German invaders. Meanwhile, Kirkenes was liberated by the same soldiers just a week later, on 25th of October. “The Church���s Peninsula��� was the first to have been recaptured by Russian troops from the Germans in Norway. It turns out that Nikel is also a Town of Heroes famous for a number of eminent generals, whose photographs are hanging on the walls of the second room: elderly men and women with so many orders and medals hanging on them that their garb resembles the armour of ancient Lithuanians. And, a giant digest of the slain during military operations is lying right next to it, a sort of “Tibetan book of deaths”: names, surnames and statement underneath: ���not returned from the front”, “missing���, “killed at the front�����, “killed during the bombing”.

Well, finally, the third room – holy in holiness ��� a memorial to Yuri Gagarin. The astronaut, who inspired entire Russia for great deeds, found his altar even in this corner of the world: for a few years after the war, he was practicing in the former military base just a few kilometres away. This is his only relation with Nikel, however, the direction to the bright future has already been set out: photos from his childhood, pages from his biography, copy of the diploma, drawings of the eight-class students of school № 3 under the topic “I and the cosmos”, and even a collection of matchboxes’ label – a smiling face of a demigod Gagarin is depicted on all of them.

The Seventh Muse

When looking from above, I recalled the afternoon in my memory, when five salagas from the garrison climbed over the fence and offered to play a game. ���A vy labasy v futbol igrajietie?” – asked a sergeant with dark moustache and pulled unopened pack of “Kosmos” cigarettes out of his pocket. Five against five? Four courtyard fellows looked at each other: it was more of them; I, the youngest, wasn’t even counted. I was only in the sixth grade, and they all were seventeen and eighteen years old. A vot tot piatačiok?” ��� an almond-eyed lad idly poked me with his tattooed finger. Now I remember that we really played, but I cannot remember who won. Cannot remember at all.

After leaving the museum, I try in vain to revive the memory. The sun in the sky is excessively hot, not even a bottle of mineral water helps. The guide reports that we have “free time” until lunch, so it is just the time we went to the ���heart” of the town and had a look at local people. It is really thick in the central square: grannies with tucked skirts, women with “rude” provincial make-up, girls in short colourful skirts, and staggering drunk males nearby. Life is boiling: minors ruffians with sooty faces are turning around with their bicycles scaring pigeons off. Young couples are cuddling on the benches, small children are flinging around, completely innocent for being born in this place of the world forgotten by the God and people.

It is scary to think that the only entertainment for the town inhabitants is to go to the central square of the town on such a warm day like this. In Nikel, there is no cinema, theatre or concert hall, no shopping malls, sports stadiums, in addition, the summer does not stay too long in this land of poison and cold. TV forecast telling that the air can reach +20°C is confirmed just a few times a year. Meanwhile in winter, when the north is blowing and the temperature drops to -40°C, do not dare to stop when out into the street. You will get your hands, toes, ears, and maybe the nose frostbitten. People who live here are cut off from the outside world, because even the relatives who wish to attend the funeral have to go through a huge apparatus of permits, vouchers and pripyski. People of Nikel are tethered to their town because they will never be able to exchange their possessed accommodation – it is highly unlikely that at least someone appears willing to settle here. And to adapt to those who cannot leave this poisoned town so that to feed forever hungry furnace of the plant with their sweat.

“So this is how they look like… hostages of their hometown” ��� I mutter looking at the square. On the one side, the car “Niva” stands with two patrols observing through their tinted glasses whether the workers stinking with Saturday hangover are not going to start a fight. Sort of a counterweight – on the other side, there are boards of honour and “Our leaders”. The only local cultural centre is named after the codename “Voschod”, apparently, in honour of a new spacecraft. Under this title, there are sculptures of six bronze women that could represent both muses and workers of collective farms, one holding a harp, and another – a bound flock of grain crops. In the centre of the square, as if the golden calf, the idol of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known under Lenin’s nickname in certain circles, erects. The left hand in the pocket of his overcoat, with a hat on his bald head, his right hand put forth in a prophet’s position – as if the seventh muse. Interesting, which role it shall assume: of Melpomene, the inspiration of tragedy, or of Terpsichore, the muse of dance and hymns? �����Want to take a picture nearby?��� – I hear the question. “No,����� – I shake my head. I have read the Bible, I know what is going to happen to those who worship strange idols. In addition, to be honest, I have unfinished business with Volodya.

It happened on the same day when the yard children competed with the Russian soldiers. It was the event I was thinking about when standing in the gate and watching my team on the other side of the pitch trying to do something like an attack. During the Lithuanian language lessons, me and my friend took the core out of the ballpoint pen and made a gun worth the Amazon natives – a tube. However, we replaced the arrows moistened with snake venom with chewed paper lumps. The battle was just fantastic! My spits reached the target – the head of a friend sitting two desks forward ��� one after another. He in turn was not so successful: to wait for a moment when the teacher is not watching, to turn around and “shoot” me – it required a certain agility. Saying in football jargon, playing against the sun is always more dangerous.

Especially that my opponent underestimated the situation: I was sitting in the last desk, there was only a wall behind my back with a stand including class schedule, the poem “Mother��� rewritten with markers and a quotation of Volodya about the value of education for a Soviet man, arranged from letters of white paper. Meanwhile, in my �������������������������������������������line of fire���������������, there were backs of my classmates, the board and the teacher standing next to it.

After another missed “shot” of my friend, the teacher suddenly stopped explaining the peculiarities of the passive participant inflexions, without terminating the sentence. I had not seen that someone�����������������������s face can become so red with anger, almost swollen. The teacher quickly approached my friend�����������������������������������������s desk, took him by the shoulder and dragged into the middle of the class. �����������Animal! – screamed in anger. – How dare you?” It appears that the quotation forming consciousness  of homo sovieticus, hanging above my head, was stuck with three tiny lumps of spinning paper chewed by a twelve-year-old pupil, resembling flies.

