Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were part of the Soviet Union for nearly 50 years. The first countries to declare full independence (Lithuania did it in 90 and Latvia and Estonia in 91). Today they share the rejection for a past that many considered dark, and are more westernized than the rest of the former republics of the Soviet Union (they even avoid speaking Russian, language that many know to perfection). However, from the nearly seven million inhabitants totaling the three countries, about 20% are Russians who, although living there for decades, choose their native language. On the other hand, Finland, managed to resist and prevent the advance of the Soviet regime after World War II. It never lost its independence.
By Joaquín Sánchez Mariño
In Lithuania a man skillfully parks reverse and a crazy man stares at him. I walk down Sodu Street and realize that the capital is full of drunks totally fucked, dumb psychopaths threatening to meet you as if it were the most normal thing in the world. In Lithuania we went into The Good Gaucho, an Argentinian restaurant and try to interview its owner, who happens to be a Lithuanian who does not speak a word of Spanish. In Lithuania fried bread is sold and I cannot find Cappy juice. In Lithuania I falsely fall in love with a girl, who, sitting on the edge of the River, drinks beer illegally. I ask her a photo, we share the beer. In Lithuania I realize that Iki supermarket has few dairy products. I have again a condensed milk ice cream but nothing to do with the one I had in Brazil, year 99… In Lithuania we sleep in a hostel next to a place of tombstones (you can buy them for 200 litvias, a bargain), and I remember my grandfather, who, I hope, went to the afterlife with more luxuries.
In Lithuania I celebrate the goals of San Lorenzo, by love for a friend, and I think that Julian, another friend, would be proud. In Lithuania we traveled half an hour by bus to Trakai, the ancient capital, and went to a centuries-old castle to shoot videos as a joke to disrespect history. In Lithuania I decided to laugh at history a little more. In Lithuania I walk down the street and see a woman working in her garden. A raven comes out of a trash can. I go to a church and I think, while I look at the bodies of three martyrs covered in green, that the Church should renew its saints, or at least their pictures.
In Lithuania I overstep the mark at a supermarket buying bullshit that I throw away later on because there is no refrigerator. And I spend two nights and three days and I feel quite good. I doubt about the name of its capital, which is Vilnius, former Trakai and then Kaunas… In Lithuania we stay very little to unravel something. All seems to be superficial and sweet, so simply that softens.
In Lithuania I watch a lake and write an email to my grandmother, I think my mom is missing me and that travels are blessings in slow motion. In Lithuania I am in front of a computer and draft a short text that says that in Lithuania, while life seems to be so idiot, my harmony finds its imponderable shape.
Por Gastón Bourdieu
Something happened here. In a thick and heavy past. Riga. A cold and damp city with devastated and forgotten dreams, of hidden streets, muddy heroes, replaced monuments and histories always waiting.
Riga: a city of fictions non fictional but almost fictitious; intermittent rains, undecided skies, and athletic clouds; with ancient, confused, and peripheral centers; rivers of fairies and icy tales. With enchanted and disenchanted forests. Enigmas that nobody ever wanted to resolve. Riga, drunken nuts, smoldering demands and dialects turned into crossword puzzles. Accompanied by dropout; friendly statements and awful indifferences. A city of contradictions?
Riga, finite and innovative arts without contract renewal. Not impressive impressions. Admirable waits, winding corridors, castles prostituted by historical scribes. Unprotected building at heights; houses with fear of contagion. Walls discriminated by half-truths. Riga, flowers without friends, naive bridges, cafés sheltered in eternal hiding places, and blankets to cover anxieties. Silent noises, frozen blondes, alien lips. Bikes… always bikes. Illusions. Weddings. Photo cameras. Trolleybuses. Paving stones. Hills. Posters. Children. Old people. Churches. Religions. Riga.
Something happened here, city of conquests ignored in the West. Eternal capital, both, in its sovereign dependence and in its early Soviet freedom. With its Baltic air, unmoved, Riga does not get used to be Riga.
Por Hipólito Giménez Blanco
In the accelerated Baltic tour, Estonia seemed to be the last stop. Before arriving, I had not even pronounced the name of the country more than three times in my life (and I think I´m exaggerating). What I can say is that in Tallinn, unknown capital for twenty-four years of my life, I celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday. Andreas was our hostess in Estonia. He picked us up with his car, pure kindness that revived my prejudices: man who hosts three men…. strange. But, again, they were only prejudices.
He lived in the New World district (full of old houses), in a 50 square meters loft where the sauna took up more space than that of the kitchen, bathroom and study altogether. He organized our days at home: a Soviet cartoon time, homemade food and some beers to watch the semifinals of the Euro Cup. Strangely, he was not interested in knowing about “Trapito” or “Hijitus”, our cartoons heroes. The next day it was equally rigorous: he woke us up at seven o´clock and ordered us to explore the city, later on a lunch together and a car ride, fifteen minutes at the Russians monument in honor to the expulsion of Swedes, an hour at the beach, half an hour at the open amphitheater and two at the TV tower created by the Soviets during the Cold War… Today, in that tower showing the technical ability of the Soviets, the Estonians boast about their own technological qualities. Skype was created in Estonia, says Andreas, and ends the day with a smile.
It was not the sole fact that he taught us. The Estonians claim to be the most irreligious people of the entire world (75% declare themselves as atheist). They are placed first in the worldwide ranking of Internet freedom. They have more female than men engineers (51%). Estonia is the first former Soviet Republic to adopt the euro, but with few physical banks: 98% of transactions are done online.
In Tallin we also met one of the five Estonians who live in Argentina: Hedvig. She looks more from Buenos Aires than any of us. She escapes from cold: during our winter she works as a waitress in a bar in Tallin and the rest of the year she lives in Buenos Aires doing translations. She served us a coffee and we shoot her accommodating yerba mate. I don´t know where she is now, as Andreas, who was supposed to travel to Europe.
There is something strange with travels: Finns come to Tallin only to buy alcohol (much cheaper than in Helsinki), Andreas hosts three Argentines to contradict his structures before leaving with his own backpack, and I start to write things about a city that, less than a month ago, I didn’t even know it existed.
Videos: Expreso a Oriente
Music: El Rastrero, Los Paquitos