Lithuania, a new democracy, a new friend
Being in Uzupio is much like tripping through a medieval fairy tale. Gnarled and bent trees cast moonlit shadows across paths where gnomes roam and gremlins scamper. A mermaid sits beside the river waiting for her star–crossed lover. A horse and carriage on cobblestone streets and wooden bridges cast echoes against an ancient castle wall.
Our host, Andrius, raised his glass, and we toasted the Independent Republic of Uzupio. It was cold and overcast that September day in Lithuania. Jim Fisher had just delivered a lecture on educology at the college of art and the three of us were relaxing at a pub on the banks of the Vilnele River.
The waitress told us there was a wedding party preparing for the Uzupian ceremony. I grabbed my camera, and we ran to the terrace overhanging the river. It seems there are seven bridges across the Vilnele River, including one in the center of Uzu- pio beside our restaurant. Tradition commands that bride and bridegroom must cross each of the seven bridges after the wedding in order to have a successful marriage. If they don’t cross the river, or if they fall in the river, their marriage is doomed.
This particular bridge is watched over by the blessed Mermaid of Uzupio, the one waiting for her star– crossed lover. Should the bridegroom be her man, she will kill the bride and take the bridegroom for her own. So…this crossing is very treacherous.
We watched the wedding party advance to the bridge. The bridegroom gallantly picked up his bride and placed her on the handrail of the bridge. He held her hand and walked her across to the applause of her attendants. Once she was safely across, the bridesmaids and bridegrooms followed the same procedure. No one fell in, and the mermaid, watching from her perch beneath the bridge, shed a tear into the river.