“This is an insult! Provocation” – the teacher’s voice was roaring in deadly silence. My classmate, being in the grip of steel, with tears of helplessness in his eyes, was futilely squirming and whining: this battle was not a duel between David and Goliath, but between the jailer, and an ordinary sixth-grader. The high and the low. The judge and the guilty. The first was dragging the second left-right like the wind tosses a kite. Blind from the pain and grievances, the child was trying to hide his face in vain, seeking to avoid the potential attack. “Go to the Director, you pig! Whom did I tell?!”- the teacher lost his temper and threw the classmate to the floor at the door so heavily that the poor one even urinated with fear. If anyone is interested, that little puddle was later cleaned by our class girls with disgust…

Music of the Spheres

So now, behold, I am a dust sitting by the feet of the “spitted” one on a pedestal, and I think what else I could say to him, Such. Before leaving. Forever. His monument once also stood in my hometown Palanga – in exactly the same central point of the square. Behind him, there was an avenue, a bank building, and by the foot – a bed planted with begonias and pansies. We, the children, assumed that, apparently, someone had been buried here. However, it did not stop from silly jokes about how hard it was to be a statue: “no climbing, no idea what�����s going behind your back, and pigeons keep shitting you on the head”.

In that avenue, there were benches on which the youth would have a sip of vodka before dances and would kiss with girls. On one of those benches I got drunk for the first time… Out of the grievances. Just because I could not invite one girl, whom I was fond of, for a dance in an “extra-curricular party” of the class. We were drinking old Georgian brandy ���Bielyj aist” having a traditional Lithuanian tree cake for a snack. It was not tasty for my comrades, while for me – the perfect taste, so I did not walk home by myself, but was brought by them. However, this is not even the reason, Vladimir Ilyich, why I would like to take your ears off your head. It happened much later before our first collision.

After all, during the pitched battle between Lithuanians and Russians, while standing in the gate and thinking about the classmate who had been beaten on that day, I missed the most important counterattack of the Russian soldiers. Some of us – the defender and the midfielder – simply stood and watched with astonishment how the enemy soldiers recaptured the initiative, deftly transferred the ball among themselves and tossed the ball over the middle of the pitch. Without having any time to orient, I saw in front of me halfway naked, muscular Russian soldier snorting like a bull in the bullfighting. Rage and passion. Testosterone and adrenaline. Dangerous Moment! Kick to the gate!

A tough soccer ball slug me in the forehead with full violence. After striking my head, it flung upwards, quickly hit the crossbar and instantly entangled in the network. I did not hear the whistle, thus, probably, there was no offside. I did not hear it because I dropped dead and rolled in a cloud of dust. Everything was before me, nothing was before me ��� the red evening sun was teasingly shining into my eyes…

I cannot continue wandering in my memories because some rhythmic music reaches my ears from huge megaphones on the opposite corners of the central square of Nikel. I am short of words to describe it. It is not folk, not classic and not even pop music, but some scary beat. This is all the people need for their rest! Music drives thoughts off. Sows fear and anxiety. Apocalyptic four notes kill the fantasy, bass rhythms are “cool”, waking the most lascivious passions of a human. I agree to drink the ashes of Pythagoras dissolved in wine, if anyone proves that this sound is the “music of spheres”. Probably, this is hell. If reincarnation really exists, the greatest sinners should rise here. Let this be my curse for those who devastate this town and force the people to listen to its dying agony.

I cast a glance at men sipping beer on the hill beneath the “muses”, at young girls, shelling sunflower, at a dishevelled nude, dressed with far too short and too muddy soccer pants, but still building blinds to the windows of a cooperative shop. On the other side, a group of young people with short hair and their best tracksuits is sauntering around… Currently, they have barely reached the age of maturity, however, in this poisonous town, it is right the time to mate. The factory as a prison accepts everyone. It is scary to realize that few of them will have grandchildren. I feel uncomfortable to face their envious glances, angry and even aggressive looks. One must understand that in a place where it is important to survive everyone Else becomes a prey.

We do not gather at the bus – much safer to share first impressions inside. ���Thanks God, I will that never return to this town again!” – I hear a comment from a more emotional Norwegian. I also do not want to return to the town which does not have grandchildren. Although I know that if the Lord puts sandals on my feet and hands a sick in my hands, I’ll have to rise and go. Yes, I will rise and go.

Epilogue

By the way, you probably would still be willing to know how the football game ended up? However, I cannot say. Honestly. Because of the consequential brain injury I spent nearly two weeks in the hospital. I know that then, lying in the bed, I read Ch. Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” for the first time. And then I decided to write something of my own.

2013 8 1 07:15

Atviras laiškas "Ar Palanga ir Šventoji jūriniai miestai?"

parašė Tomas

Gerbiamieji politikai, institucijų vadovai, pajūrio gyventojai,
jūrinės kult��ros mylėtojai ir puosel����tojai,

kreipiamės į Jus buriuotojų bendruomenės ���Gold of Lithuania“ vardu, sub������rusios daugiau kaip 2000 �����������Facebook“ socialinio tinklo narių Lietuvoje ir užsienyje. 2009-2013 metais m��sų buriuotojai plaukiojo Baltijos, Juodosios ir Viduržemio jūrų akvatorijose, išk��lė Lietuvos vėliavą daugiau kaip 80 uostų, taip reik��dami pagarbą savo valstybei pagal jūrinius papročius, todėl galime palyginti jūrinių kultūrų skirtumus tarp Lietuvos ir užsienio valstybių.

