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Vilnius: Gateway to our Lithuanian Heritage

Posted on 12 June 2012 by christie

Vilnius

Vilnius, Colorful city of Baroque Architecture

The past month in Jordan and Israel was amazing, however we were delighted to be on our way to the Baltic Region. As we lifted off from Tel Aviv airport, our excitement for exploring a completely different culture of the world quickly set in. Moreover, we both have family heritage from Lithuania dating back to the 1800’s, before both our ancestors migrated to the United States. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was our first stop in the Baltic Region. Vilnius’ Old City still dominates daily life with locals out enjoying the warm weather among the beautiful Baroque style architecture and old churches. The town is quiet, peaceful and full of parks, cobblestone alleys and “Kavines”. We walked for hours with few cars or tourists around. It was like the city was our own.

Lithuanian hosts

Sigita & Vidas, our kind Lithuanian hosts

Amazing Lithuanian hosts
After a good experience in Singapore, we decided to use AirBNB.com for our stay. We found a three-story apartment very close to the Neris River and city centre. AirBNB is great because you get the benefit of a more intimate experience living with locals. Our hosts, “Sigita & Vidas” both work in the Arts and their home is beautifully decorated with interesting art pieces and cozy furniture. Their kindness began with their offer to pick us up from the airport at midnight on a Saturday night. Upon entering their flat, we were greeted by their adorable and friendly dog “Snoopy”. Sigita and Vidas made us feel like family. We shared stories about researching our ancestry and learned about Lithuanian culture. Sigita shared her authentic borst soup, cheeses, honey and strawberries. Our experience with our hosts was incredible and made our trip to Lithuania, searching for our ancestry, even more special. Continue Reading

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Jerusalem, the “Holiest City”

Posted on 30 May 2012 by brett

Old City, Jerusalem

Old City, Jerusalem (Israel)

If you haven’t visited Jerusalem, go! I am still hitting myself for not going until 36 years of age. There is a special feeling in Jerusalem hard to describe…. and I’m not saying that because I was raised Jewish. One super interesting discovery (of many) is that Old City is one square kilometer and consists of only 36,000 residents. An astonishing 72% are Muslim (26,000), 6,000 Christians (17%), and 4,000 Jews. Of the Christians, 2,000 are Armenian. The city is divided into four quarters: 1) Muslim 2) Christian 3) Jewish 4) Armenian. We wondered why a country “Armenia” has its own quarter? The answer is that Armenia was granted its space because it’s the only country 100% of one religion, Christianity.

Wailing at the Western Wall

Wailing at the Western Wall

With so many religious types, it’s truly amazing that Jerusalem chugs along in harmony. All we hear on the news is about Israel’s struggles to keep peace with the Islamic world. Our experience in Jerusalem (and Israel) has been nothing but friendly and peaceful. Of course, religious fanatics are there and very serious. The funny thing is that they typically ignore you as a tourist because they are so focused on their religious task at hand. Continue Reading

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Madaba, the “City of Mosaics”

Posted on 18 May 2012 by christie

Mosaic Floor Map

Mosaic Floor Map of "Holy Land"

Madaba, 30 km southwest of the capital Amman, was our first stop in Jordan. During our stay, the Jordanian people greeted us with openness and generosity. People were happy to help with directions, share a story or teach us about their country and traditions. The hospitality we received at the Queen Ayola Hotel was like no other we experienced during our 2012 travels. Well, we can’t forget about the wonderful Shan family at the Queen Inn Hotel in Inle Lake, Burma. Maybe we should start staying at hotels with “Queen” in their name. Our experience these first two days in Jordan really made us excited about traveling throughout the rest of the country.

Madaba City Views

Madaba City Views

The quaint little town of Madaba is known for its Christian Byzantine mosaics dating back to 200 AD when the Romans conquered Jordan. The town Madaba flourished for five centuries until it was devastated by an earthquake. It was abandoned until the late 19th century when the Christians from the south in Karak migrated to Madaba. Soon thereafter they found spectacular mosaics buried beneath the rubble. The discovery included the most famous floor map of the Holy Land found in what is today St. George’s Greek Church. Continue Reading

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