Trakai and Leaving Vilnius

4 07 2011

In the morning today, we ate some more delicious waffles, and headed to the bus station. We arrived at the perfect time as a bus was leaving in five minutes for Trakai. The ticket cost about 6 litas each and the ride was a short 30 minutes or so. The bus station in Trakai is a bit removed from the end of the town where most of the tourist action was so we had to walk for about 30 minutes before reaching the footbridge leading to the castle museum. As we were walking along the footbridge towards the Castle Museum on the island, several women who looked like dignitaries from around the world were leaving the island and were escorted by security. We checked out the dimly lit museum rooms throughout the castle. We enjoyed the walk back to the bus station and stopped along the lake to watch a father and son fish and soon were laughing at a match between several ducks. We didn’t have to wait long for the next bus back to Vilnius but before it arrived we spotted a couple goats in a field nearby and of course Rock had to have his photos taken with one. And then we were back to our base and were meandering the streets of old town once more. In front of old town, several Cola costumed renegades were handing out free cokes to hordes of teens and unfortunately many of the cans soon littered the square—it was a bit outrageous. Later on, we also spotted a bride and groom with their family posing for shots at the fountain. It was quite a scene in old town that evening. The next morning we checked out of Jimmy Jumps (after I had four waffles) and visited Uzupis once more so we could have our passports officially stamped. Pete the owner of Jimmy Jumps called us a taxi (our first on this trip) and we were soon at the Vilnius airport waiting for our flight to Tallnin Estonia via Air Baltic.

Photos are here!

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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.