Nepaisant visų mūsų ��alies buriuotojų, laivavedžių ir žvejų pastangų į klausimą, „ar Lietuva ��� jūrin�� valstybė, o Palanga ir Šventoji ��� jūriniai miestai?����� su giliu liūdesiu ir nuoskauda Jums tekt�� atsakyti neigiamai. Palanga ir ��ventoji yra miestai prie jūros, taip gatvėse galima nusipirkti kapitono kepurę ar j������reivišką skersadryžę, tačiau jūrinės kultūros ir atmosferos, kurią Viduržemio ir Juodosios j������ros uosteliuose sukuria mažieji laivai, deja, mes dar neturime. M������sų pajūryje tikrai nepamatysite tiek laivų ir laivelių, kokie plaukioja Ispanijos, Italijos, Graikijos ar ��Turkijos pakrantėse.

Pagal Jungtinių Tautų Jūrinę konvenciją, kiekviena valstybė turi teisę nustatyti savo teritorinės jūros plot����, neviršijantį 12 j��rmylių, matuojamą nuo bazinių kranto linijų, nustatytų pagal šią Konvencij��. Tai reiškia, kad kiekvienas Europos S��jungos ir Lietuvos valstybės pilietis turi teisę plaukioti iki 12 jūrmylių nuo kranto. Paradoksalu, ta������iau Palangoje ir Šventojoje, netgi nuleisti savo maž����jį laiv�� į jūrą yra sud����������tinga misija.

Pirma. Pajūrio ruožas nuo Klaipėdos iki pat Latvijos sienos šiuo metu atitvertas galinga biurokratine užkarda. Tas, kuris nori nuleisti nuliesti savo mažąj�� laivą �� j����rą, automati��kai pažeid��ia įstatymą, įvažiuodamas �� privačią arba valstybės saugom�� teritoriją, ta teritorija pa��ym����ta draudžiamaisiais ženklais, už kuri���� pažeidimą baudžią policija.

Antra. Ministerijos ir kitos reguliuojančios institucijos ligi šiol nesutvarkė įstatyminės baz����s ir neparengė aiškios tvarkos, kaip pad��ti mažųj�� laivų savininkams nuleisti savo laivus į jūrą pakrant����je į ��iaurę nuo Klaip��dos. Nors numatyta, kad šiame pajūrio ruože atsiras 12 (?) ��taškų, kuriuose mažųjų laiv�� savininkai, žvejai ar buriuotojai galės nuleisti savo laivus į jūrą, visas šis procesas juda kur kas lėčiau nei smėlis, skandinantis Šventosios uostą. Palangos savivaldyb�� neturi procedūros, pagal kurią galėtų išduoti leidimus plaukti į Baltij��, Pajūrio regioninis parkas teigia, kad Aplinkos ministerija ligi šiol nepatvirtino tvarkos, pagal kurią būtų galima sudaryti mažiesiems laivams plaukti į jūrą. Savo ruožtu Palangos policija teigia neturinti galimybės išduoti leidimo pažeisti kelio ženkl��, draudžiantį privažiuoti prie jūros.

Pavyzdys. Šiuo metu Regioninio parko direkcija gali tik išduoti raštą, kad sutinka kuriam laikui leisti žvejams nuleisti laivus Karklėje arba Nemirsetoje, šalia Palangos. Nesant sureguliuotos ��statyminės bazės, vėlgi pažeidžiamas ekologijos ir higienos kriterijus – ��tai Nemirsetoje žvejai, turintys laikin�� galimybę nuleisti savo laivus �� j����rą, jau antri metai skund����iasi, kad nėra tualeto ir dušo. Pabandykite įsivaizduoti, kaip jaučiasi žmogus, grįžęs į krantą po paros jūroje.

Tre��ia. Šventosios uostas, nors ir kurtas populiarinti mažųjų laivų laivybą, deja, žmonės, norintys nuleisti į vandenį savo mažuosius laivus (valtis, burvaltes, katamaranus, vandens motociklus ir t.t.) susiduria su sunkumais, nes vasaros metu Šventosios uostas prigrūstas automobilių, privažiuoti yra neįmanoma, o čeburekus šlamščiantys poilsiautojai ir j�� vaikai žioplinėja po uosto teritoriją, lipa ant transporto priemonių ir t.t. Pažeidžiamas saugumo kriterijus ��� uoste renkami ir montuojami galinti varikliai, galintys nukapoti pirštus čia žaid��iantiems mažyliams. Pažeidžiamas ekologijos kriterijus – uoste yra dyzelino, benzino, tepal����, yra nuolatinė gaisro rizika, tačiau pašaliniai ir su laivyba nieko bendro neturintys ��monės bindzin����ja aplinkui, nėra įrengta specialių vietų gesintuvams, žvyrui ir t.t. Pažeidžiamas ir tvarkos kriterijus – viskas čia yra chaotiška ir iki nelaimės, neduokdie, vos vienas žingsnis.

Foto. Šventosios uostas 2013 07 28, 13.30 val.

Ketvirta. Palangos ir Šventosios miestai neskatina jūrinės kultūros. Taip, politikai, verslininkai stengiasi, kad Baltijos jūra atrodytų graži, tačiau užmiršta parodyti ir kitą jos pusę – neįtik��tiną Palangos grožį iš j��ros pusės – Šventosios švytur��, Palangos tiltą, Olando kepurę… Toks dalykas yra sunkiai įmanomas, nes mažųjų laivų laivyba Baltijos j��ros pakrantėse nėra tinkamai sureguliuota, įstatyminė bazė nuolat kinta, kas kenkia bet kokiam verslui, susijusiam mažaisiais ir pramoginiais laivais. Tarptautiniai duomenys rodo, kad poilsiautojas, turintis jūrin�� hobį  (žvejyba, sportas) ar įrang������������ (valtis, burvaltė, katamaranas, vandens motociklas, burlentė, etc.) atostogaudamas išleidžia 1,5-2,5 karto daugiau nei sausumos žmogus. Todėl laivybos ma��aisiais laisvais skatinimas galėt�� būti parama smulkiajam ir vidutiniam Palangos verslui, žvejams, žuvies rūkyklų savininkams, pramogų organizatoriams.

