The Cold and The Rain
I slept so poorly last night - I don’t know if it was due to jet lag or what, but I fell asleep accidentally at 9:00pm, woke up at 1:00am, and never went back to sleep. So it’s definitely going to be an exhausting day today no matter what! I left Tallinn, Estonia early (around 6:30am) and took an Uber from Go Hotel Shnelli to the airport. My driver was nice and we had a good conversation for so early in the morning. I arrived at the airport and was to my gate within a matter of minutes. I am going to miss the Schengen Zone when I am no longer in Europe! The airport was really cute and is considered a very comfy airport - in fact, it was recently ranked the third best in Europe and I believe it. I grabbed a croissant for breakfast and enjoyed the non-stressful airport environment that is sadly so hard to find.
I had an uneventful flight to Vilnius, Lithuania where I then took an Uber to my hotel, Vilnius Grand Resort. The Uber was a little on the expensive side and I had to wait a bit for it to arrive. The price was only high, though, because Vilnius Grand Resort is outside of the heart of Vilnius. It truly is grand from the moment you arrive; in fact, it takes up an entire exit outside of the city! The imposing entrance leads to a welcoming front desk where I was given details about the hotel, a map and directions for Vilnius, and had all of my questions answered as well.
I was already loving the hotel but my room was the icing on top of the cake: it was beautiful and with an amazing view over the entire property! The room was grand as the name implies - it was very large with a giant bathroom, and had a balcony overlooking the entire resort. I wish the weather had been nicer to enjoy the outside areas of the resort, but maybe next time! I cannot thank Vilnius Grand Resort enough for sponsoring this night of my trip! The entire property was beautiful and the only downside to the entire stay was the distance from the city - but they even helped with that with the free shuttle!
I took the shuttle around 12:30 to the heart of Vilnius. I walked to eat lunch at Boom Burgers Lithuania which had an awesome lunch special of a burger and fries for six euro and it was a really good burger too! And there was aioli sauce so I was definitely pleased. After lunch, I started my day walking around town, which I quickly realized how cold it would be. It was freezing (real feel was about 33 degrees Fahrenheit) and a drizzle lasted throughout the day. I seem to have this thing where I am really good at visiting traditionally cold countries when it is very cold and I seem to be keeping that up on this trip (it’s definitely not intentional but it always seems to work out that way).
My first stop was the Vilnius Cathedral. It was rather plain inside but the outside had columns that made for a unique look for a traditional cathedral. From there I walked next door to the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania which was supposed to be open but was unfortunately closed. My next stop was Gediminas Castle Tower which was quite the hike but definitely worth it. They are working on the funicular so the only option was to climb the hill. The path is cobblestones and I definitely took my time walking both up and down in the rain. At the top is the tower that you can go in. There is a tiny museum and you can climb up to the top (this climb actually wasn’t that bad). For only two euros for a student ticket, it was a bargain and a warm break from the freezing rain. From the top of the tower, you have an excellent view out over the entire city.
My next stop was Bernardine Church. I intended to go to St. Anne's Church as well but it was closed. However, it’s a unique church architecturally so I was glad to be able to at least see it from the outside. Bernardine Church was very pretty and well worth the stop. To be fair, though, at this point I would have loved anything that was not outdoors. From Bernardine I walked to Literatai Street which was really cool. It’s just a small street but it has been turned into a permanent outdoor art exhibit. Art pieces related to literature line the street and it was really interesting and something quite different. I recommend it for sure, and it definitely doesn’t take much time as it is just walking along a street. Next, I walked to the Užupis area. I was (and still am) pretty confused by it. Supposedly it is a region that is independent but isn’t really. Everything that I read described it as a uniquely happy and cheerful area but perhaps the rain was getting them down as well? If nothing else the streets were beautiful similar to Vilnius as a whole.
I then spent a little time just walking around Senamiestis (Old Town) on my way to Gates of Dawn. Gates of Dawn is really quite unique. I don’t know how to describe it other than it is a gate (the only original one in the city that is still standing) but with huge religious importance. It looks sort of like a chapel above the street, and a former Pope prayed in it. After a quick stop, I then walked back to the shuttle stop which was a long way from where I was. Like, over thirty minutes. In the freezing wind and rain. Once I made it to the stop I was a few minutes early and found a place to grab some hot chocolate and sit for a minute.
On the ride back I think I even fell asleep I was so exhausted. I worked on planning for a little while and then fell asleep relatively early. But still not early enough considering my 6:00am wake-up time. I have really enjoyed all of my time in the Baltic States (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania) and I cannot recommend them enough. Each one is very unique, very welcoming, part of the EU (honestly I didn’t know this), and they feel like charming European countries without the scores of tourists. I had a great time in each despite the cold weather and would love to visit again in the future!
52 countries down, 145 to go.
To learn more about Vilnius Grand Resort click here.