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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

20 September 2018

Vilnius Exploration Day

Streets of Vilnius

Streets of Vilnius

7 September 2018

Our last full day was Vilnius Exploration Day. And we explored hard!

We started with cake, the breakfast of champions. Then we went for a ramble around the old town, taking in the cathedral, the ducal palace, some fine baroque architecture and many, many churches. I really like the old Basilian church whose interior was rather battered and aged, with chunks of plaster having come off to reveal older paintwork beneath. Outside a craftsman was busy putting some nice new render on the facade, so I guess the renovation of the interior isn’t far away. Hey, it’s a living building, I can’t begrudge them wanting a nice place to worship in. Though I don’t think it’ll be as moving.

St Anna's, a redbrick gothic number

St Anna’s, a redbrick gothic number

We got back from walk #1 in time for me to hand over the car keys to the chap who’d come to collect it. Then it’s back out for another hearty march! We had a happy accident where our walk took us past “Open Kitchen” – a Vilnius street food market that is open every Friday. And it happens to be Friday. And it happens to be lunch time. Hmm… it also happens to be a bit smaller than the street food markets of Old London Town, but we still found some very good barbecued meat.

Thence to Uzupis for some shopping (found nothin’), thence through the Benedictine Garden (beautiful green spot this), thence across the little river and up the endless steps to the Hill of Crosses. Different Hill of Crosses – this one only has 3 on it, and is an impressive vantage for a view of Vilnius. By the time we trooped down from the hill again the ol’ feet were telling us that we’d had a good exploration.

Step up the Hill of Crosses

Step up the Hill of Crosses

Vilnius’ old town has a different character again from Riga and Tallinn. It feels like the most lived-in of them. Tallinn’s old town is a medieval chocolate box. Riga’s old town is more developed but seems focused on entertaining tourists and locals. Vilnius’ old town feels like its still the centre of a capital city. I’m not sure I can really state a preference, and I certainly like all three. I think probably Vilnius could detain my interest longer.

Back at the bomb shelter the sauna beckoned. I could get used to this! It’s not entirely the most relaxing experience, at least for a beginner, as the heat does start to feel oppressive and immense after a while. But there’s absolutely no doubt that once you’ve dried off and cooled down afterwards there is a fine and lingering feeling of tingling relaxation.

Kujeliai in concert

Kujeliai in concert

We went off-piste for dinner, picking Gaspar’s which is pretty much modern Indian cooking with a Baltic twist. Also really quite close to our apartment (said my feet, gratefully). We had a chat with the chef-owner after the meal – he’s of Indian heritage, Portuguese childhood, lived and worked in London for many years, but eventually married his Lithuanian partner and has obviously found his feet in the nascent Vilnius fine-dining scene! Very cool.

Dinner was so quick that we had plenty of evening left to top of V.E. Day with some more post-prandial rambling around the streets. We even found a free festival and spent a happy half-hour with a small crowd watching one of Vilnius’ most popular folk groups, Kujeliai. I say most popular only because most of the crowd seemed to know the songs. Maybe they were all family and friends?

Vilnius view

Vilnius view


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