EU Travelling 2018 - Baltic States Part 3 - Vilnius, Lithuania

01/03/2018 Vilnius, Lithuania

February came and went and here we are, now in March and I'm still procrastinating on publishing my blog posts for the trip that Adam, Jon and myself had through the Baltic States back in January; I don't really know why I've left it this late to do, I guess lately I've just been really unmotivated to do a great deal of anything creative and you can't force yourself to make things whilst you're in that mindset or else you'll only end up producing a load of second rate dribble. At any rate, I've somehow managed to kick myself into gear again only days after putting out part 2 of my blog series for the trip. (Part 1 & 2 can be read here). So join me as I go through our experience of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Vilnius, Lithuania

Having had half a day left in Estonia, we spent most of the day perusing the city centre and shopping malls before stopping off for some beers to pass the time before our evening 45 minute flight to Vilnius. The flight was without a doubt the smoothest flight all three of us had been on, hardly even feeling like we were in the air -- landing was also an interesting experience as Adam and I bore witness to an absolute machine of an Airport worker tearing down the runway in his transit van, doing a handbrake U-turn and powering back up to the runway all in the ice and snowy conditions. +10 lad points to Lithuania!

It was getting on for late evening by the time we had left the airport and grabbed a taxi to the hotel in the city centre. After paying an extortionate taxi fair which lead to us using Uber for the remainder of our trip, we dropped our bags off at the room and headed down to reception, where we asked the receptionist for recommendations on places to eat that were nearby. She very kindly handed us over some discount coupons for a hotel that was around the corner that had a restaurant called 'Rib Room.' So we headed on over there and experienced amazing 10/10 service and food. Jon and I went for the platter of ribs selection whilst Adam went for a Spaghetti Bolognese, all of which looked and tasted amazing, followed by an equally to die for Chocolate Fondant dessert. The bill was an extremely low priced €69 for a three person three course meal and round of drinks. There, we finished up our drinks and turned in for the night, ready to explore the city in the morning. If you ever find yourself in Vilnius, check out Rib Room, you won't be disappointed!

Having had a great first evening's experience of Vilnius, we were in great spirits to tackle the cold snowy city centre. Venturing out towards the main square, finding our lay of the land once more. Luckily it wasn't as cold as our previous destinations as a lot of the snow had already fallen and the temperatures weren't as bitter so we didn't mind walking throughout the city centre for lengthy periods. We came across a free walking tour and having had great experience with our previous walking tours in Latvia and Estonia we decided to take the 2 hour long tour throughout Vilnius.

Some of the most interesting segments of the tour were when our guide, Milda, went on to talk of the religious history of the city, going into great detail about the still very active Pagan lifestyle and worshipping of forest spirits, which even she herself worshipped, to then leading us to an independent small island state within Vilnius itself; Uzupio Res Publika. We stopped at the bridge which lead into the state, where she told us of the 4 main laws for the state.

1. You must be happy whilst here.
2. Drive slowly and with care.
3. The state is for art and artists of the world.
4. Be cautious of the river!

Milda went on in detail, telling us of how the state was founded on April 1st 1997 (April Fools day of course) and that the whole state was a kind of light hearted joke, with it's own set of rules for living a happy life. Some of the art installations even had pieces of media embedded within the walls, detailing any piece of literature, art, news and so on about Vilnius and Uzupis, good or bad, they were proud to be recognised in the world. Joke or not, a state full of happy artists that live carefree lives sounds like my cup of tea, perhaps if it were in a slightly warmer climate I'd be looking to migrate!

Having had a great walking tour which lead us into the afternoon, we decided to grab a quick bite on the go and look for traditional things to do in Lithuania. Jon looked for sports that were synonymous with the state, discovering that Basketball was their main sport. A few google searches later and we found that the capital city's team were playing on the evening against another Lithuanian team and for around €6 each we could get great seats. Friday evening, prime time entertainment in the capital of Lithuania? Sign us up. We grabbed an Uber and took a short couple of miles or so journey to the Siemens arena which came to all of around 70 cents. Travel tip: if you're ever in the Baltic States, get Ubers and NOT local taxis! We ended up grabbing Ubers pretty much everywhere after this journey and saved ridiculous amounts of money -- other taxi firms would charge roughly ~€10 for the same length of journey, absolute daylight robbery.

We headed into the arena, taking a moment to have a gander at the trophy cabinets of the home team, Lietuvos Rytas, the cabinets were filled with seemingly a lot of achievements, these fellas meant business. Grabbing a €3 pint (can we have those prices at our stadiums in the UK please?!) we found our seats and watched as the teams warmed up on the court whilst the stadium quickly filled up leaving only a small number of seats unfilled.