Gerbiamieji, prašome Jūsų – grąžinkite Baltijos j��rą jūreiviams, mėgėjams, žvejams, buriuotojams ir t.t. – jie labiausiai myli ir tausoja gamtą, nes puikiai supranta, kad nuo to priklauso jūros ateitis jų gyvenimo kokybė.

Norint grąžinti Baltijos jūrą žmonėms, rekomenduotume:

  1. ��steigti Palangos ir Šventosios mažųjų laivų savinink�� asociacij��, kurios steig��jai b��tų Palangos savivaldybė ir laivų savininkai, šios asociacijos pagrindu būtų galima teikti pasiūlymus, kaip suderinti mažųj���� laivų savininkų veiklos plėtr�� ir visuomen��s saugumą Palangos ir Šventosios pakrantėse.
  2. Sutvarkyti įstatyminę bazę ir sudaryti sąlygas mažųjų laiv���� savininkams be didesni�� biurokratinių trukd����ių nuleisti savo laivus į vanden�� Palangos ir Šventosios pajūrio teritorijoje.
  3. Viešai ����iniasklaidai ir visuomenei pateikti tokių vietų s��ra����ą ir informaciją, kaip bus užtikrinami saugumo, ekologijos, higienos ir tvarkos reikalavimai tose vietose.
  4. Vie��ai žiniasklaidai ir visuomenei pateikti grafik��, kada bus galima naudotis naujai įrengtomis mažųjų laivų nuleidimo vietomis.

Jei ��������gyvendinsime tai, galėsime pasakyti, kad Palanga ir Šventoji žengė dar vieną ma��ą žingsnelį jūrinių miestų link. Tam, kad Palangos ir ����ventosios simboliais b����tų laikomi ne pusgirčiai baltarusiai, o baltos bur��s ir mažųj�� laivų siluetai horizonte.

Pagarbiai,

Tomas Staniulis, V��Į Gold of Lithuania direktorius


2013 7 17 06:06

Istanbul, or the city with a bridge to the East

parašė Tomas

by Tomas Staniulis

„ – Where are you going from and where are you going to?

- I am travelling from the West to the East“.

After hearing these words in a narrow street of Istanbul, let’s not immediately think that the ritual secrets of old free masons are being unveiled in our presence. The merchants, who came to buy gold or jewels, cashmere wool, Japanese silk or porcelain in the market of the legendary city – Constantinople, – could also be greeted with the same words.

I.

The contemporary Istanbul has grown out of its predecessor’s apron – the city boundaries have expanded from the time of Constantine the Great. The old legend tells that the emperor, who bestowed the name to the capital of the Roman Empire, measured the boundaries of the city with his own feet. With a spear in his hand he took the forefront of the suite and, after a surveyor asked him “How far will you go, the Lord?”, he answered without hesitation �������������Until He who goes in front of me stops”. Today, after nearly two millennia, the city keeps growing. According to the official data, Istanbul provides home for more than 10 million people, although it is said that the population could be twice as much. It�����������������s no wonder, because the “great Turk”, figuratively speaking, has covered the Bosporus, separating Europe and Asia. Thus, being in Istanbul it feels as if one foot here, the other ��� there.

II.

When waiting for a flight to Istanbul, I remember trying in vain to overcome the chess game in the mobile phone at night in the Vilnius airport. It was bad luck, so I sluggishly scrutinized passengers gathering around. At first no suspicion arose, but later I began to wonder, why only women were clustering at the exit gate. All of them were middle-aged, with glossy polish manicure and massive golden jewellery, dressed in leather jackets of the same style and almost identical branded T-shirts.

“Look, – my most faithful travel companion gave me a poke in astonishment, – they know each other!” And truly, all women were greeting each other, distributing into groups and chatting. Hardly tourists, more likely – the secret fellowship: arbitrary signs, language code, no smile on the face, an expression of the eternal concern. And only huge bags, wrinkled like empty wineskins, prompt why single women leave their spouses sprawling at TV-sets and travel to outermost corners of Europe at the very midnight. The route is simple: the night – at the airplane, the day – in one of the largest markets in the world, i. e. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. The night in a hotel, the day – sweeping everything from the stalls that is marketable in our Gariūnai, another night in a hotel, and – hello, Lithuania! Who then dares to deny the words that the real fashion is born in Turkey? ���Armani”, “Gucci” or ���Prada” – after less than three days the same commodities, still smelling Turkish kebabs, will appear on wooden benches of the largest Lithuanian market, located in the outskirts of Vilnius, close to Klaipėda highway.

III.

Grand Bazaar, whose birthday has been already forgotten, has more than 4 thousand stores located in a separate area with kilometre-long streets, bistros, teashops and shoe repair shops. In a nook nearby a forge, there is a magic accessories shop, meanwhile police, postal, banking departments or even a mosque are situated next to an antique shop. The gold market, the colourful spices or Egyptian markets stretch along the neighbouring squares. You may walk and gaze only at silver shop windows for tens of meters, to examine gems until you start feeling dizzy and an agile Turk stuffs into your hands something you haven’t even dreamed about.

“Hello! Where are you from?” – the forever smiling faces of the Turkish merchants welcome you as soon as you enter the market. It’s too sweet. As if a melon within a watermelon. Disgusting to listen to. This is what they know perfectly well. To block your way. To catch by the hand. To drag to their place. In other words, to nimbly wrap around their fingers so that you would pay the whole price “dismounted from the sky” and feel as if dancing tango with the Whirling Dervishes. And, of course, everything is: “super quality”, “for the most fastidious taste”, “especially for You”, ���for the lowest price”.

