Participate Translate Blank profile picture

Senses of Vilnius - where?

Published on


As I'm sitting at the first Coffee Inn and blogging, I see a big add in front of me, vaguely inviting people to "sense - see, hear, smell, taste, touch Vilnius" - a hint about a new event from the Capital of Culture repertoire. This particular space is marked with an ear - people will soon be able to hear something, I don't know what. What can one hear in that space at the moment?

Chatting of teenagers, mumbling of a homeless man harassing people in search for a compassionate soul to give him some money, before he gets kicked away by a guard from a nearby cafeteria. This "sense" project, however, gives me some inspiration.

If I was to name my favourite place in Vilnius, that would definitely be the Karoliniskes marketplace. It's located a few bus stops from where I live, and I go there from time to time to shop for food. A while ago I realised that boycotting only Maxima doesn't make much sense - other main retail chains are equally evil. Recently a friend of mine was helping out some union activists, threatened by their employers at IKI. So now I try to avoid shopping in chain shops and supermarkets altogether, as much as it's possible in this oligopolic market.

So, marketplace. From beans to bags, from plums to plumbing tools. The good thing about it is that it's big, but not centrally located, and I think the density of people is about optimal. People from nearby villages and those who have big gardens drop by randomly to sell the surplus of their fruit and vegetables. There is a kiosk for milk products, which emits a scent of morning in a village. People in the centre sell dried herbs, dill and parsley, random courgettes and what not. It really gives a feeling that they sell what they happened to find ripe today, and it's not planned, not industrial. Obviously, people sell their goods without EcoAgros certificates - ecological agriculture has established itself as an important element of middle class lifestyle, while people from lower or lower-middle classes also care what they eat, but match it with the affordability criterion. Therefore they rely on personal connections: locals have retailers they trust. Actually, my landlady showed me who are the trustworthy people as she took me to show where the market is. She said that these are people who mainly grow fruit and vegetables for consumption, but always have some extra, which they sell. Therefore they don't use too many chemical fertilisers.

What is important for me is that I can feel the life itself when I'm there. People come and go, choose and bargain, establish spontaneous connections, meet people they know, consult (it's OK to ask the buyer ahead of you if the bread s/he's buying is good), and even share their stories if in the mood. This image would come to my mind when I'm invited to "see, hear, smell, taste, touch". Not a classy space in the centre.