Lithuania
Vilnius City Municipality

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  • Day1085

    Vilnius Day 1

    June 16, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    It's time to explore Vilnius, the largest city in Lithuania and its capital! A barrier controlled, tarmac car park near Gediminas Hill is our home for 2 days. There are no specified bays for motorhomes but they are mentioned in the pricing, which can be charged hourly, or €9 per 24 hours. Number plates are scanned on entry and you can pay at a machine by card or cash when you leave. It is a pleasant spot with the Vilnia tributary river running along one side, a border of trees, a few other motorhomes and most importantly great access to the centre! We'd been anxious about how difficult it would be to drive in, but the Sunday morning traffic was minimal and it all went smoothly.

    We'd planned to visit Vilnius with our sister and brother in law, Sue and John this time last year. With unexpected medical appointments we made the decision to stay in the UK while they went ahead with their pre booked flights. We were therefore particularly keen to explore the city we'd waited so long to see.

    The weather had swung from searing sunshine to overcast rainy skies. We clad ourselves in waterproof coats and grabbed our brollies. Crossing a little bridge and walking through a park we arrived in the central square, with the imposing form of St Stanislaus and St Vladislav Cathedral Basilica looming above us. The rectangular building with its white pillars and statues appeared quite modern. It's cylindrical bell tower which stood separately didn't seem much taller than it.

    We'd marked a few sites on Maps.Me but the white canvas of market stalls on the main street, Gediminas Avenue, caught our attention. Two beautifully constructed lifesize floral mannequins stood in the roadway, with a sign welcoming visitors to the 'herb market'. Within it we found two sellers wearing fresh garlands while bouquets of wildflowers and grasses decorated the stalls. The items for sale were similar to those in Palanga a few weeks ago, although with a little more variety; honey, herbs, amber jewellery, clothes, especially linen, cheese, street food including the Gira drink, and woodwork. There was real individuality and skill expressed in the crafted products. There aren't many things that are practical for us to buy but Vicky persuaded Will to get a beautiful wooden trivet, made from cross sections of small tree branch arranged in a pattern.

    Having done a bit of research we knew the weekly changing of the flags was due to take place at the Presidential Palace at noon, so this was our next port of call. The two storey pale yellow building had rows of white pillars like the cathedral, but was more subtle in its communication of power and wealth. Sure enough at 11:50am four armoured knights marched onto the public courtyard. There was nothing subtle about them! Next came four officers, each in different uniforms, whose job it was to prepare the flags by untying their ropes, before standing aside for the marching band, from which a further four officers emerged. The flags of the EU, Lithuania, Vilnius's Coat of Arms and NATO were in turn lowered, folded, exchanged, unfolded and raised with much pomp and ceremony. By now the rain had begun falling hard, soaking the uniformed assembly who, credit to them, remained professional throughout.

    To see an abbreviated video of the changing of the flags go to the VnW Travels YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/jJ33YD6Douc

    We were grateful for our umbrellas as we trudged through wet streets into the Užupis neighbourhood; described as a 'breakaway state' for artists within Vilnius. The self proclaimed Republic of Užupis even has its own president, anthem and 41 point constitution! Last summer we'd visited Freetown Christiania, an independent state within Copenhagen and had expected a similar setup. However Užupis residents seemed far less extreme than Denmark's rebels, to the extent that (to our inexperienced eyes) we didn't notice much difference when crossing the bridge into the 4000 strong community. Passing by the small main square with a large bronze angel statue (a symbol of Užupis) and a collection of generic looking eateries we found a small café, with tables and mismatched chairs on a narrow pavement. We were seated on antique cushioned chairs with a fresh carnation on the table and a small cover above our heads that managed to protect us from the worst of the rain. We were a little nervous about cars that could have drenched us by splashing through a large puddle, but thankfully drivers were considerate. Keen to sample the national cuisine we ordered Lithuanian sausage and potato pancakes from the friendly manager, along with a beer and freshly made apple, carrot and courgette juice. The juice and sausage were delicious, but Vicky's fried pancakes were a bit too oily for her.

