24 hours in Vilnius, Lithuania
After a lovely couple of days exploring Warsaw we had a fiendishly early start to make our way to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius. It also saw the unravelling of my plan to get all the way from the UK to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam by train. Unfortunately the direct train from Warsaw to Vilnius is currently cancelled due to maintenance so we had to catch a bus instead.
I had known this when we set off and I have to say I was dreading it somewhat. I much prefer trains for long journeys, you can get up and walk around, spread out. I find buses on the whole to be cramped and I get restless. The 6 am departure also put me off, never the less, we found ourselves stealing through the dark streets of Warsaw to the bus stop at 5.30 am. We’d booked the journey online, through Simple Express and the bright yellow insectivorous-looking coach turned up pretty soon.
This coach was far better than I was expecting and the six hour journey passed comfortably and easily. Each passenger had a small interactive tv screen in the back of the seat in front of them on which you can watch movies, play games or simply follow the route on a map.
We passed into Lithuania, stopping briefly at a service station for refreshments. Outside the bus window the architectural style changed, we passed through small villages of pretty wooden houses.
We checked into Jimmy Jumps Hostel, in a great location off the Town Hall Square in the old town. An exploratory wander to catch the last of the sunlight saw us heading down Pilies Gatve, with its cobbles and shops to Vilnius Cathedral which is set in a lovely open square. The town was bustling with life on the bright autumn evening, there was a pleasant atmosphere with everyone enjoying the last of the weekend.
We popped into Mint Vinetu, a second-hand bookshop and cafe. The owner had a puppy that gnawed at the books piled up in a doorway between rooms, it was such a cutie! There was a reasonable selection of english books for sale, as well as other european languages.
The following day we joined the Free Walking Tour along with a few other backpackers. Our guide was the lovely Elvira, she gave us a potted history of Lithuania before we set off to see a few sights around Vilnius.
The highlight was the arty Uzubis Republic on an ‘island’ between the Vilnelle River and the old city, which has its own constitution. Uzubis is colourful and quirky, with sculptures and interesting features. The constitution is written in many different languages on golden plaques mounted on a wall along Paupio Gatve.
We walked back into the old town along Literatu Street, with its decorative tiles representing poets and writers who have left their mark on Lithuanian literature.
After the tour we took a walk up to city landmark Gediminas Tower for its view over the city, the hillsides framing it were golden with autumn.
We ended our time in Vilnius with a filling meal in the tasty vegetarian restaurant Balti Drambliai with three lovely girls we met in the hostel and on the walking tour, sharing travel tales until we had to depart to catch the overnight train to St Petersburg. You can read Olivia’s tales on her lovely blog.
We loved Vilnius and wished we’d had longer there, 30 hours just wasn’t enough at all!