Meanwhile, speaking about food, Turks are not fastidious. Tourist Menu – rotary: ����iş kebap, Lamb kebap, Beef kebap, Chicken kebap. You’ll still have to eat at least one of them every four days without joking. Circumambulation, so to speak. You may try it with rice or couscous, Greek pita, Armenian lavash or simply with a cut loaf of bread ������� the taste will be the same. No matter what you choose, the meat will be grilled on coals: in the city, where the majority of population are Muslims, you will hardly get slightly roasted meat. Therefore, the chicken will stick in the throat, the lamb will be dry, and the lovers of a steak with blood will probably have to moisten their throats with a glass of ���Bloody Mary”.

IV.

It seems that the prayer said by Constantine when he was laying the foundation stone in the masonry walls, reached the very ear of the universe. The prophecy of the Neoplatonist Sopater, who led the ceremony of the city ordination and ensured the prosperous future of the city in his enchantment, was confirmed. The Holy Roman talisman buried under the emperor’s statue in the forum named after him forced the Fortune to turn its face to the hitherto small former Byzantine city. Therefore, nowadays there is probably not a thing that one could not buy in the market of Istanbul. Or would not want. According to modest estimates, 90 percent of the traders of Grand Bazaar believe that the greatest dream of the market visitors is to buy at least ten fur coats, twenty carpets, thirty leather-jackets and forty pairs of shoes… A few rolls of silk, half a hundred kilos of gold and silver, a ton of flour, tea or tobacco will definitely be useful in the farm. A goat and a camel will also profit – in case of failure to become a merchant, at least there will be something to eat. And what else can the cheese be made of?

There is no need to ask where the contemporary giant supermarkets of the Western world took the example from. Thanks God, their traders do not catch by the hand and do not poke the “Calvin Kleine” perfume under the nose. Unutterable obtrusiveness. Not only of the children running around with Spinnings in their hands, but also of the adult males. One was lagging behind for more than half an hour, trying to foist the ���Dolce & Gabbana” jacket. The negotiations with him reminded me the story of Daddy Fedor from “The Twelve Chairs”, only from a different angle. I walked away in a rapid pace, paying minimum attention to the nudnik, I simply wanted to see how much he is determined to lower the price. 90! 85! 80! Who gives less? 75, 70, 65 … The ears of a dead donkey. You’ll get from Pushkin…

Let it ride. I won’t incite your curiosity no more and tell you that this jacket was not worth those 25 dollars for which I did not buy it. Why? Because I hate stolen or fake things. And I want my spirit to be healthy as well as my body. “I will not be a merchant, I better be a pirate” – I wrote an SMS back to Lithuania. Hopefully, the one who gets it, understands.

V.

My mother used to call me a pirate when I was a child ������� a walk along the coast of the Bosphorus inspired nostalgia. It reminded me the myth about the bull Zeus, who kidnapped the beautiful Europe on its back; I listened to the scream of a seagull, I watched how she beats a yacht on the horizon, and I realized that the true magic of water lurks in the sea. The cannons, undischarged during the assault of Constantinople, corrode somewhere in the depths; treasures of sunken ships are slumbering; the heart of a pirate, who choice to be cursed, keeps beating in an iron chest, entangled in algae. The rhythmic breaking of waves seems to program the brain to feel the attraction, the implacable need to hear them again and again. To start missing the calming feeling, the clarification of thoughts that comes while listening to a harmonious symphony of nature. And later rejects to desolate: adheres, interferes your fantasies, haunts in your dreams as for a drug addict, suffering from abstinence. The man apparently is such a creature: once he went out of the water, he wants to return to it again.

From early childhood I dreamed about going to sea. Perhaps its quit unoriginal, since in Palanga, where I happened to be born, every yard urchin dreamt about it, as created by the Divine. Excluding none. At ages from six to sixteen. We even were not frightened by the fact that some seafarers, such as Ulysses, had been doomed to search for their Ithaca for years and years. It is said that, after being casted by the sea god Poseidon to the opposite side of his home, Ulysses crossed the same Bosphorus, navigated around the Black Sea coast, and returned back to the Sea of ​​Marmara along the protruding rocks. However, at those times the bridge above this essential waterway artery was not built yet. And I would not be surprised if the imaginary Poseidon’s revenge for the stabbed Cyclops����������������� eye was only the support for the Greek geographers to draw new sea charts. And only later became a myth.

Nevertheless, the bridge between the West and the East, is real, not imaginary. I know that because here it is – directly in front of my eyes. On the one side, there is Europe, on the other – Asia. Five minutes on foot. Merely. Unfortunately, it was forbidden to walk on it from the early seventies. Almost 1,8 km long bridge of a unique design over the Bosphorus is the fourth longest bridge worldwide, that physically joined two continents in 1973. The caravans of lorries and trucks began to run there and back, thus unimaginably huge investments paid dividends in less than a decade. It took a similar period of time until the local government decided to close the �����suicide Mecca” of pedestrians. Among hundreds of suicides, who tried the most expensive in life Bosphorus spa treatments, included not only travellers, injured by the black eyes of Turkish women, but also businessmen, wishing to wash away the stain of stigma after a failed transaction. They fell down like chess pieces – out of 64 meters height…

One can only assume that this bridge, although being younger, has seen more throughout its life than the relative, described in Kudirka’s memoirs. And how many more has the very channel seen? How manyy merchants, pilgrims and minstrels, emperors and sultans, the Seljuk Turks, and the French knights? It is possible that even the brothers Templars Jacques de Molay and Geoffroy de Charny, sitting in this very place, discussed how to recapture the Christ’s coffin from �����������infidels”…

On Earth as it is in Heaven: cars are gathering on the bridge in cramped rows, underneath ����� ships pop in and out without stopping. Luxury yachts and passenger liners, private boats and military cutters, cargo barges, fishing trawlers ��� eyes are squinting. Nevertheless, it could not be otherwise in the port where the most important business, trade, pilgrimage and cultural ways accumulate. “The one who is doomed to be hanged, will not drown” – says an old pirate proverb. And if you do not want to bury your heart in the deep sea, you may lock it in a narrow mountain cave.