    From our lunchtime seats we'd seen groups of tourists admiring 37 silver plaques that stretched out along the wall we'd been sitting next to. Each displayed the Užupis constitution in a different language (additional versions can be found on the internet). The more we read the more we liked it. Our favourite decrees included;
    "Everyone has the right to be happy.
    Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
    A dog has the right to be a dog.
    Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
    Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
    Everyone may be independent.
    Everyone is responsible for their freedom."

    The rain really started to come down as we navigated through the quiet, Old Town cobbled lanes towards the B&B Sue and John stayed in last year. We don't mind a bit of rain but this was the sort that bounced back once it hit the pavement to soak through your shoes. Water overflowed gutters and pelted our umbrellas. Downpipes were backed up and spurting like fountains at their joints. Water streamed over paving slabs and formed large puddles stretching right the way accross the road. We were becoming fed up, so decided to call it quits. Heading back, we took refuge in the cathedral where a choir and organist were practicing in the stalls. They helped mellow our mood as we admired the beautiful, white, arched ceiling dotted with plaster flowers set in to circles.

    When we emerged, the rain had all but stopped. After a welcome cuppa in Martha the clouds began to clear and typically gave us a blue sky evening!
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  • Day1086

    Vilnius Day 2

    June 17, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Thankfully the weather was kinder to us on our second day in Vilnius; Lithuania's capital city. After a late start we began our mission to find the Cat Café! Will's sister Sue had discovered this place when in Vilnius last year and we'd been keen to visit ever since. Maps.Me showed it on the other side of town so we were confused when we came accross it while walking up the main street. It was early for lunch, so double checking the map we decided to investigate the other location.

    Further up Gediminas Avenue we found peope's names inscribed on the side of a building with origami paper doves, exhausted candles in glass jars and fresh flowers layed against the wall and a stone memorial. After a little research we discovered it was the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights (previously the Museum of Genocide Victims) and Memorial of the Victims of Soviet Occupation. On this day (June 17th) in 1940 the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania fell under Soviet Occupation. This place, which had previously been used as headquarters for the Nazi Gestapo was taken over by the KGB. People were imprisioned, tortured and executed in its cells, before being buried in the gardens. There are so many histories within different countries that we have very little awareness of. Coming accross the tributes was a sobering experience.

    Just around the next corner we found the old Cat Café that Sue had visited, with a note saying it had relocated. Our curiosity satisfied, we looped back via the Neris riverside. Several bridges crossed to the opposite bank; a real contrast to the historic old town, with glass walled skyscrapers belonging to big name companies such as Barclays and Huawei.

    Entering the new Cat Café we were required to place protective covers over our shoes and wash our hands before being seated. A list of rules, such as not stroking sleeping cats, was clearly displayed. The establishment is home to 15 cats. They all appeared very healthy. Some sat in the picture windows watching the world go by, others lounged in cat trees, on chairs or strolled accross the floor inspecting visitors' bags, doing what cats do best and ignoring the humans that vied for their attention. The whole place was very clean. Chilled music played, photographic portraits of each cat hung on the walls together with a few large anthropomorphic cat paintings.

    None of the cats was interested in a cuddle, but several came close enough for strokes and we petted those that looked keen. The food was good, with cold beetroot soup and dumplings for Will and a feta and beetroot salad for Vicky, which she accompanied with a freshly blended mango smoothie - yum!

    Since seeing the 57m high bell tower in Cathedral Square the previous day, Vicky had been keen to climb it. The interior was mixed. A super narrow, spiralling stone staircase led to modern platforms of glass and metal with electronic displays, including CCTV feeds of the surrounding area. Joysticks, zoom buttons and presets allowed you to control their direction and see specific sights. Steep wooden stairs gave access to higher levels with a row of bells for you to play, a couple of old clockfaces leaning against the walls
    and solid timber frames surrounding the huge hanging bells, which we were strictly forbidden to play, however tempting! The top deck had arched windows open to the elements, with just some nylon mesh accross and good views of the cathedral and mainstreet.

