I love to read the travel sections of foreign newspapers because they seem to find more off-the-wall locations to write about than our own papers. My local paper has a handful of destinations that it covers over and over again, due to their popularity: Hawaii, Disneyland, Paris, London, Orlando, and Lake Tahoe.
Those locations are fine, especially for family travel, but for student travel or adventure travel I like to read about places I’ve never heard of before, and that’s where the Sydney Morning Herald comes in.
Today they’re featuring an article about a communist theme park in Lithuania. Yep. Grutas Park has dozens of humongous statues of communist leaders, plus a petting zoo and restaurant. But even better, it’s located near a fake country. Have you ever been to a fake country? Well here’s your chance.
“Realistically just a riverside suburb of Vilnius, the residents of Uzupis declared themselves independent in the 1990s. The Lithuanian government, it seems, just humoured them and let them play with their border guards, national flag and oddball constitution.
The latter can be read on three large plaques on a side street, and it’s displayed in Lithuanian, French and English. Among the 43 salient points is: A dog has the right to be a dog. And quite right, too.
Anyone getting the impression that this isn’t an entirely serious republic would be well advised to turn up on April 1, the national day. That April Fools’ Day has been chosen probably isn’t a complete coincidence, and the celebrations manage to combine pomp and ceremony with the air of a village fete.
On the bridge that forms the border, crowds gather to wave flags, while border guards clad in jeans and scruffy hats accost drivers attempting to get through. Their guns are purely for decoration, and they’re only asking the drivers if they’d like a passport stamp. Meanwhile there’s a Bohemian-looking woman hollering nonsense into a traffic cone and a couple of people dressed as flowers.”