Vilnius

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Friday, July 21, 2006

We were up at 6am for the bus, so the other guests in the dorm had to suffer this time! The bus to Vilnius passed more beautiful scenery. Most of it was quite rural, and quite undeveloped. It seemed a simpler lifestyle. The food that we had to date in Lithuania was very good, and very cheap, but quite hearty. A lot of potato dishes and very filling meals, but very tasty!

We had organised accommodation in an apartment, but we were meant to call when we arrived. To do this, we needed a phone card, but Glenn, not wanting to buy one for one phone call, managed to get the information centre to call for him. We had to catch trolley bus through the town and we would be met at the apartment.

With our luggage, Christie was keen for a taxi, but the trolley bus that we had to catch pulled up right in front as we walked out, so Glenn insisted we get on. We bought tickets (but didn't realise had to validate them as well) and after some wild acceleration while standing with our packs on (quite impressive compared to petrol engine buses), we found our street and jumped off.

We searched for our address and found just a door, with no sign of anyone. We opened the door, but there were no clues inside where to go. Glenn checked with the shop next door and asked if they knew anything ... but no. We waited and finally someone did show up. The room was really nice, it was quite a treat!

Out to explore, Vilnius was really quite modern compared to the rest of the country that we had seen. It was a big city, but still quite charming. A common occurance in summer in Europe - restoration work was occurring in the main square, and most of it was blocked off. Still, it didn't hamper the sights, just getting to them was an issue.

We made our way over to the Museum of Genocide Victims, better known for its past as the KGB headquarters and prison. It contains a history of what happened there and has preserved the prison cells as a grim reminder. It was another sobering experience to add to our many throughout Eastern Europe.

The next day, we headed to the "Gates of Dawn", the only one of the original town gate towers still intact. More famously, it houses an 18th century chapel, containing a holy icon of the Virgin Mary, supposedly brought back here by Grand Duke Algirdas from Crimea. The image is considered miraculous and is a sight of pilgrimage. We passed through the gates and then headed up to the chapel. It was a simple chapel - the focus was on the image, and many people were paying their respects and praying here.

We then made our way over the river to "Uzupio", the arty area, which has become a breakaway republic with its own constitution - really quite a funny read! see below:

1. Man has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by man.
2. Man has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
3. Man has the right to die, but it is not his obligation.
4. Man has the right to make mistakes.
5. Man has the right to individuality.
6. Man has the right to love.
7. Man has the right to be not loved, but not necessarily.
8. Man has the right not to be distinguished and famous.
9. Man has the right to be idle.
10. Man has the right to love and take care of a cat.
11. Man has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.
12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
13. A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in hardness.
14. Sometimes man has the right to be unaware of his duties.
15. Man has the right to be in doubt, but this is not his duty.
16. Man has the right to be happy.
17. Man has the right to be unhappy.
18. Man has the right to be silent.
19. Man has the right to have faith.
20. No one has the right to violence.
21. Man has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.
22. Man has the right to encroach upon eternity.
23. Man has the right to understand.
24. Man has the right to understand nothing.
25. Man has the right to be of various nationalities.
26. Man has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday.
27. Man shall remember his name.
28. Man may share what he possesses.
29. Man cannot share what he does not possess.
30. Man has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
31. Man is capable of independence.
32. Man is responsible for his freedom.
33. Man has the right to cry.
34. Man has the right to be misunderstood.
35. Man has no right to make another person guilty.
36. Man has the right to be personal.
37. Man has the right to have no rights.
38. Man has the right not to be afraid.
39. Do not defeat.
40. Do not fight back.
41. Do not surrender.

The Constitution was created one evening in the end of July 1998 by the citizens of Uzupis republic - Thomas ("Jefferson") Cepaitis and Romas ("George Washington") Lileikis.


Being an arty area - things are a little weird, but it was an interesting place, albeit a little run down.

Leaving the so called republic, we headed back to the main square and saw the "Stebuklas" (miracle) tile that marks the spot where the human protest chain ended from Tallinn (Estonia) to Vilnius (Lithuania) in 1989. The tile itself did not do a lot for us, but imagining a human chain from here all the way to Tallinn, where we started our overland trip since leaving Finland was just mind blowing.

In the late afternoon, we walked to what is known as Gedimino Hill, and took a funicular (a lift going up a slope) up to the top. At the top of the hill was a view over Vilnius, but for the best view, you could climb up the castle tower on the hill. We approached and the door was suddenly closed. Huh? We checked the time - it was still meant to be open for 10 minutes. Glenn was not impressed, so he waited until some people were leaving (the door had to be opened of course), but the lady inside said it was too late to enter. Still, we had a good view from the top of the hill, and decided to walk down a different way, through the parklands. We had a view of three giant crosses on another hill, which was meant to be a good spot for sunset, although by now, we had had enough walking for the day.

The following day, we caught a bus to Trakai - the ancient capital of Lithuania, with its ancient castles surrounded by picturesque lakes. After a stop for lunch, we walked through the pretty streets to the main castle. It was very touristy and we didn't find it as romantic as it was made out to be.

After catching the bus back, we had to prepare for our next trip - we had an early morning flight to Istanbul, Turkey. Our original plan was to travel overland all the way down to Turkey, where we had an onward flight, but with time running out, we now had to fly. We were lucky that we had managed to find a good deal on flights.

However, our guidebook warned that accommodation gets booked out very quickly, so Christie was keen to secure a place before we arrived... this meant that Glenn had to buy a phone card in the end!
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