    Exiting the tower we took a few minutes to search for the Miracle Tile set into the pavement. Legend has it that those who turn 360° on the tile and make a wish, will have it granted. In fact, this was the point from which, on 23rd August 1989, 2 million people formed a human chain, stretching over 370 miles, through three countries and three capital cities, ending in Tallinn, Estonia. This peaceful demonstration was a stand against Soviet rule. Two years later the Baltic countries gained independence. Further round the tower was another understated installation commemorating this incredible, revolutionary stand. A second tile with two huge footprints was layed in 2013 with a time capsule underneath. Identical 'footprints for freedom' tiles link Vilnius with the two other capitals through which the chain passed; Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia. When they were layed the Mayor of Vilnius made a speech: "Famous French writer Victor Hugo once said that we all walk the same roads in life, but that not everyone leaves the same footprints. The footprints of those people who stood here 24 years ago in the Baltic Way will remain for all time".

    From Cathedral Square we wandered the short distance to the cobbled streets of the old town, lined with trinket stalls, terraced bars and buskers. After a while searching for groceries (harder than it sounds) we ticked off another of our aims for Vilnius: to find and eat black vanilla icecream as Sue and John had done on their visit last year. Vicky cheekily sampled some of Will's double scoop in a black cone. It was tasty, but its flavour paled in comparison to the servings of mango and strawberry vegan icecream with 'natural ingredients' that she ordered from the stand over the other side of the street.

    There was one last stop on the way back to Martha; Vilnius Castle on Gediminas Hill. During our time in Lithuania we've appreciated the lack of commercialism and advertising, but we could really have done with some better signage for the entrance to the castle grounds! After what seemed like an age and with some help from a local, we found our way to the base station of the small funicular railway. Vicky said hello to the attendent and asked if he spoke English. An exasperated 'PLEASE!' was his reply- she was only asking! The glass and metal carriage was more like a diagonal escalator, with a self service call button and internal control pad. Standard entry to the broad round tower was €5. We thought this a bit steep in comparison to other Lithuanian attractions, but our decision was aided by a sudden downpour and the fact that as an OAP Will got in for half price, so we coughed up.

    The quality indoor displays validated the price. While rain torrented down we sat half way up the tower, watching images projected onto screens in front of each large, arched window, creating the illusion of a view to the outside. Images told the story of historical events taking place outside the castle over the centuries, of wars and development. There was also a whole level dedicated to the freedom movement and the human chain, with moving photos and video footage.

    The weather had driven others away, so when the front passed, we were lucky enough to have the open air platform at the top of the tower to ourselves. There were amazing panoramic views of the surrounding hills, old town, Neris River, the modern and residential areas. We found it all the more interesting having investigated a little on foot. It was a great way to end our exploration of Vilnius! We love how compact it is. There is so much to see within a small area, yet it doesn't feel crowded. Whilst we spent two days here, you could easily spend longer and enjoy disvovering more.

    That evening there was a knock on the door. David was a Brit travelling in his motorhome from Switzerland, where he lived with his Swiss partner Marlyse. He invited us round for a drink and nibbles! When we were settled, there was a knock at their door from their Swiss neighbour Leila, who was travelling with her Springer Spaniel Kiki. They had the same make of van, so each was interested in taking a look 'through the keyhole'. David and Marlyse were good hosts and the 5 of us spent a relaxing evening chatting about vanlife and travelling to far flung places like Russia, Iceland and Morocco. Vicky especially enjoyed having Kiki with us! If any of you are reading this, then thank you, we wish you well on your future voyages!
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  • Day5

