That Time I Met the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uzupis...
My last day in Vilnius was spent soaking up the sun, and walking to all the site's I'd yet to get to after the previous day's Walking Tour. Altho' I'd checked out of my hostel in the morning, I'd gone back late afternoon, once it had started to get dark and cold, to charge my phone before my night on the bus, and take a nap.
All sounds inconspicuous so far, doesn't it?
I woke up sprawled across the sofa, with three other people now in the common room. Two of whom didn't speak English and a guy with headphones in. As I fidgeted around to waking, and made coffee to wake myself up more, we started chatting. All the usual travel chatter you get in hostels, where are you going? Where did you come from? It turned out we both had buses that left within half an hour of each other, so we decided to hang out.
I'd told Justin (my new hostel friend) that you can get a stamp in your passport in Uzupis. Whilst far less excited by the prospect of this than a European who didn't have a stamp yet- that'd be me- he still wanted to see if the store was open so he could get a stamp. We wandered out into the somewhat slushy, snowy streets, the evening was pretty cold considering the day, and we wandered across the bridge into Uzupis. Uzupis used to be a really run down area, and the kind of place you'd be told to avoid if you visited, until some business men bought the houses there and cleaned the area up. Now it's a total u-turn and one of the most desirable places to live in Vilnius. I clambered down the steps, and pointed out my other new friend, Backpacker Jesus.
Still sounding pretty inconspicuous, no?
|Backpacker Jesus, yes again, he can't appear on this blog too much|
The souvenir store was, unfortunately, closed so no passport stamp. Instead we decided to head into the pub for some food. It had been mentioned on my walking tour that on occasion you could see some of the politician's of Uzupis in the pub, so Justin and I chose the table in the corner next to the piano. We were talking about how you could totally see the constitution for the Republic of Uzupis being written in this place, just by the conversation that was going on around us. The pub was busy, and we were pretty convinced that we were in fact the only tourists that have ventured in that night. Everyone else seemed to look like sort of hispter/ bohemian type you'd expect to find in Uzupis.
"Doesn't that guy over there, look like that guy in the painting?" Justin asked me nodding to his right
"Whoever he is, everyone has been shaking his hand since he came in," I responded cradling my delicious white bear.
"I'm sure it is him, I wonder if I can find anything out about him. Don't you think he looks like Karl Marx?" Justin said delving into his phone.
I had to agree, I could definitely see the resemblance.
It took maybe 20 minutes of random searches, mostly involving Uzupis artists for Google to throw up a name, and who he was. Thomas Chepatis, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Republic of Uzupis. In the time he'd arrived, he'd already had a couple of drinks and was clearly in deep conversation with several people. We kept watching him, and commenting that surely the Minister for Foreign Affairs should come and speak with the only tourists in the building.
This, kids, is where you should be careful what you wish for.
We had time to kill, and decided that another drink wasn't going to mean running up and down the bus all night needing to pee. So we stuck around as the bar became more empty, and it was us, and them. The guy had noticed us sat in the corner now, and we'd had to be a bit more careful about our excited glances. He didn't look up when I walked past him towards the little girls room, but when I returned he was no longer sat there.
When I returned I could hear the piano being played, and what I can only describe as indistinguishable squawking. There, Justin sat at the piano, playing beautifully I might add, whilst the Minister for Foreign Affairs was "singing" along with him. Justin was having a wail of a time, as it turned out was Thomas. Until we got asked by the barman to please not play the piano any more.
So Thomas came and sat with us, and Justin asked him about Uzupis- the answer to all questions was, I believe, "terrible". His eyes, however, could focus on only one place. And he couldn't think of the English word for those things (those things happen to live on my chest, I should point out), and neither Justin nor I were about to help him. Continuing instead to talk to him about a film he was about to shoot when all of a sudden-
"TITS," he announced, "Your friend has great tits!"
Justin's face was a picture. The experience had suddenly gone from incredibly surreal to pretty awkward. So I just did the only thing I could think of, and laughed it off. I mean we all say embarrassing things when we're drunk, don't we? Justin meanwhile attempted to turn the conversation back around to the film he was making again. Justin's jaw was still on the floor, and Thomas's eyes were, yes, still on me. I would have felt uncomfortable if the whole encounter hadn't been so surreal.
Justin wrapped the conversation up and we headed off to the bus station to leave Vilnius, after an incredibly surreal evening in the Republic of Uzupis.