“Eik sau!” apparently that means ‘sod off’ in Lithuanian! 🙂 The very cheeky “Vilnius In Your Pocket” guide that you can get in hotels give some hints on how to ward off beggars, including “Fui! Kas cia per kvapas?” which means “Phew! What’s that smell?”. Pretty cheeky guidebook, I’d say.
It’s currently raining here in Vilnius, so I’m taking a refuge in an internet cafe not far away from the hotel. At least it was sunny earlier when I arrived in the city so I did walk around in the Old Town and visited some of Vilnius’ attractions. I like Vilnius, it has a positive vibe to it. Admittedly, it’s not as “refined” as Riga and it’s also not as tourist-visited as Tallinn – but somehow the city has a certain charm. Vilnius still has damaged buildings, crumbling cathedrals that would’ve been restored had they been located in Riga or Tallinn, and roads that need paving severely. However, the city is doing some tidying up. When I arrived in the city, the main street in the Old Town, Pillies Gatve, is cordoned off in some parts as they are being repaved. Some of the buildings are also being retouched and reconstructed so I’m sure that future visitors would appreciate this city more than I do now.
Lithuania is predominantly Catholic as compared to Latvia and Estonia that are mostly Lutheran, so it is no surprise that it seems most of the city dwellers are actively participating in today’s public holiday. I was surprised to see how quiet the city was when I arrived, however, I soon realised that it was a public holiday here: Zoline (Feast of the Assumption). It was quite charming to see ladies and sometimes the men, bring a bunch of flowers to the church main cathedral, Arkikatedra Bazilika. There were also a line of old ladies, selling bunches of flowers and dried lavender stalks for those who don’t have any flowers to bring to the church. Because of this, Vilnius has a flavour of Spain/the Greek Isles, especially when you see old ladies with headscarves, crumbling old buildings, cobbled stone streets, and a rich smattering of churches and cathedrals all around the city. I’m already churched out now … hehehe.
What I have seen so far in the city:
- Geleženio Vilko tiltas – a bridge across River Neris which Soviet-style statues at both end of the bridge. “Go west! Life is peaceful there, go west … in the open air!”. Hehehehe.
- Znamenskaja – a Russian Orthodox church located across the River Neris.
- Gedimino prospektas – the main shopping street in Vilnius. It’s just good to walk along the street even though most of the shops are closed.
- And heaps of gothic churches , Gedimino Hill lookout, which I will show in my photos later on …
So, all in all, Vilnius feels pretty good. I still get the stares from the local, but compared to the funny feeling that I had in Riga, here in Vilnius, I feel that the stares are just looks of innocent curiousity, similar to those I experienced in Tallinn. I suppose lone Asian travellers are still pretty rare here, but yeah, Vilnius is definitely recommended for Baltic travellers.
As a closing remark (I will add more tomorrow!), Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius are like three sisters, coming from the same stock and have similarities, but have distinct characters: all of them are reserved and shy. Tallinn is more controlled and proper (except for when Tallinners drive! They would do well in Asia!!!), Riga is more direct and straightforward, and Vilnius is more down-to-earth and unpolished – but at least has cleaned up nicely. Walk along the River Neris, and you will see the beautification process that Vilnius has taken, however, take a couple of streets down and you will see the crumbling old buildings leftover from World War II, presumably.
PS: I like the way Lithuanians say ‘Thank You’: “Ačiū” – so when you say thank you, it almost sounds like a mild sneeze! Hehehehe. 😀