I made it back to the U.S. right around midnight on July 4 after an amazing trip to the Baltics. I managed to rally for a bit yesterday, just long enough to get some laundry done and unpack the bags, before I crashed around 4:00 pm and slept through all of the fireworks and celebrations. Oops. I guess the trip – and travel – wore me out more than I realized.
The cities were absolutely beautiful. The structures ranged in age from medieval to modern, with a persistent sense of stepping into a history book. I quickly gave up on not looking like a tourist and walked around with my mouth gaping open as I took in all of the sights.
But as often happens when I travel, I was even more taken with the people than with the physical beauty of the place. The three Baltic states first declared their independence after World War I. Soon after, they were faced the first Soviet occupation, where their religious and cultural freedoms were threatened. The Soviets only left when the Nazis moved in, destroying the large Jewish population of the area. After World War II, the Soviets again occupied the region until 1991, when independence was again achieved.
At every turn, I was amazed at the spirit that the Baltic people showed. At their dedication to their culture and their community. After so much oppression, it would be so easy to give up. But that never happened. Instead, they kept living in spite of and persisted in what they believed in.
Flowers are very important to the Latvian people. I never learned why, but I like to think that it was because it was a little bit of beauty they could bring into their lives on even the darkest of days.
One of my favorite experiences was visiting this little neighborhood in Lithuania that declared its independence in 1997 (I even have a passport stamp from there!). Check out their constitution – I think they have the right idea!
My world has been expanded yet again 🙂 And now I think it’s about time for another nap…