VI.

Last time Constantinople was razed to the ground in 196, much prior to the birth of Constantine. The Emperor, who gave us, the working bees, free Sundays, won fame as a patron of culture and arts. He also actively supported the reconstruction of the city and the construction of new churches. According to the English historian Norman Davies, in the reign of Constantine, the city was known as the Port of tolerance – the universal religious tolerance was announced. As a result, even nowadays, in Istanbul, one can observe a church, a mosque and a synagogue cuddled together in one place like sisters.

It is said that, in the last years of his life, Constantine experienced a vision ��� a burning cross with the inscription “IHSV”[1]. It is interesting that this abbreviation later became not only the slogan of Crusaders or the basis of alchemical rituals, but also the most significant symbolic meaning of the cross. After baptizing, Constantine proved that the cross can refer not only to suffering, but also to the government. It is a pity that it was the cross that killed Constantinople. In 1204, Crusaders seized and, instead of aiding to defend against the invading Turks from Asia Minor, captured the city, were looting, murdering and raping innocent people.

“Hey, bro, have a cigarette?” – I hear the screams of a shoeblack out of the corner of the street. I give it without contemplation. A friendly conversation begins – a Turk offers to clean my dusty sandals. Seriously? Thank you. We start talking, he tells that he comes from a poor family, they not always have what to eat. They can hardly make two ends meet: his wife is sick, two children are waiting at home. Almost of my age – thirty or more – tells his life story by heart.

I give one lira; after the monetary reform of 2005, cross out six zeros and the donated amount seems such a misery… �����Hey, the wife is sick!����������� – as if dissatisfied appeals to the conscience. Being ashamed, I give two. Refuses to take. �����You know, I need real money���, – slowly delivers in English, meanwhile his friend tries to flirt with my beautiful travel partner. Working in two, scams! “What about the apartment key?” – I asked appealing to Ostap Bender. It is a shame that the Turk does not understand. The flipped lira roll away the floor, I grab my companion by hand and move towards the centre.

Hagia Sophia, which has become the most easterly remote ground for Western culture since 537, appears in front of our eyes. One sees the Blue Mosque, which the Ottoman conqueror Sultan Ahmet decided to build in 1603 as an offset to the Church. The clouds over Istanbul are not less baroque than Tomas Venclova once saw in the capital of Lithuania. If I am not mistaken, he compared the clouds of Vilnius with the baroque style. Meanwhile Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque – just take a picture with a spot camera, stick a stamp, write seven words: “Dear Mom, greetings from Istanbul, kisses, son”, and send. At home address.

VII.

In the room of my childhood, I constructed a ship of logs; however, I did not know what to make the sea of. Before falling asleep, I used to spend long hours considering whether it is possible to construct something similar to waves using the construction parts, bolts and nuts. �����And how to make them surge after that?” – such a complex issue was being considered in my small head������� It turns out that I was lacking imagination.

In the kindergarten, on the occasion of February 23, the teacher decided that we would play the game “Cruiser “Aurora””. A group of squatting and hands raising kindergarteners represented the sea, one girl played the sun, one boy – the wind; chimneys, cannons, the captain’s bridge and even the helm were built. The kindergarteners had to demonstrate this directorial improvisation to their parents all poshed up during the ceremonial evening. It would have been nice if only the propaganda performance of children had not been a “pre-planned” campaign to convince that the kindergarten personnel is loyal to local partkom partorg, to the district���s partkom secretary, and, of course, to the party itself.

Analyzing the faith of Abraham, Kierkegaard made an excellent comparison, stating that the one, who wants to learn to swim, can learn swimming movements by being hanged at the ceiling with a belt and imitating them. Nevertheless, according to the philosopher, in this case, although imitating swimming movements, one is still not swimming. Similarly, during the final rehearsal, we could not understand what drama tricks our teacher expects from us.

According to the script, I happened to be the captain, and my locker neighbour – our lockers were next to each other – the navigator. My first alternate was called a Asshole by the group of children. Because he came from a poor family, and evolved not the most pleasant smell – this could not be left in a locker. On that day we fell out with him again. Due to an apple, like the one plucked by Eve. From the conflict I gained a bandage on my hand, under which a mark of the six year-old child’s teeth was hiding, meanwhile he himself got a bruise under the eye.

Staring at that bruise, I could not hold the laughter. I chuckled, even during the storm, when I had to give essential orders so that the ship would not drown. ���The Wind” was blowing so heavily that, in order not to lose a sailor’s beret from my head, I had to tie the strips under the chin ��������� as I had seen other sailors doing in movies. I was proud with my beret, although it was not the captain���s beret, however, even my father could not have obtained a better one. He rented it for a bottle from an old sailor, who had lost his hand while fishing in the North Sea, and at that time was spending the period of individual living in our backyard.

Do you know how much fun is it to be the only one wearing the hat in the company? Great, a Fortune! Unfortunately, snub noses insult Neptune. I admit: I shed the crocodile tears when the Asshole dragged the captain’s hat from somewhere on the great premiere of the Winter Marine storm. A real one! Guess, from whose hands the opportunity to feel like a real captain slipped away? That’s right.

History never learns from the fact that Assholes lead the most significant events. What have I learned? The fact that the captain���s hat has to be earned. To be a pirate is easy – pierce the earrings in your ears, dress your eye with a black tie, sink the conscience in a bottle of rum and exchanged love into a quick ship with the Flying Oland. Ah, I will not be a sailor, let it be … Better a bathhouse attendant. Especially because my route further leads to one of the most impressive baths of the old Istanbul – Cağaloğlu.

