Today we visit a home in Pavilnys – a happy, loud and colourful home of Egle and Gian Luca Demarco and their two children Magda and Ben. While showing us around, both Egle and Luca mentioned several times that the house and the garden are not fully finished. For me it was a perfect example of the house vs home definition. Maybe the house will need more work and is a work-in-progress, but the home is already there. It is a feeling which has fully arrived and settled in this building.
But enough talk, come with me and meet this amazing family!
Egle: We were looking for a house in Pavilnys mainly because the road to Pavilnys is so beautiful. You drive on Juodasis Kelias (Black way) and cross the railway. It has a countryside feel to it as soon as you start going home from the city, and this makes Pavilnys so different from the other suburbs in Vilnius. When you prepare for some celebration, the waiting and preparations are almost as important as the celebration itself. The same is valid for your home: the road back home is a part of your home experience.
Luca: Pavilnys is beautiful, but unkempt. I don’t feel that I live here yet. I work too much, and I spend too little time here. I would like to experience it more. There is not much life happening here, even during the yearly celebrations. If you want some action, you have to go to the city centre.
Before we used to live in Zverynas district, right next to Vingis Park. We could get out of the flat, cross the bridge and that’s it – you are already in the park.
Pavilnys has a forest, so we imagined that this forest will be right next to the house. In reality you go for a run and get tired before you even reach this forest. You have to make shortcuts to get to the forest as quickly as possible, so that you can run there at all.
About food and drinks
Luca: The only thing which expires in this house is the alcohol. Once our friends came over and brought some whiskey. They told me: “Get the whiskey glasses!” But we don’t have anything remotely close to that. I told them: “Just drink it from tea cups.”
Egle: In the end I gave them some cute little vases I had. Even in the restaurant we have wine, and sometimes grappa or limoncello, but in very small quantities, as a digestive.
Luca: I would like to have a better oven at home, but Egle preferred this old-school type, because she likes old things so much. Well, that’s ok with me, because she cooks more often at home anyway.
Egle: Luca likes to cook, but I see that by the evening he is tired of it. It is his job to cook all day long. Of course, it depends on the stage of life. But there are some things which are constant – for example, he would never cook breakfast. For him, breakfast means coffee.
For me it is one of the most important meals of the day. Even in Italy I would always prepare breakfast. I love smoothies, cottage cheese. Luca’s mum would ask me: “Are you sure you can have lunch after this?”
About the garden
Egle: I would like to have more trees. The garden was abandoned when we came here the first time. The grass grew everywhere. In the middle of the garden you would stumble upon potato and tomato plants. I said: “I want to get rid of all that!” But finally we got rid of almost nothing. Now when I have to cut even a small branch, my heart aches. I like things to grow wild.
Before we moved here, the land belonged to a lady who adored her garden. She was great with plants and used to teach the neighbours the art of gardening. Her garden was perfect; she would even weed with a magnifying glass. She used to come here every day, and even after she grew very old and almost blind, she still came and looked after her garden.
Therefore last year I decided to wait with planting anything. I wanted to see what comes out in the spring. I am fascinated by this process. I wouldn’t like a new house, a new garden, a new fence. I guess you can call me an antiquarian.
At the moment the most beautiful part of the house is the outdoors. We can spend all our days there. We often eat outside. We hang a hammock between those thujas, and it makes the garden so cosy. The kids love hammock as well. Just yesterday we had guests over, and the kids spend three hours playing in it. Sometimes they fall out from the hammock, but the soil and grass underneath are soft. We gave this hammock to Luca as a father’s day present. Now when I return home with kids, I sometimes find him sleeping in it.
In that jar over there Magda is growing her snails. She gave them flowers and some corn to eat, she loves corn. Probably the snails love it as well, because they recently got baby slugs.
There used to be a fountain, but when the tractors came to build, they destroyed it. We used those stones in the garden near the fence. I also kept some old pots and planted flowers in them.
Gian Luca started building a playground for the kids and it is a very ambitious project. It will have two floors and a kitchen. The entrance will be through the bushes, not so straight forward. It’s much more fun, when things are a bit more mysterious.
When we bought a wardrobe, we got a lot of cardboard with it. We used it to build a huge house outside with windows and everything. We played there and even had dinners inside. But one day the rain came and all the cardboard got soaked.
We have great neighbours. They bring me flower plants, sometimes store-bought and sometimes home-grown. One neighbour just brought some seeds from his grandmother’s garden and said: “Plant them over there, just put them into the ground.” And I plant, and I sow, and it gives me such a warm feeling.
We also have this fantastic tree. After we moved in, our friends came over to help with the garden. As soon as they saw this tree, they declared: “This one is completely dry, it needs to be taken down.” And really, you would touch a branch, and it crumbled in your hand. Fortunately, we did not have any saw with us that day. Later in the spring the tree came to life. The leaves appear much later than on the other trees, and it blooms later. But it is beautiful. And later in winter we used the dried flowers to make some curly hair for our snowmen.
