Holy holy Vilnius (Old Town 3 of 6)

Trip Start Jul 11, 2005
Trip End Apr 04, 2006

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Saturday, March 4, 2006

People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home

- Dagobert D. Runes, US writer

Vilinus, Lithuania.
Prague time +1hr
Days to get to Prague - 4

The difference of Vilnius
So here's a question for ya. It's a long shot, I know, but bear with me here. Did you ever feel like you need to get away from things for a while and have a good one to one with him up above? Well, if so there are not too many better places in the world to do just that than here in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania and the last of the Baltic states we'll be visiting. This city has more churches, of any denomination, than you can shake a crucifix at. And while that may be a phrase hinting to the abundance of places in the city at which one may get all religious, I would probably bet actually walking around a place like Vilnius shaking a crucifix at every house of worship would not attract too much attention. You see, there seems to be a bizarre, anything goes mentality wafting through the air here and a very bohemian, almost gypsy feel to the whole place. According to our guidebook this tiny nation, the largest of the three Baltic states, is a

"bastion of eccentricity and spirit".

Not wrong there. There is definitely a different feel to this place, very different to Riga and poles apart from Tallinn, and it doesn't take long walking the streets of Vilnius's baroque Old Town to appreciate this. "Another Old Town?" I hear you say. Well of course, a city wouldn't be a city in this part of the world without one (and I pray - no pun intended - that you're not tired of Old Town's because with 3 down there are still 3 more to come).

Another Old Town Hostel
We arrived in the city late in the evening and, just like in Riga and Tallinn before it, we managed to quickly get somewhere to stay. And where else than in the Old Town Hostel. It must be a rule amongst Baltic states that the hostels nearest the bus and train stations are called Old Town Hostel? Anyway, a night there set us back 34 litas, the litai (no, not the lita) being the Lithuanian unit of currency, with about 3.5 of them bad boys to the Euro. Now that's more like it. We rounded off the first night by having a few beers in Bix Bar, a dark, weird place that charged us a cover that enabled us to stand nicely squashed at the bar receiving dubious stares from equally dubious locals. I got the impression that a sneeze in here would get you in trouble, but we made it back to the hostel in one piece.

Good timing
The next day we really saw Vilnius in all its glory. It was a Saturday and there seemed to be some sort of arts and crafts festival in full swing with stalls lining the whole of Ausros Vartu gatve, Didzioji gatve and Pilies gatve, the main arteries joining the area of town where we were staying to Cathedral Square, Vilnius' heart. Couple that with seemingly full congregations in every church we passed and you can imagine how busy our cameras were. It was a great time to be in the city and we couldn't help but feel fortunate. You know the procedure by now.....see the accompanying pictures etc etc. But busy and all as the city was we still had time to take the bus that afternoon to Trakai to peruse its castle (to where?.... see next entry for more on that). Then it was time to hop on the overnight bus to Warsaw, Poland. It was a trip we had to pay a seemingly outrageous 97 litas for (€28), a fare so severe on the pocket that we both had to exchange more money earlier in the day just to cover it. It's quite ironic then that we almost missed the bus, having hung around a tad too long in the hostel. It's not fun running 1km or so uphill at 11pm at night with a 22kg backpack on your back, a day pack cradled in your arms, snow and ice underfoot and plastic bags swinging from your hands. But I bet it sure looks fun.
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