VIII.

In 1741, Mehmet I gave this bath to the city. It is complicated to count how many sultans, pashas, imams, pilgrims or merchants have given their bodies and souls to the hands of the bathhouse attendant over those centuries. Once King Edward VIII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the composer Franz Liszt, who, as it is guessed, was a Mason, took the advantage of the bath. It is said that the actor Tony Curtis and even Cameron Diaz enjoyed the sauna because women have separate premises. In her bestseller “1000 Places to see before you die���, the “New York Times” reporter Patricia Schultz appointed a high tenth place to Cağaloğlu. I have nothing against it. And those, who concern about safety and hygiene, should stand at the end of a queue.

The bathhouse consists of an entrance hall, an intermediate room, the main hall and the hot nave. The hall has cosy benches, tea, coffee and beer are served for refreshment, newspapers are being read, including ���The Economist”, “The Times”. In addition, separate rooms have been cut in sides for the guests of the bath. They have a mirror, a bed, white bedding, a hanger, in one word, everything one may need for his/her rest if the bathhouse attendant’s hands appear to be tough enough. Here one may change, leave his/her clothes, to engirdle his/her loins with a towel, to slip into wooden sandals and start the journey throughout the centuries.

Turkish baths, which have become a phenomenon, have nothing to do with Islam, the Turks took them over from the conquered Latin peoples. The Christian world lost Constantinople in 1453. Although Muslims tried to seize the city for the first time already in 699, nearly for eight hundred years nobody succeeded to break the wall of Constantinople. The day when this was accomplished, during Easter, at the narrowest place of the Bosphorus the Turks built the Greatest cannon, capable to throw stone blocks of twelve quintals every seven minutes. Stone conquered the stone, and later another masterstroke was performed ��������� the Turks dragged their galleys to the Golden Horn creek by land, and the city lost its port. The spells were cast: Islam or death. Soon four minarets sprang next to Hagia Sophia…

When I had to choose between the sea and the land, I also doubted. After nine classes, I could go to a ship only as an ordinary seaman. Klaipėda port is still so small and professional school prepares machinists and fishermen. And seeking for navigator’s or at least pilot’s career, the path led to Simferopol or Leningrad. Naval Academy, and then be on your own, little seaman! Being afraid of the regime, I did not resolve to leave home. I was worried that the regime will constrain my brain and will not allow them to freely operate, to freely express its own words, to freely write. And after all, I wanted to be free, didn���t I?

IX.

An elderly bathhouse attendant opens the door to the main hall with a huge hexagonal alter and shows the hot nave in the corner. The stream springs inside, I enter a dim room and sit down on a hot stone. High above my head, there is a dome with hexagonal holes through which the sun rays spurt inside. As if through the clouds, as if in a fresco, which I saw in one of the churches visited that day.

Both the main hall, and the hot nave are of stone. The floor releases such heat that drops of sweat are accumulating on my forehead and falling down from the most protruding parts of the face: the nose, the tips of ears, the chin. Capt-Capt-Capt! I fail to count time after them, they drop faster than every second.

I’ll be honest, no man has ever touched me so intimately like that old attendant in Istanbul’s bath. Yet, it was not the most preferable thing in Cağalo������lu. And even not the fact that the Turk simply squeezed me until the last drop of sweat, cracked my Pinocchio���s joints, and then scrubbed me from the head to toes. The most pleasant thing was the fact that, after the bathhouse attendant finished the procedure, you could continue to lie supine on the altar and to stare up relaxing and feeling not worse than at the summer night by the sea. But only at the end of July, when the moon does not rise up, only its shadow is visible, and the stars are brighter than ever. Something like the most harmonious blue lodge was composed: there���s only you – head on the ground, covered with stars – and the sky.

Awarded with a second life, I leave the bath: I engirdle my loins with one towel, my shoulders with another, and use the third one as a turban for my bald pate. I find my attendant, offer him to have a glass of beer and a chat. Unfortunately, he is so hot that hardly understands what I am telling him. If asked how long he has been working as an attendant, he exchange a few words with his hot counterpart. �����Twenty-five years” – �����​responses. It appears that both his father and grandfather were the bathhouse attendants. I try to pull a cigarette out of the packet with my wet hands, the attendant comes to help, stuffs it into my mouth and lights the cigarette. As soon as I express my wish to have my hair dried, he rushes out and comes back carrying a comb, a handkerchief to wipe his hands and cotton buds. A fantasy.

���So now you probably decided to become a bathhouse attendant?” – my dearest travel companion asks me at my return to the hotel. She laughs. I also laugh. But I conceal something. Unfortunately, I won’t be an attendant, darling, I won’t. Because I will never wash the feet to every passerby who desires that. For money. I better to do it for free, when the time comes. To the closest people, to you, well, and to those twelve apprentices who remained hungry after the last supper.

X.

The greatness of the Ottoman Empire is revealed in the Topkapi Palace complex. Only this giant harem, standing since 1453, consists of 400 rooms, not to mention banqueting halls, libraries, dining rooms, recreation rooms, or servants’ premises. At least four thousand of the latter lived here together with the Sultan.

“The rich history of Turkey��� – one greedily swallows the saliva staring at the museum’s exhibition. Now it stores the legacy of Suleiman the Magnificent, fist-sized emeralds, walnut-sized sapphires and diamonds, rubies, implanted in the sword handles. Not surprisingly, the Sultan subdued the Prophet’s grave in Mecca and became the ruler of Islam, the Padishah. The awards from the greatest kings of England, Germany and France as well as from the Russian tsars testify the highest level diplomacy, which Suleiman the Magnificent led as if wives to his bedroom.