Lietuvos Rytas vs BC Lietkabelis got underway. Having neither of us been to a basketball game, we took in the distinctly American style atmosphere, complete with an opening ceremony that had a standing national anthem sang by what we assumed was a local musician, mascot hurling the home team's flag back and forth along to pyrotechnics, intervals that had the home cheerleaders performing a mixture of dance routines, a dude who looked like an extra from Jersey Shore walking onto centre court firing balls into the crowd for attendees to go down and try their luck at shooting a hoop and earning prizes, and sponsored advertisements -- It was all distinctly American, just with an Eastern European twist. The home team, Rytas thrashed their opponents and the atmosphere of the stadium was amazing to be a part of. We left the stadium and headed into a shopping mall across the way from the stadium, grabbing some food and drinks before turning in for the night.

The final day of not only our time in Lithuania but also our trip of the Baltic States too, we decided to get up early and make the most of our limited time left. Heading out into the city with a brief stop off for Red Bull and pastries, we decided to head towards a viewing platform above the city that Milda had told us of on the walking tour. Going through windy back streets and through a local park, we came across a lad on a sled who was being pulled by his other half. One day I hope I can find a such a loving lassy who'll put up with my shit enough to want to pull me on a sled through snow too. Heading through thick probably 5-6" thick snow of the park we reached the steps towards the viewing area where Adam and I had serious doubts, not about going up the steps but for coming down them on the return journey. Even in my sturdy winter boots, I valued my life and wasn't about to let a set of stairs in Eastern Europe take me to an early grave (lol I do love overdramatising a scene). Adam shared this feeling, leaving Jon in his fucking VANS OLDSKOOL FLATS?! to climb on his lonesome. Credit to him he made it what we thought was probably half way until he turned around and shouted to us that he was probably a quarter of the way there. In hysterics Adam and I watched as he slowly baby step retreated back down to us where we decided to give up the viewing platform as a bad job and head back towards the city to grab some food and look at things to do for the rest of the day.

Fed, watered and warm again we decided to head to the Museum of Illusions which was a superb shout as there were all matter of mind boggling exhibits to try and get your head around. Some of my favourites included the never ending mirrors, classic funhouse circus style mirrors which had us in hysterics and a games of perspective. At the end of the tour was a VR experience kind of tour guide of the city which showed what Vilnius was like in the Summer time which was fun to take in, being my first time using a VR headset as well.

Late afternoon some came around and we decided to check out the local Holocaust Museum (The Green House as its referred to on Tripadvisor). That wasn't worth our time though as it was an overpriced, small tour which wouldn't allow photography and was extremely wordy but didn't hold much substance. Jon and I both agreed that our experience in similar museums throughout other countries that we had been to across Europe were far superior. Unsatisfied we quickly left the museum and decided to head towards the KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus) where we spent the remainder of the evening there, taking in the history of the horrible atrocities that were committed to the Lithuanian people over the years by the KGB forces. It was horrifying to see the way that the Soviet forces treat the Baltic people across all three states, in a lot of cases even worse than that of the Nazi oppressors. It is invaluable that these kinds of museums stay open to the public, so that many can learn the knowledge of errors and terrible acts of previous generations and crooked minds, so that we too don't end up repeating their horrific ways out of fear, hatred and lack of compassion towards others.

A grim afternoon of learning the terrible past of Lithuania and it's people, we ended the night in a local pizzeria sports bar where I was able to taste some of Lithuania's traditional cuisine, potatoes. I went for a roast beef and veg mix as I was in dire need of proper sustenance after partaking in such rich foods throughout a lot of the trip, of course, washed down nicely with a local ale and followed by some milkshake, ice cream, donut topped concoction of a dessert which put me back in good spirits. Finishing our drinks we headed back to the hotel to pack our bags and get a decent early nights sleep, ready to head back home in the morning.

 Landing back in Luton, back to the typical blustery UK winds and sunshine trying to peer through the cloudy skies with not an ounce of snow in sight, we headed on back to Brighton. All in all, our trip throughout the Baltic states was great, filled with a whole heap of things to see and do. When first telling people that I was to travel across to Eastern Europe, many would say that it would be a waste of time with"Theres nothing even there!" or "Why do you think so many Eastern Europeans come across here, there's nothing there!" and "Wouldn't you rather be somewhere hot?" Sigh. Don't even get me started on those types of people. Contrary to whatever close-minded, probably never even ventured to anywhere in Europe besides Benidorm, usually middle-aged person would tell you, the Baltic States are lovely, history rich filled places, great for travellers of all ages to go and explore, just make sure that you don your thermals and prepare for the cold if you head there in January.

I hope you've enjoyed my detailing of our experiences throughout our trip to the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. You can check out the previous blog posts below. Drop me a follow on the social media channels below to keep up to date with any new adventures that I'll share in my little slice of the internet. I've already booked a trip to Rome for September and have plans for many other adventures soon which I can't wait to share with you.

© customtaylorlife. Design by Fearne.