About the house
Luca: We bought a carcass of the house. The cladding and the windows were here, but inside – nothing, not even walls. The interior plan of this house was completely different from what we have now. The original idea was to have a study here as well, and not to have any terrace. Well, we re-planned it.
But it is still a work in progress. We are now building the balcony, and we only finished the terrace this summer.
Egle: We really liked the wooden orange cladding of the house. I grew up in Zverynas, and I want to have wood. I used to always say that if we get a new house, then I would need at least an old garden and a balcony. Balcony is a must, because you have a different view from it.
Magda is building houses everywhere around the house. And we need to have beds everywhere as well, because the children migrate. Single beds do not work in this house, you need to have bigger ones. The kids would usually sleep together. Sometimes when they are sick, we try to separate them, but the night comes and here they are again.
My father’s wife gave us a painting for our wedding. During the wedding we received a lot of flowers, too much for us to keep, and we gave some of them to her, because she loves flowers. Those flowers were such an inspiration for her, she painted, painted and painted, and finally when the painting was ready, she gave it to us as a present. It is called “The Bride’s bouquet.”
We would like to make the windows smaller, half the size of what is now. This way it would be much cosier, and we would also have windowsills. We really miss windowsills now.
One summer we had a little restaurant in Nida, and we have a lot of memories connected with it. We brought some things from there to this house.
About running in Pavilnys
Luca: I sometimes go for a run, but it is not that simple. I don’t actually know where to go. Where is this Pavilnys? When running, the hardest part is to find my way home. Pavilnys is a labyrinth. The street names are so confusing: second, third, fourth, then it disappears, and then suddenly seventeenth, eighteenth, twenty-seventh. Where is your fantasy? Give those streets proper names: Ghandi, or maybe some Pope?
We went out for a run with Egle one day, and suddenly realised that we have no idea where we are. I said: “Let’s just walk straight; sooner or later we will come out to some bigger road.” Actually, we were not far from home, but didn’t know that. So, running is not very enjoyable.
Also, sometimes I would run through some street, and a man would come out and tell: “You cannot run here, this is a private street.” Everything is so private here. One big private space. You can walk along the street and suddenly see a gate in the middle of it. I would understand having some barrier, so that the cars cannot drive through. But a gate? No one can come through. Why is it closed? I don’t know.
And because of all that I get this feeling that I’m intruding, when I run or walk around.
About the community
Luca: I am a foreigner and I want to understand. I am a guest here, so I need to feel in order to know how to behave, but it is very difficult.
I would like to have more communication with people. Here they pass by each other without saying hello. In my hometown there are 15 thousand people, so everyone more or less knows each other. If in the morning you don’t say ‘hello’ to someone you meet, in the evening your mum will tell you off, because someone have told her, that her son does not say hello. She would scold you: “Do you think you are better than the others, or what?”
The old residents of the summer houses do not recognize the newcomers, who have settled here. If you want to take a decision, you have to argue and beg and negotiate. I am not used to that at all. I am Italian. There might be many bad things to say about Italy, but our neighbourhoods are totally different. In a small community everyone knows each other and tries to be friendly.
One of our neighbours only speaks to me, if I start speaking to him. He does not even have a doorbell. Once I wanted to say something to him, and I had to wait for a week, until he appeared in his garden, so I could wave to him. There is no way to actually contact him otherwise.
Our closest local shop is a relic from the Soviet times. You’d be surprised how they manage to survive in the modern world, because when you walk in, you would think that the Iron Curtain is still there. And then you realise that this is a drinking hole, people come here just for the alcohol. This bothers me. I am not used to those alcoholics and I think I never will be. In Italy you would hardly find people drinking like this.
About the future café
The real community life on this territory does not happen. We have a pizzeria, where you only hold funeral dinners. We have a big Iki shop, a little Iki drinking hole, then this other local drinking hole. We have a shitload of drinking holes in this area, enough for the whole nation to drink into alcoholism. But we do not have a single nice place, where we could drink coffee.
I would like to have a café, where in the morning you could buy fresh pastries, bread and coffee. In the evening you could come here for a family meal, a pizza. I miss it here. For me having such places are normal. In my country even a tiny village of 50 people would have a place, where you can get freshly baked bread and coffee.
I would like to open such a café, but I need to find a place. I need to plan it and think about it, and at the moment when I come back home, I only want to sleep.
The community life in Pavilnys is more political. The older people are fighting for something, and it is not even clear anymore, what they are fighting for. At the moment Pavilnys is a suburb, a place where people come back to sleep. We need a place to spend time in, and somewhere in this labyrinth of numbered streets there should be some venue available for this.