Vilnius was the start of our journey up the Baltic States. With so little time on hand, we decided to concentrate on Vilnius & Estonia without stopping at Latvia. We were really surprised at the modern look of both cities, as the preconception was run-down post Soviet surroundings.
It was the longest intercity travel for us between Krakow to Vilnius. We started with a 3hr afternoon train ride from Krakow to Warsaw. After bumming around Warsaw bus station for 2.5hours, we took the 8.30pm overnight 9hr bus connection to Vilnius. I actually felt alright upon arrival at Vilnius since I had decent sleep throughout the bus ride. So we were out & about straight after checking into our hostel and a quick shower.
Vilnius is a charming city with plenty of medieval buildings. As it strives to become European Capital of Culture in 2009, many of these architecture gems are being restored and spruced up. The best part was how all these attractions were within walking distances of each other and the flat terrain made the walks even more enjoyable.
Vilnius was another city where I was blown away by the beauty of so many different type of churches. Some notable ones included:
– The Cathedral for its sheer size, high ceilings and Casimier Chapel
– St Anne’s Church fusing with St Francis & Bernadine Church. Amazing how 2 different churches have joined beautifully in the middle
– St Nicolas Orthodox Church for its intimacy as opposed to the bigger Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit. Memorable since this was my first encounter with orthodox churches
– St Johns’ Church for its relaxed & casual atmosphere due to its location next to the Vilnius University. Saw origami of birds decorating the interior and a visitor enjoying the bright & quietness to catch up on some newspaper reading.
Another interesting part of Vilnius is the eccentric Republic of Uzupis. Created in 1997 by artists and bohemians, the state has its own president, flag, 41-point constitution etc. Article #12 gives the dog a right to be a dog while Article #37 gives citizens the right to have no rights.
The highlight for me in Vilnius took place on a sunny day when i went in search of quirky attractions around the city. I was on my own that day since PT decided to venture to the serenity of Trakai whilst I embarked on my little mission.
My search included hunting down the Egg Statue, which resided in Uzupis’ main square until it “hatched” the Angel of Uzupis statue, Frank Zappa memorial (world’s first Zappa statue) and Zaliasis Tiltas or Green Bridge (4 sculptures from Soviet heydays). Along the way, I chanced upon the bust of Gaon Elijahu (Vilnius famous Jewish prodigy) and a memorial to Chijune Sugihara (Consul of Japan in Vilnius who assisted 2,139 Jewish refugees).
Accommodation – Filaretai Youth Hostel http://www.filaretaihostel.lt (friendly quiet hostel set inside the Republic of Uzupis)