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Rounding out the Baltic States in Vilnius


View World Tour 2016 on Glichez's travel map.

This morning I was up early so I could catch my bus to Vilnius at 07:00; I wasn't able to have breakfast at the hotel before I left either. The bus ride lasted just under four hours and went rather smoothly. I ran into Albert and his girlfriend (both from the bus tour from Tallinn to Riga); they were on the same bus to Vilnius as me! Thankfully the bus had personal TVs for each seat and a small library of movies to watch; I spent the ride watching "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and then "Deadpool" which finished right as we were arriving. I made my way to my hotel, which is another very nice place; my room is on the top floor.

I headed towards the city center to catch the free walking tour at noon. I stopped in at a local supermarket to grab a quick snack before the tour - and ran into Albert again! There was a rather pretty church right nearby that I decided to quickly visit as well. The interior was rather plain, except for the altar at the very front; this was incredibly ornate and was quite beautiful.

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The tour met up at the town hall, which was a Greek-style building. The group was split into two smaller groups of around 20 people each (Albert and his girlfriend were in the other group from mine – as were the two annoying Americans from my day tour in Tallinn!).

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Our guide for the afternoon was a younger guy who was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his city; he provided us with a brief history of Lithuania and then the walking tour began. Our first (brief) stop was at a plaque on the wall of the town hall, commemorating when George W Bush spoke in Vilnius.

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We walked through the city and visited one of the two former Jewish ghettos from the 1940s. There isn’t much that would give away the area’s terrible past. We stepped into one of the many courtyards and saw a small statue of a naked woman riding a bear, which is supposed to represent the country’s paganism in the past.

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We then headed off to the Independent Republic of Užupis, which lies along the river running through the city. The Republic was created in 1998 and is rather tongue-in-cheek, though it does have its own parliament, president and army (of 11 people). Užupis has their own signs welcoming visitors, laying out the few rules of the Republic:
1. You must smile
2. No driving faster than 20kph
3. You must like art

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As we crossed the bridge and entered Užupis, we saw a statue of a mermaid along the wall. There is a city-wide program that allows some of the statues to “call” your cell phone and tell you their story by scanning a QC code. Our guide played the mermaid’s “call” and it sounded rather like a phone sex call!

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Užupis is rather bohemian and very artsy, with statues scattered around it and courtyards full or artistic things. Along one wall were metal signs listing out the Constitution of Užupis in various languages.

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The Constitution reads thus:
1. Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, and the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
2. Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
3. Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
5. Everyone has the right to be unique.
6. Everyone has the right to love.
7. Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
8. Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
9. Everyone has the right to be idle.
10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
11. Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
13. A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of nee (sic).
14. Sometimes everyone has the right to be unaware of their duties.
15. Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not an obligation.
16. Everyone has the right to be happy.
17. Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
18. Everyone has the right to be silent.
19. Everyone has the right to have faith.
20. No one has the right to violence.
21. Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance.
22. No one has the right to have a design on eternity.
23. Everyone has the right to understand.
24. Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
25. Everyone has the right to be of any nationality.
26. Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday.
27. Everyone shall remember their name.
28. Everyone may share what they possess.
29. No one can share what they do not possess.
30. Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
31. Everyone may be independent.
32. Everyone is responsible for their freedom.
33. Everyone has the right to cry.
34. Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
35. No one has the right to make another person guilty.
36. Everyone has the right to be individual.
37. Everyone has the right to have no rights.
38. Everyone has the right to not to be afraid.
39. Do not defeat
40. Do not fight back
41. Do not surrender

We made our way back into the old town area of Vilnius, stopping by an old Gothic-style church. There were several wedding parties taking pictures outside of the church. There are actually two churches right next to one another in the same courtyard.

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Our next stop took us to the presidential palace, situated right next to the university of Lithuania. Our guide told us many amusing stories about their current president: a woman who speaks her mind and isn’t afraid to offend someone.

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Our final stop was at the cathedral, situated in the heart of the city center. The building was used as an art gallery during the Soviet era, but has since been restored and is back to being a church. It sits on one side of a large square, which is lined by a small park on the other side. Behind the cathedral sits the reconstructed palace of the grand dukes. It is a pretty building without a great deal of embellishment.

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Behind the square was a small hill with the Gediminas' Tower, which is the ruins of the former upper castle. I followed the stone patch up to the tower, but I didn’t go inside (the 4 EUR admission would get me to the top of the tower, but the views from the top of the hill were spectacular enough).

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I didn’t spend much time at the top of the hill as a storm began to roll in; I headed back to my hotel so I could grab my umbrella and drop of my camera. On the way it began to rain, but thankfully I missed the worst of the storm. I waited a few minutes for the storm to let up and then I headed back to the city center area for dinner.

I had found a restaurant that focused solely on traditional Lithuanian food; it had very good reviews and their prices were quite cheap. I went with the most traditional dish: zeppelins (cepelinai). These are dumplings made of potato shavings and stuffed with ground meat; they are named after the Zeppelin airships due to their shape. Mine was served with a sour cream sauce and I devoured it all. The food was spectacular – I may return tomorrow to try another type of zeppelin. With dinner I had a rather good local Lithuanian beer.

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For dessert I again went with the most traditional Lithuanian food: some chocolate and almond sweets, served with chocolate drizzle on top. I had an almond coffee with it; the taste was quite different from a regular coffee, but it went well with the dessert. The best part: the entire meal cost only 10 EUR!

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As I was leaving, I decided to walk around the cathedral square for a few minutes. To my delight I discovered that there was a street fair going on to one side of the square. Our guide had mentioned that the city would be have some celebrations throughout the weekend; this must have been part of that. There were numerous stalls selling various knick-knacks and food vendors selling delicious smelling food (what it was I couldn’t tell). At various places along the street were a few stages with bands performing. I even stumbled across a band just playing on the street (and interesting band made up of three trombone players and a saxophone player!). It was really fun to get to wander around and experience this part of Vilnius. Until tonight the charm of the city had eluded me, but I now felt a better connection and understanding of the city.

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One the way back to my hotel I came across a trip of women doing flamenco dancing on the sidewalk!

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Posted by Glichez 10:35 Archived in Lithuania

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