Vilnius

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In Lithuania ‘thank you’ is said ‘achoo’.

We had one day in Vilnius, and this is more or less all of the Lithuanian we managed to learn.  Coming through the Baltic we’ve changed country roughly every 24 hours, so have been getting a bit confused with language. (P.S. We’ve made it to Russia!)  We decided to rush through Europe because it’s expensive, and to give us a better chance of nice weather in Russia.  It’s been pretty hectic, but I’m glad we saw all of the places we did, and since we arrived in St Petersburg it has been beautiful sunshine and not too chilly.  Fingers crossed for the next month or so.

We spent most of our time in Vilnius in the old town, but stayed with Raminta and her boyfriend Justas on the other side of the river, so we got a bit of an idea of the rest of the city.  They were wonderful hosts (thanks for the delicious lasagne and biscuits!) and we really enjoyed chatting with them about all sorts of things.  It was great to learn a bit more about Lithuania and Lithuanians, especially as we had such a short time to get a feel for the place.  My favourite thing that we learned, for sheer bizarreness, was that individual homeless people in Vilnius are famous enough to be reported on in the newspaper every now and again.  Also that in Soviet times you could get coca-cola in Moscow but not in Vilnius.  It was also interesting that we talked about some similar things to in Poland.  Firstly about how many people have left to work in the UK — Lithuania has lost a huge chunk of its population to people moving abroad to work.  Its population has decreased by more than 10% in the last ten years.  Secondly about how friendly people are and so on.  (I.e. people are more reserved, and less likely to smile.)  Now in Russia we’ve already had more or less the same conversation with our host.  I wonder if this is a former Soviet thing, or if it has older roots than that.

Today on the train out of St Petersburg everybody was looking very glum.  Possibly even more so than on a similar commuter train out of London.  The only person smiling was a little girl in a buggy.  Some of the time her mum was playing with her in an engaged way, but still not smiling.

Anyway.  We didn’t find Vilnius particularly unfriendly, and the glummest people we came across were a load of English guys.  They were dressed in matching waistcoats with nicknames on the back, and were sloping up the street drinking bottled water and looking very sorry for themselves.  We had arrived in stag-do territory.

We spent most of the day in Vilnius walking around, and eating.  (There’s a pattern here…) We’re finding that we get a better feel for a place and enjoy ourselves more if we don’t try to pack in too may tourist things (museums and so on).

We started with coffee and breakfast pastries, then wandered around town until lunch.

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My favourite bit was walking up the hills in the centre of the city and getting a great view.  I’ve really been missing getting out on the hills, so this was a nice substitute!IMG_5544 IMG_5545 IMG_5546

This castle was perched on top of one of the hills.  It’s the only remaining part of a larger palace.IMG_5552 IMG_5556

Vilnius has a lot of churches.  Like, alot.  The first thing we noticed when we entered the old town was people turning around and crossing themselves after they came through the city gate.  It’s called the gate of dawn, and has an icon of the virgin Mary in it.  I guess Lithuania is a pretty religious country (the internet says 77% Catholic).  Arthur also noticed that the mannequins in underwear shop windows were mostly wearing nighties rather than underwear.  Observant…  We wondered if this was a cultural/religious thing.

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Raminta recommended a vegetarian cafe for lunch, which was great.  It was ayurvedic, so no onions or garlic, but they still managed to make a delicious vegetable broth.  We felt like we needed some vegetables after stuffing our faces with pancakes and burgers in Warsaw.  Though we then went and had cake, but never mind.

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And that was pretty much it.  A day isn’t anywhere near enough to get a proper idea of a city, let alone a country, but we were glad we stopped anyway.  I feel I know a little more about Lithuania at least.

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