It’s been nearly five years since my visit, yet I remember the day I spent in Vilnius as clearly as if it had been only five weeks ago. Though Vilnius was not originally on my Places to See in Europe list (mostly because I didn’t know about it), when I saw the price of the flights there from Trondheim (60 NOK!) and found out that Lithuanian is one of the oldest living languages, the linguist in me could not resist.
I passed by a playground on the way to my hostel. It was a bright sunny day and a horde of kids were happily running around. I suddenly realised how long it had been since I’d seen something like that – all the playgrounds in Singapore always seemed to be empty.
I continued on to my hostel, which turned out to be a cozy little place. The owner gave me a quick tour of my room and a colourful map of all the places of interest, and I was out in the streets, camera at the ready. The first leg of my Europe trip had begun!
It was only a few hours earlier that I’d woken up with a start, taken a panic-stricken look at my alarm clock, and hurriedly gotten into a cab to the airport. Thanks to oversleeping by three hours, I’d missed the train and had to pay ten times as much as the plane I was still hoping to catch. Damn the Norwegian summer with so much light that it’s impossible to keep track of time! Just kidding, I love the Norwegian summer. And the winter.
Vilnius, as it turned out, was a very walkable city. I went to the Vilnius Cathedral and square, up a hill to Gediminas Castle, and just happily strolled down streets lined with people singing, dancing, painting, and having a good time.
The evening found me at the Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theatre. An hour before every show they sell tickets to students for seventy per cent off the usual price and I managed to get orchestra seats to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. It was my first time watching a ballet and I was entranced – it remains one of my favourite performances (of anything) to date.
The next morning was spent exploring some more beautiful churches followed by a tour of the “Republic” of Užupis – the artist’s district of Vilnius. It’s a lovely area where a lot of local artists live, work and showcase their art. It’s modelled as its own “country” with a constitution displayed on the walls in about twenty different languages. There’s even a place where you can get your passport stamped with the kind of stamp you get at immigration!
All too soon though, it was time to move on. The trip fittingly ended much in the same way as it had begun – this time I almost missed the bus to Riga. I’d misread the map and ended up at the train station instead of the bus station (these were the good old days before I had a smartphone guiding me every step of the way). Thanks to a kind lady who walked me all the way to the bus station, I once again made it in the nick of time.