    Warschau - > Vilnius

    July 7, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Nach 3 Stunden Schlaf innerhalb von 36 Stunden, zig Fußmärschen, Verständigung per Händen und Füßen und einer Frau auf dem Sitz hinter uns die innerhalb von 4 Stunden wirklich nur 10 Minuten lang schwieg, wollten wir einfach nur in Vilnius ankommen. Aber nö, das geht natürlich nicht so einfach. Denn in Bialystock gab es keinen Bahnhof und folglich keine Info und die Schaffner waren nur sehr leicht mit der englischen Sprache vertraut. Also stiegen wir in einen Zug nach Kaunas (wir hatten vorher zum Glück gelesen, dass man den auch nehmen kann und fanden diese Info irgendwo in unserem Hinterkopf). Tja und in Kaunas wurde ein Teil der Bahngleise erneuert, also mussten wir den Bus nach Palamenoas nehmen. Leider konnte uns nur niemand wirklich Auskunft geben, welcher Zug dahin fuhr, also stiegen wir auf gut Glück in einen und wir hatten wirklich gut Glück. Wir stiegen richtig aus und ein Zug nach Vilnius stand schon bereit, also sprintenten wir mit unsere 12kg Rucksäcken um den Zug noch zu erwischen, nur um dann zu bemerken, dass er erst in 1,5h führe....
    Egal, nach einer langen, strapaziösen, verwirrenden Reise kamen wir schließlich in Vilnius, der Hauptstadt von Litauen an.
    Die Stadt ist wunderschön und unsere Unterkunft mindestens genauso.
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  • Day1

    Vilnius

    September 15, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    Weil ich ein fauler Sack bin gibts den Reisebericht nur in Stichpunkten lol:
    - der wahrscheinlich kürzeste Flug meines Lebens (25min)
    - Vilnius sieht aus wie ein Mix aus skandinavischen Ländern und Altdeutschland (mit einer kräftigen Note Kommunismus in den Randgebieten)
    - traditionell russisches Essen schmeckt bei Oma und Opa immer noch am Besten (der Schaschlik war aber nicht schlecht)
    - shoppen ist echt schwer wenn selbst XS vier Nummern zu groß ist (siehe Bild lol)
    - der Kaffee ist seeehr gut
    - hab erst ungefähr 5% von dem gelernt was ich für Anatomie können muss und werd am Mittwoch abgefragt (läuft)
    - Zugtickets kosten anscheinend nur 20€, was wahrscheinlich dazu führen wird dass ich im Laufe meines Studiums noch ein paar Mal hier landen werde
    - ein Einheimischer hat mir nach dem Essen ein Tuch angeboten als er gemerkt hat dass ich verzweifelt nach meinen Tempos suche
    - wenn man das Reisen liebt, aber keine Touristen, dann scheint Litauen das perfekte Land zu sein
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  • Day7

