This city had not even been on my radar a week prior, if I had been asked to identify where Lithuania was on a map and state its capital I would have failed. I came across the city while talking with my new friends in Warsaw and after a little homework quickly discovered it looked like a cool city to add to my travel itinerary.
Since it was in the complete opposite direction of where I had been planning on visiting I needed to see how I would get to Berlin after seeing this new destination. Luckily I had uncovered a cheap flight option on Wednesdays via AirBaltic which would get me to Berlin directly so it was settled, I would take an bus from Warsaw to Vilnius Sunday night and have until Wednesday afternoon to explore this capital city.
My transportation from Warsaw was via an overnight bus. It was 8 hours of uncomfortable attempted sleep, constantly fighting for the armrest with the person I was unlucky enough to have seated at my side who did not fit in their seat. It was not a pleasant ride, at best I captured 1 hour of shut eye during the trip. Needless to say that will be the first and last overnight bus ride of this trip!
In my preparation prior to departure I came across the NY Times article 36 hours in Vilnius and this inspired me to visit. It also became my tour guide for the time I would spend in the city.
NY Times Article, 36 Hours in Vilnius: http://nyti.ms/1LdwOwT
I settled into my hostel and then after a quick shower went out on the hunt to find coffee and a light breakfast. What better source then the above mentioned article to help uncover a reputable location. I settled on testing out Mint Vinetu first as it would allow me to walk through old town a while before I would be settling down at the cafe. It was an enjoyable walk, roaming through old streets as I made my way to find my caffeine fix. The coffee was good as was the pastry but the highlight of the morning was walking by as school children practiced a dance routine in the main plaza. I did not know exactly at first what it was for but found it quite entertaining to see traditional Lithuanian culture within a few hours of arriving. I ended up stumbling across the live performances later that afternoon as a few hundred folks showed up to watch various grade levels perform a special dance or sing a song to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of their school.
I found the boy with mullet below in the video entertaining to watch as he did not look happy to be out there most of the time dancing in front of a crowd!
These kids did a more swing dance focus and were a bit older
This was an even older group which went back to the classics. I still think the guy second from the left reminds me of Erik especially when he drops to a knee and starts slapping them, seems like an EK move!
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around different streets coming across interesting shops and buildings until I made my way to the Artist district of Uzupis for dinner.
The following morning I came across the best cafe and pastry combination that I have had on the trip! It was absolutely delicious, the NY Times article was on the money and did not let me down! If you are in Vilnius go to Pinavija!! It was so good that I had to return as well on Wednesday as I knew it would not be topped by any other cafe in the city!
More hiking throughout the city was in order today. I started by venturing back towards the Uzupio area to find their constitution and get to know the founding republic principles.
Definitely the work of artists, a few of them read as follows:
3) Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
12) A dog has the right to be a dog.
16) Everyone has the right to be happy.
After roaming around Uzupis for a while I ventured through the park, along the river towards the castle on the hill which overlooks the city.
After taking over the castle I enjoyed a nice view overlooking the city, however since it was facing the sun pictures turned out bad so you will have to venture up there on your own to get the sense of the view. In the evening I went back to the hostel and made plans to go for a nice dinner at Bistro 18, another recommendation from the NY Times article. It was another success as it was a delicious meal! I showed up without a reservation which proved to be a slight problem as I needed to put my name on the list and return an hour later. But in the meantime I was given a nice wine bar recomendation from the Irish owner of the restaurant. Once I came back to Bistro 18 for dinner I was starving as I had barely had anything at all during the day. It was worth the wait! I enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip and was delighted with the French onion soup to being then an excellent duck breast served in a delicious cranberry sauce for my main! Since I had a little room and the sweet Irish owner talked me into it I went with the chocolate fondant which was outstanding! This place gets a 10/10 in my book!
I spent the last day returning to the cafe for a delicious pastry/coffee combination and then made my way over to the Museum of Genocide Victims. This museum was well detailed and covered a lot of the history and struggles the Soviet KGB imposed on the people in Vilnius. The museum is housed in the old KGB headquarters in the city and provides a greater understanding into what the political opposition and people of Lithuania faced while being a part of the USSR. After a few hours in the museum I grabbed my things from the hostel and headed for the airport. Next stop Stuart’s favorite destination in Europe, Berlin!