On a recent Sunday morning, Terri and I were perched on a low, freezing-cold, granite wall awaiting the “changing of the guard” ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania. There were no guards in sight – in fact there was no one in sight – so we wondered how and if the “change” was going to happen at all.
Being a bit early, we decided to explore the neighborhood until show time. We walked around the tall palace wall, and out of nowhere came a phalanx of black-clad soldiers, marching resolutely up the street, heels clicking in unison. Eureka! We had found the missing guards.
After a barked order from the Lieutenant, off the street and up on the sidewalk they came. We scooted out of their way, watched them come to an abrupt halt, heard another barked order, and suddenly, they all broke ranks for a quick cigarette in a small park. We didn’t understand the officer’s order, but it may have been “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em”.The scene reminded us of what one of our tourist guidebooks said,
““In Lithuania, if it has a lung, it smokes.”
–In Your Pocket Guide to Vilnius
After the nicotine fix, we discovered that the changing of the guard really was a “changing of the flags” ceremony. We’ve seen guard changes at the Parliament in Athens, Greece, and The Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia, but this, without a doubt, was the most intricate and unique flag-folding routine that we’ve ever seen. I shot a 2 1/2 minute video which captured the coolest bits.
When the show was over, the assembled tourists broke into applause, but to their credit, these disciplined troops didn’t stop for autographs. (They were probably dying for a smoke!)
BTW, Terri tells me that she learned how to properly fold the American Flag in Girl Scouts. Did anybody else out there learn to fold the flag in your country. We’d love to hear from you.