One of the things I know about you, dear reader, is that we share the excitement to travel and discover new destinations. For me it’s pretty normal (banal, I would say) to get enthusiastic before my trips, planning it and dreaming about the destination.
I’m sure you understand me… and I’m sure you also consider normal that, the day I travel, I try to go the earliest hour possible: it means two things, I arrive there sooner and I start to discover the city sooner! The sooner the better, right?
The day I went to Vilnius I woke up at 5am and had a taxi booked for one hour later, to get a bus at 6h30am in Riga’s bus station, and arrive in the lithuanian capital before 10am. Isn´t it perfect, to arrive in a new city at 10am and have the chance to take breakfast there with the locals, looking at the newspapers and see the rhythm of a city that just started the day??
Vilnius is a medium-sized city with half million inhabitants. Because it was my debut there, I asked some help at the local bus terminal to get to the city center. And, let me tell you something, it was amazing to discover Vilnius being lost in the streets…
I found myself thinking: when we don’t have a final point to go we’re never lost because we don´t have to force ourselves to follow this or that street… so, in fact, I just followed my instincts and let myself go! It was amazing and a great great chance to be surprised by the local street art. Oh yeah, Vilnius has murals and murals that fight for the foreigner’s attention.
When I found the National Philharmonic building I understood I was in the Old Town. A few more steps I passed through my hotel to leave my backpack and then headed to the Town Hall square. To be honest, the main building reminded me home, I mean, Riga and more precisely the local National Opera. The buildings are kind of similar…
From the Town Hall square one has to decide: what next?? I opted to roam around the cobblestone streets and easily found many churches… I was expecting to see some orthodox churches but in Vilnius, from the religious architecture, I could identify some polish influence.
One of my favorite streets in the Old Town is the Literature street. It was such a great discovery this narrow passageway and walk between walls covered with some of the best novelists, their words and kind of memorial. Definitely, a must go!
As I kept walking I found the Cathedral square. It’s probably the meeting point for Vilniuers (ahah sorry, I just tried this word to call the Vilnius’ locals, I´m sure you understand) and I had the chance to observe religious people (coming and going to the cathedral) and sports people (skating around the square).
After a recovery rest I walked to the Bernardin park and climbed the hill to the Castle. I know the hill may scare one but, listen me, to visit Vilnius and not go to the Castle is a crime because from here you have the best panoramic views of the city: it’s 360º of pure joy, so make an effort thinking how good it will be to make the descent.
Uzupis and Trakai
Vilnius is a relatively small city but you´ll need at least two full days to see it perfectly. Due to my work on monday, I decided to return to Riga on sunday night, which meant to manage our time very strictly.
This way, I started the second day (saturday), by visiting Trakai. Dear readers, Trakai is definitely a must place to visit and, don´t worry, it’s not that hard: I walked from the hotel to the central bus station and took the intercity bus 28. After 30 minutes, I was in Trakai.
You are probably wondering, why all this buzzing about Trakai?? Trakai is this fairy tale island composed by an iconic fortress and lakes with picturesque shores. In Trakai you truly feel the nature factor, it’s amazing.
In the afternoon I returned to Vilnius and dedicated our time to Uzupis, officially named the Republic of Uzupis, the bohemian neighborhood of the lithuanian capital.
Located on the riverbank, Uzupis have its own constitution and president, anthem and even a special independence day, on the 1st of April (April´s fool day is merely a coincidence).
What used to be a ruined area, became nowadays the most creative and artsy part of Vilnius, thanks to the artists that started to invest their time to recover the area and create different events, such as concerts and fashion festivals, exhibitions and poetry performances.
It is true that it became touristy, but go there on a saturday night and make yourself comfortable, everyone is welcome and the parties may get wild.
We took care of each other because I know how nights can ruin the day after… so I left early to the hotel, I was in countdown for sunday: there was a bus to get early morning. See you again someday Vilnius!