Vilnius – Capital of Lithuania (10 Dec 2018)
We took an evening flight from Reykjavik to Vilnius on a Wizzair flight – the price was really bargain-basement at just 80 euros for both of us (including priority boarding which allowed us to carry on 1 more bag), or roughly S$63 per person for a ~4 hours flight that took us from northwest Europe all the way to eastern Europe!
Unfortunately though, we fell victim to the exorbitant “boarding pass printing” cost of 30 euros per person!! That brought the price per person to around S$110, which still wasn’t that bad. Painful lesson learnt – print your boarding pass at home or at the hotel when taking budget flights in Europe!
Anyways, we reached Vilnius past midnight, and arrived rather groggy. The Vilnius airport looked quite strange to me – you don’t have the high ceilings and open spaces that airports usually have, and quite frankly it looked more like a museum than anything. Pretty interesting and unique.
It took us a while to find our bearings, and we eventually got onto a cab that brought us to our hotel. Our accommodation for the next 2 nights would be at the Ecotel Vilnius, a 3-star hotel that cost 67 euros for 2 nights. It’s a very functional business hotel with breakfast thrown in, so it wasn’t too bad. And well, we probably had the best breakfast in over a week, as our guesthouses in Iceland typically didn’t provide breakfast (or if they did, it would be a DIY breakfast from the airbnb fridge).
We didn’t get a whole lot of sleep considering that we only slept at 4am, but since we didn’t have much time, we had to go out for sightseeing.
It felt quite different to be back in a big city, as we were pretty much in the so-called countryside in Iceland for most of the previous week. Suddenly, we had shopping malls, shops and tons of people all around.
Our first stop was the Museum of Genocide Victims, housed in a former KGB headquarters & prison, honoring the Lithuanians killed there after WWII. All of the Eastern European countries have had a traumatic past in WW2, so Lithuania’s no different.
To be honest though, we had been to quite a few Eastern European countries already and they all had similar museums, though it’s always interesting to see each country’s take on the war. Walking around though, I noticed a few (much) older people walking around, and an interesting thought came to my mind: the way we (having experienced only peace and prosperity) view the museum, and the way they (having experienced war, death and despair) view the same museum, must be totally different. For us, it’s probably just plain “sightseeing” but for them, it’s like revisiting a part of their lives all over again.
This thought particularly resonated with me as I walked down the hallways of the former KGB prison, where prisoners must have suffered unspeakable fates. A person who had lived in that era must have had entirely different feelings about the prison from people like us.
There was an execution room, where a screen continually played a mock-up video of various prisoners heading into the room to get shot, then pushed out an opening where they would be disposed of by people outside.
Lastly we checked out some more interesting exhibits before heading back out. This was a pretty interesting one showing the various types of hidden surveillance equipment.
After visiting the museum, we ventured out into the cold streets – there were some Soviet-era brutalist-style buildings around.
We walked through a residential neighbourhood to get to our next point of interest: the Hill of Three Crosses.
The weather wasn’t too kind to us today – it was somewhat rainy/slushy but thankfully nothing of the sort that we get in Singapore. We walked through the rather compact Vilnius Old Town, taking in the sights and popping randomly into shops as we went along.
There were a lot of cathedrals and religious buildings, to the point that we had lost count 😛
The Baltic States are also fairly well known for amber. We passed by an amber museum that offered free entrance and decided to go in for a quick look (well, it’s actually a shop as well, so that explains it).
We spent about 2 hours in the Old Town and had enough – both me and Xiuling had actually seen quite a few Old Towns/Cities around Europe, and Vilnius’s wasn’t particularly memorable, to be honest.
Next stop was the Hill of Three Crosses – it was a little difficult to find our way there, and there was a fair bit of walking through some hills/woods.
Finally, after about 20 mins of walking, we finally made it to the top!
The Hill of Three Crosses has a very complicated history, having been demolished and rebuilt a few times in various forms.
Our last stop was the Cathedral Square, where there was a really lively Christmas market going.
Christmas markets in Europe are generally really pretty to look at, and filled with all sorts of interesting stuff (at least to me – I’m naturally more used to the hot and humid pasar malams in Singapore or the night markets in the South East Asian countries).
After the Christmas market, we were filling a bit hungry and decided to check out the local KFC’s.
Prices were generally lower than in Singapore.
While doing preliminary research on Vilnius, we realized that there was a cat cafe here. So we decided to head here for pre-dinner, since there wasn’t anything else to visit at night anyway.
We were able to wear our shoes into the cat cafe, but had to wear shoe covers.
Last stop for the night was dinner at Forto Dvaras, a highly rated (but touristy) restaurant, known for its local Lithuanian cuisine. Overall, the food was very good, but also extremely rich (super oily) and heavy on potatoes.
Lithuanian cepelinai (or Zeppelin in English) , or potato dumpling. Extremely rich.
Overall the damage was not too bad (maybe S$20+ or S$30), which is quite cheap considering that we ate enough for 4 people and had beers. We came out of the restaurant feeling so satisfied, and bloated at the same time.This entry was posted in Europe, Lithuania
- amber museum
- cat cafe
- Cathedral Square
- christmas market
- Ecotel Vilnius
- Forto Dvaras
- Hill of Three Crosses
- Literatų street
- Museum of Genocide Victims
- St. Anne’s Church