Vilnius - the city of the iron wolf
Starting today, I will share a new series of Travel Stories about my impressions from wandering in Europe, especially the Eastern part of it. For now, I will tell you a few short stories about Lithuania and Latvia, followed soon by Croatia and Poland.
I am pretty sure most of you, my dear readers, had visited at least one a big Western European city; a week or just a weekend in Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona. Maybe some of you saw all of the above and even more grandiose ones and probably all of you had to research very thoroughly a list of landmarks.
You read a lot, watched some YouTube videos, made a plan and a list of goals, organized by day. The constant problem of visiting such monumental cities is how to see as many places as possible in a very short period of time:
• The Vatican, the Colosseum, two fountains, three squares and four museums in four days.
• Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Orsay, Versailles, Champs d'Elyse, two cathedrals, Moulin Rouge, Disneyland and a shopping day in a week.
• British Museum, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, National Gallery, Chelsea Stadium and pubs in three days.
I have to honestly acknowledge: from all the destinations I have reached so far, Vilnius is the place I have prepared the least before traveling. I have not read more than 10 minutes about the capital of Lithuania before I landed. From this point of view, Vilnius was an ingenious tourist experience. I just did not know what to expect. I do admit that I had local help, from one work colleague and also working with the local Tourism Board helped a lot. The first thing you need to know is that you can get a Vilnius Tourist Card, that basically can take you anywhere, public transportation is included and entrance to museums. The first impression of Vilnius was of disbelief. The airport looked like a museum on the inside and a tiny Romanian high school building from the outside, on our way to the city center the shadows of the Russian influence were still visible. Tall grey apartment buildings, sad and old, but left unchanged for 30 years.
By its allure, Vilnius would be a provincial city, but all your prejudices are shattered when you step into the historic center.
Vilnius is said to have one of the largest Old Centers of all Eastern European countries. It does not seem an exaggeration. For a city of 500,000 inhabitants, Vilnius has a huge, grandiose allure when you set in the old streets.
One after the other, at every corner of the street, there is an incredible and beautiful church. In Vilnius you will not find anything like the Vatican, but in Vilnius cathedrals and churches are so many, so old, the sensation is so impressive considering the compact space and we are wondering why Vilnius is not considered one of the world’s epicenter of Christianity.
I know it may seem exaggerated, but I do not think you have to go places as far away as Tibet or Bali to look for a place where spirituality, religion plays such an important role in people's everyday life.
Vilnius is a city I liked very much; the Old Town of Vilnius deserves its place in the UNESCO World Heritage. Still, Vilnius keeps a quiet air of the province and always feels like it is a city where locals beat the number of tourists easily. Stopping someone on the street and asking him "Are you a local or a tourist?" would be just idiotic. They are all locals. My experience with the locals seemed an extraordinary one, they are happy you started talking to them and with a slight Russian accent and with the very modest attitude, they are many times surprised that someone is visiting their small country. At one point, just walking around I saw an auto ironic t-shirt for sale as a souvenir: "I love Lithuania! But where is it?” and this is one of the reasons why they didn’t really understand why we were there.
Now, you know that most of the time, I would link a foodie post to my travel story, but this time it will be a bit different, since I had a bad experience with food (and not because it wasn’t good, just because my stomach didn’t like the heavy Lithuanian cuisine). So, dear reader, the story goes like this – I really wanted to try the famous pink soup I heard so much about and I had colleagues at work that showed me pictures and we talked about the taste, so that was it – I had to try it.
We asked at the hotel about the most famous traditional restaurant, Porto Dvaras, located in the heart of the city center, it looks very old and the waiters are dressed in what I believe to be old traditional outfits.
I ordered the soup of course, and I needed a main meal, but unfortunately what was recommended to me by my Lithuanian colleague was not available here, so I tried some pork dumplings (very similar with the Polish pierogis) with a glass of red Cherry wine. I didn’t really like the dumplings, maybe because I haven’t eaten pork since last year, or maybe it just wasn’t to my taste but 4 hours later, I was drowning my head in the toilet and throwing up everything. Therefore, the next day, I couldn’t even see food, the whole day I had only lemon water or cola without ice.
Dear reader, don’t rely on my foodie story, this is just a personal experience, my friend Mary with whom I had dinner was just fine. She woke up the next day, had several items for breakfast, she tried other things for lunch and she also had dinner, just like normal people. Therefore, go try everything that looks appetising and let me know how it was.
The reason I wanted to share my foodie story is because, I want you to understand that I will never promote anything that I don’t genially believe in and all the stories I tell are real, with good and bad. I will still like to go back one day and try more from the menu, which will probably happen sooner than later.
I also want to mention my collaboration with the Lithuanian Tourism Board, for which I want to thank for the great opportunity they offered.