20190707_095725 The walled-off, gated ruins on the riverbank
While visiting Lithuania this time, I revisited some places I frequented in my childhood, but this time I wanted to see the nooks and corners of familiar spaces that I had never seen before. It's like, you live in your city, you go to the same places every day, you walk or ride a bus down the same streets, but you never check what's behind the buildings you pass every day. I used to ride a trolleybus to a music school 3-4 times a week after my regular school classes; the route went up the Kosciuskos street, parallel to the Neris river, but I never checked what was behind the buildings that lined the riverbank. Well, obviously, behind them was the river. But there was also a walkway that went along the backs of those buildings. Yet for whatever reason it just didn't figure into my perception of the world: it was simply missing from my map of the world.
And so when I came to Vilnius this time, I wanted to see what was there. I found a combination of ruins and still-functional buildings, all appearing to have been built sometime around the middle of last century. They were separated from the riverbank by a tall fence, sitting at a distance from the street. I could not tell if they were offices or apartment buildings, and whether they were still in use, except for those that had empty window holes.
They looked like they could have been luxurious mansions once upon a time, probably before the war and before Soviet times. For example, this one has two pillars decorated with classical Greek motifs, that could have been gate posts. In place of a gate there now is a cardboard sheet with "Danger" graffiti on it. To the left and the right of it might have been pedestrian gates, also patched up with cardboard now.
If I had known about this place as a child -- which is ironic to say, since I passed within just meters of it several days a week -- I definitely would have gone exploring here. I'm sure it wasn't boarded up then, since the state generally didn't fence off decaying structures or construction sites; safety wasn't a high priority back then.
A little further down the riverbank, I found a Japanese garden. It was created by a Lithuanian designer of Japanese gardens who had studied Japanese garden design in Kyoto. Unfortunately, it is only open for a few hours on Sundays, and with our packed schedule I couldn't make it there during the extremely narrow open window.