    Auf und ab und dann zum Hotel

    September 14, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    In Vilnius stellen wir nur schnell unser Gepäck in den Hotelzimmern ab und machen uns dann mit dem Bus auf den Weg ans andere Ende der Altstadt. Von dort aus führt uns Maik durch die Straßen. Was hier (und auch schon in Trakai) auffällt, sind die vielen Brautpaare, die mit einem Fotografen von Motiv zu Motiv laufen.
    Außerdem ist in Vilnius gerade das Fest der Minderheiten. Laut Wikipedia lebten im Jahr 2017 offiziell 574.221 Einwohner oder 22 % der Bevölkerung Litauens in Vilnius, davon 54,43 % Litauer, 18 % Polen und 13 % Russen, der Rest verteilt sich auf weitere 125 Nationalitäten, 66 % der Einwohner waren katholisch. Dieser Mix wird hier gefeiert.
    Unsere Führung startet beim Tor der Morgenröte. Es befindet sich in der Stadtmauer und von der dem Stadtinnern zugewandten Seite aus führt eine Treppe zu einer Galerie im oberen Bereich hinauf, wo sich eine Torkapelle mit der als wundertätig verehrten Ikone, eine Schwarze Madonna, der Barmherzigen Muttergottes, befindet. Es ist ein Wallfahrtsort, zu dem viele Pilgern, weswegen wir auch nicht in die Galerie gehen, um keinen zu stören.
    Beim weiterlaufen kommen wir an einer Brücke vorbei, an der eine Schaukel hängt, manchmal sei diese sogar trockenen Fußes zu erreichen...
    Dann kommen wir ins Künstlerviertel. Es gibt viele heruntergekommene Häuser, aber die ein oder andere Stelle wurde durch alte Klaviere (à la vintage) aufgepeppt. Wir kommen auch an der Literatenstraße vorbei, dort hängen verschiedene kleine Symbole, die an einen litauischen Schriftsteller erinnern sollen.
    Etwas weiter finden wir auch verschiedene Tafeln. Auf Ihnen steht die "Verfassung" des Künstlerviertels in jeder Menge verschiedener Sprachen. Ein Gesetz wäre zum Beispiel, dass es das Recht eines jeden ist, zu sterben, er aber nicht dazu verpflichted ist.
    Etwas außerhalb der Altstadt ist das "Gotische Eck". Dort stehen zwei wunderschöne Backsteinkirchen nebeneinander, die den Krieg überlebt haben. Jedoch können wir nur in eine hinein, da gerade eine Messe stadtfindet.
    Bevor es zum Abendessen geht, machen wir noch einen Abstecher zum Cathedral Square. Die Kathedrale St. Stanislaus und St. Ladislaus, auch Cathedral Basilica genannt, ist die römisch-katholische Kathedrale des Erzbistums Vilnius. Das imposante Gebäude mit dem grossen Glockenturm ist eine der wichtigsten Gebetsstätten in Litauen. Aber auch hier ist gerade eine Messe.
    Generell sind auffällig viele Kirchen in Vilnius. An manchen Stelle kann man drei Kirchen oder Kirchtürme gleichzeitig sehen!
    Was auch auffällt, ist, dass viele Häuser sehr heruntergekommen sind, doch die meisten Leute mit dicken Luxusautos durch die engen Straßen fahren... macht nicht wirklich Sinn.
    Nun ist es aber Zeit für das letzte gemeinsame Abendessen und alle verabschieden sich danach.
    Im Hotel heißt es dann: vorbereiten für de Heimflug!
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  • Day14

    Schrauben in Litauen....

    June 28, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Nach ~1000km haben die in Russland geschweißten und gedrehten Steckachsen, leider wieder den “Geist” aufgegeben.

    Mit Hilfe von Herrn Lunskis, haben wir in Vilnius, für 80€ eine komplette Hinterachse gekauft und diese unter Verwendung unserer Hinteren Bremsanlage, wortwörtlich im “Dreck” einer Schotterpiste eingebaut...

    Jetzt rollt “Anton” wieder wie ein Neufahrzeug....

    Bester Schraubersatz unterm Auto:

    “Kann ich Dir helfen ?” Antwort: “Nein, ist alleine schwer genug....”

    In der Morgendämmerung haben wir dann um 3:30h in zünftigen Brauhaus in Vilnius den Erfolg begossen und Köstlichkeiten mit Herrn Lunskis gegessen...
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  • Day152

    Vilnius im 5er Pack

    September 29, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌧 12 °C

    Wir mögen die Gesellschaft von Jane, Markus & Clara so sehr und buchen zusammen ein Airbnb in Vilnius. Der Ankunfts- sowie Folgetag sind so verregnet, dass wir uns neben Spieleinheiten mit Clara eine gute Portion Netflix gönnen - die Miniserie „Spy“ ist sehr zu empfehlen - und uns in der Nachbarschaft kulinarisch verwöhnen lassen (einmal litauische und einmal asiatische Küche). Der heutige und letzte Tag in Vilnius bringt etwas Sonnenschein, die Free Walking Tour sowie die Bekanntschaft mit einer interessanten und hübschen Altstadt😊
    PS: Markus und Jane, wir alle sollten uns mal schämen, kein Gruppenselfie gemacht zu haben 😝
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Vilnius, Vilnius City Municipality

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