Vilnius, Lithuania

30 06 2011

So we arrived in Vilnius yesterday evening. After unfolding our crunched and sleepy bodies and tumbling off the bus, we managed to follow the directions to the hostel but not without a bit of help from strangers (and smiling at a couple prostitutes along the way)… An old Polish man helped guide down a cobblestone road which used to be occupied by many Jews before WWII. He spoke little English but made every attempt to communicate and was incredibly kind. Right past the main square which was lined by many baroque style buildings we saw our the street our hostel, Jimmy Jumps House was located. Our reserved private room was actually separate from the hostel and was on the top floor of the residential building next door. It almost felt like we had our own apartment except we had to share the bathroom with hostel staff across the hall:(..however the view from our room was pretty cool–red terra cotta roofs with an old church steeple occupied one window view and more quaint roofs and an ivy covered stone building filled the other. Last night we meandered around the square and various side streets. We also stopped and shared a local beer and some horribly hard cheese sticks (we felt like we were gnawing on a bone) in the square. The night was not over before we stopped at their Rimi grocery store where we picked up some snacks and food for dinner–Rock cooked up a fine chicken and rice dinner:)

The following morning we ate several fresh waffles at the hostel before heading towards town square for Vilnius’s free walking tour which began at noon. With a funkily yellow painted suitcase, two Lithuanian students sat waiting. Soon we were off with them and began our two hour tour. We also picked up two other tourists (a girl from Scotland and a guy from Australia) from another hostel and began our tour weaving through narrow streets. Our tour guides stopped at several churches pointing out things of historical importance. Many of the churches were baroque in style with one gothic cathedral made with bricks (which was my favorite). They also took us through what once was the Jewish ghetto during WWII and Vilnius’s narrowest street which contained a trace of the Nazi occupation. An identification number painted in red remained outside what used to be a Jewish family’s house. This part of the tour was in stark contrast to the graffiti filled bohemian district, Uzupis. This “state” has its own constitution and “politician.” A couple times during the year, they set up mock border checks and stamp tourists passports:)…Anyway, the area reminded of Asheville and its Lexington Arts area. There were plenty of funky murals and sculptures, including as our tour guide described, “the world’s first backpacker, JESUS!” A couple hours later and a few more churches and cobblestone streets, the tour ended and we went back to the hostel for an early nap and late lunch. I sat on our floor eating tuna and crackers…I felt too much like a hungry cat:)…Now we’re hoping to meet up with some fellow travelers for a beer and tomorrow were taking a bus for day trip to the Trakai Castle, Lake, and Museum.