Uzupis, a neighborhood in Vilnius, Lithuania - a land of contrasts (2004 - 2009)
Uzupis (prounounced OO-zhoo-pis) approximately means "a place behind the river". It's said to have a mystical appeal. It's full of gothy-looking ruins and old buildings. As in most of the older parts of Vilnius, its architecture is irregular: there are houses built next to and on older houses; curvy, zigzaging courtyards that turn into alleys and disappear into cul-de-sacs; the whole feel of ice floes piled upon one another, which is what I love Vilnius for. But the Uzupis buildings are older and have even more character than those in the rest of the city, and they are mixed with scenic vistas of tree-lined hills and Vilnia river.
That, and the closeness to the City Center and Old Town, makes it a piece of prime real estate. In Uzupis one can see modern apartment complexes being built right next to old, dilapidated houses with empty eye sockets of broken windows. It may be the haunted, "goth" feel of the ruins that attracts artists, many of which have their workshops here. The artists have even formed their own "Republic of Uzupis". But it still has some of its old population: the poor, the jobless, the alcoholics, the addicted. People who wander around with touristy looks on their faces, like S and I did, are likely to become targets of bums begging money "for cigarettes". S actually gave an old guy a couple of litas (Lithuanian currency), maybe because the guy had a cute puppy. :-)
Well, that was in 2004 -- 2005. With all the rapid gentrification going on, some of the sights captured in these pictures may no longer exist.
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