Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was our next destination for a short city break. We went there in the very middle of October 2018 when the weather was still in its summer mood. The only sign of existing autumn was presented by the leaves on the trees turning into all those wonderful colours: yellow, golden, red and brown.
Unexpectedly and completely we fell in love with Lithuanian metropolis. There is something inexpressibly gentle about it. Something that makes you think – “I could live here…”
“The city was founded in 1323 by grand duke Gediminas who attracted Jewish and German tradesmen and merchants with generous tax exemptions. Also, for centuries it became a destination for those fleeing religious persecution or tough trade guild regulations. From 1569 for the next two hundred years Vilnius was the co-capital of what was then Europe’s biggest empire – the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth. Later the city withstood Russian tsarists and soviet occupation. finally, in 1991 it gained its freedom and independence.”
We travelled to Vilnius by plane. The flight from Gdansk airport took about 50 minutes. Due to my seat being next to the window and a cloudless sky, I was able to admire the landscape beneath. The 56 miles long split between the Baltic sea – the Vistula Lagoon looked truly impressive. In the blink of en eye we found ourselves at Vilnius airport. Due to its vicinity to the city, the airport is well connected to the centre by train or by bus. We chose this special train and in no time at all (7 minutes) got to Vilnius railway station.
During our two full days we tried to explore as much as possible covering the distances on foot. Charming streets of the old town, numerous outstanding churches and majestic monuments. Then we headed to Uzupis, the district in the neighbourhood of the old town famous for its ‘independence’. The district has been popular with artists for some time and been compared to Montmartre in Paris and to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen due to its bohemian and laid back atmosphere. On April 1997 the district declared itself an independent republic – The Republic of Uzupis.
We were walking along the banks of the beautiful river Neris towards the church of St Peter and St Paul. Tired and hungry we were desperate for a place to sit down and rest. Quite accidentally we came across this Polish restaurant near the church and British embassy. We were tired, we were hungry – so we took our time in this restaurant delighted with the high quality of food being served. Delicious Polish dishes and Lithuanian beer.
Vilnius is not the largest city so it is quite easy to move around. You can spend the whole day in the old town and its neighbourhood. The Republic of Uzupis mentioned above, the Hill of Three Crosses with three crosseson the top (remarkable), Gediminas Hill with his castle (remains of it) and museum, innumerable really stunning churches and Gediminas avenue being the main street in Vilnus. Westwards this avenue leads to a hidden treasure though. Just across the river, over the bridge, turning left and here we are: Vytauto street full of lovely ‘original’ authentic wooden houses. Moving forward the street leads to modernist Panorama shopping centre.
Again we stayed with AirBnB accommodation. A compact but very modern studio flat having a superb location. A few minutes from the railway station and the old town. In essence we were very pleased with everything in Vilnius. Absolutely nothing on the negative side. People, architecture, atmosphere not to mention the prices. Very beautiful and affordable. Train ticket from the airport to the railway station – 65 cents. Well, it was -‘ the cherry on the cake’.