I like special places. Dilapidated buildings with paint flaking off. Areas where graffiti painters are king. Neighborhoods that used to be dangerous and run-down, but now thrive because of the energy and ideas of artists and engaged young people. Užupis is one of those special places.
Literally meaning ‘the other side of the river’ in Lithuanian, you just cross the river and there you are, in Užupis. Only a sign and a lovely mermaid mark your entrance to the wayward district. The journey begins by just wandering around and discovering tiny bits and pieces of statues and other street art. Every single one of them with their own story. Jesus with a backpack on? Check. – God of travelers. May our backpacks never be too heavy. – Little mermaid saying hello? Check. Bra’s and other garments made from twisted iron wire, hanging in the wind to dry? Check. – Not very comfy, in my opinion. – Picknick table and two chairs, ready for a tête-à-tête on the roof? Dubblecheck. Street art galore? Of course. Once a dangerous and desolated area under Soviet rules, now bursting with a bohemian vibe and artistic atmosphere.
Why not make a Republic out of it? With an own flag, currency, army – consisting of 11 of the fiercest warriors on earth –, sheriff, president and constitution, you might consider asking permission to come and live in this peculiar nation. And remember: a dog has the right to be a dog. – Article 12 of the constitution. – Or get a stamp in your passport, if you brought it. Which I forgot. Bummer. Even on your way out, you’ll be bombed with images and art in all different ways, passing by galeries and colourful walls plastered in paint. An unexpected pleasant surprise for not-making-any-plans-at-all-travelers like me.