Nevertheless, the insatiable Sultan and Constantine the Great had something in common. Both of them realized that the state must be governed on the basis of religious morality, regardless of whether following Christ or Mohammed. Only before that, the houses must be build were people would be able to communicate with their God. This is why one built magnificent churches, while the other – mosques with blue star domes of fantastic beauty.

According to estimates, there are two thousand mosques in Istanbul. Small and cosy chapels not impoverished by tourists are filled with people five times a day. The start of the prayer is announced by a sober cry via minaret speakers: “La illah il-la-laah[2]…” Exactly the same sound echoes from the other side of the city; these cries include faith and hope, sadness and compassion, as well as the moans of Templars tortured on fire. For several minutes Istanbul simply sinks into the echo of the prayer, accumulating its majestic spirit.

It is interesting to observe how the Muslims takes off their shoes, enter the house of God barefooted and start bowing, after having washed themselves in washrooms next to mosques. “I, in turn, can describe religious movements, but I cannot perform them” ��� once wrote Kierkegaard. I saw with my own eyes how an old imam taught children in Süleymaniye Mosque to perform them correctly. To stand up straight after a lead, face to the East, to bend the back to the horizon, upside squared, then – to kneel and touch the ground with the forehead. To stretch again and repeat it five times…

While, the second lesson was given by Volkano, one of the traders of Grand Bazaar, with whom I drank apple tea at his store. �����I’m a simple man, ����� he said. – When I pray, I bow three times for Allah and two ����� for profit”. In other words, three times to welcome the god, and twice to ask him for help in business. Simple arithmetic.

“Maybe it is better to be a bricklayer?��� – I whispered to my travel companion, who was gazing at the arches of Süleymaniye Mosque with fascination. Judging from the view, the legacy of the great architect Mimar Sinan in Constantinople is even richer the Sultan’s treasury. During half a century Sinan built 321 masterpieces including mosques, bathhouses, libraries, palaces. Even 86 buildings of the general city architect from Suleiman the Magnificent times keep standing up to this day. Apparently, he knew where to place the cornerstone without asking the advice of the oracle Sopater.

XI.

Walking in luxurious Dolmabaçe palace, I was wondering whether there was any force capable of stopping time. Here, for example, travellers visiting this place are not recommended to plan their vacation by looking at watch dials donated by foreign diplomats and encrusted with gold and diamonds. They indicate: 9:05. The time when Atatürk, the father of the Turkish people, the last resident of Dolmabaçe palace, launched into the Eternal East. Up to this day, the entire Turkey pays Mustafa Kemal a one-minute silence on the 10th of November. In 1923, he, at that time being only Kemal-pasha, abolished the Ottoman Empire and proclaimed the Republic of Turkey. Later, after becoming Atatürk, officially established the name of Istanbul and ordered to change the previously used Arabic script into Latin script. It was an important step with the purpose to modernize Turkey and to bring it closer to Europe.

It should be noted that some relics still remain: let’s consider the word kebapçi[3] – the Arabic hook is attached and nothing to be done about it. Every step in the history leaves a scar not only in the face of the city but also in the nation�����s culture and consciousness. Perhaps this is why I chose kebabs, which are being sold in every corner of Istanbul, to represent the primary metaphor of the city.

The Turks stuff everything, what is at hand, into their “beloved ones”: meat, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, five types of spices, and a portion of fried chips. They make a kind of mix, which make you feel a thousand of tastes in your mouth and smell it a kilometre away. The same is with Istanbul, where Greek myths are mingled with the mosaics of the Constantine era, the Ottoman greatness ��� with the Roman Empire, men wear “Armani����� and women are wrapped in the abundance of scarves because only the legitimate husband and the father of the sky may look at a naked woman.

XII.

I never thought I would ever meet the Asshole again: after the kindergarten, we attended different schools and it seemed that our paths of life will never meet again. Therefore, I was shocked when, ten years later, after having decided to learn some karate movements, I joined the training classes and saw my old enemy, who was wearing exactly the same as I did – a white kimono. After nine classes the Asshole went to the professional school, studied how to operate steam engines and now was preparing for his first trip. So what that with the fishing trawler, so what that to the Baltic … Still jealous.

It did not take long, during the very first workout we stood one against one, eye to eye, face to face. As soon as the coach announced the start of a fight, the Asshole struck to my chin with the leg, practically to the same place where the sailor’s beret once was tied up.

It seemed that the time had stopped. Lying on the cold floor of the gym, I saw the coach’s face as if through the fog over Bosphorus. He was asking something but I could not hear what. The first thing I heard was the words of my enemy: “Got it, ha?” For what? “For everything, captain”, – spit out through the teeth.

Not clear? Apparently, I forgot to mention that in the kindergarten before projecting “Aurora”, I also discharged my own volley. When I saw the Asshole with the captain’s hat, I screamed so loudly that the teacher called an ambulance thinking that I was in hysterics. I was rolling on the floor crying until “the new” captain’s hat appeared on my head. Otherwise, the tops of the city would not have seen a miraculous performance of the kindergarten amateur team, and the teacher, of course, would have died of shame.

���So what would you like, my dear, the palace or the mosque?��� – I quietly asked my travel companion, looking at the boat crossing the Bosphorus. “A?” – I repeated, reminded, but did not get any response. I looked around ����� she was not there. I would have to go to look for her. I stood, turned at a sharp angle and walked to the East. There I saw the red sign with white letters: “Istanbul kebapçi”.


[1] In hoc signo vinces (lot.) – in this sign you will conquer (author’s note)

[2] La illaha il-la-laah Mohammedur Rasool Allah (Arabic) – There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.

[3] kebapçi (Turkish) – a place where kebabs are being sold.

Photo from: www.visit2istanbul.com


2013 6 13 19:10

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