After Poland I headed to Baltic States. While planning backpacking across Europe, I was conflicted whether to hit this region or just circle back from Poland. I am glad I chose to come here. Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are probably the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The Eurail pass doesn’t work in Baltic States, so I had to take buses through these countries. Simple Express and Luxury Express are fairly good buses, they ply on time and do not cost too much. These countries seem to be still in medieval times with their castles, cobbled streets, Churches, Towers and Gates. And, while they know how to preserve their history they also know well hot to party. The capital cities of these Baltic States, as often told to me by locals, are party capital of Europe.
Vilnius is the capital and largest city of Lithuania. The old town, whole of it is amazingly beautiful and no wonder has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was once called ‘Jerusalem of North’ by Napoleon and has also been the cultural capital of Europe in 2009.
The almost 1000 years old city has exchanged hands multiple times from being the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to seat of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to Soviet Empire and then to Poland. During World War II it was given to Soviet Union, to be given back to Lithuania for just a year before being annexed again. It became the capital of Lithuanian SSR but soon got occupied by Germany. The Holocaust took a huge toll on 265,000 strong Jewish population of the city with 95% of them murdered. In 1944 it again went in hands of Soviets to finally get independence September 1991. Through that long history the city has retained its antique charm and have built a highly ethnically diverse population with 128 different ethnicities.
I stayed near Gedimino Prospektas, which is one of the busiest market road in the city leading to almost all the places one would want to visit. It is a small city and can easily be traversed on foot, though you can chose cycle. Old city with its Gates and churches are mesmerizing and a must visit. The old town is centered outwards from the town hall with its narrow, curved streets and splendid courtyards. There is a range of architecture to encounter here. While majorly one sees Baroque, there is Gothic, Renaissance and other styles as well.
The Castle Complex, National Museum, Churches counting over 68, Old City walls & gates, and holocaust memorial offers a lot of historic monuments to relive the history of the city. And, if that tires you, just take a walk beside river Neris or on Gedimino Prspektas in the evening to refresh!
Need another reason why you should visit these countries. While waiting for my bus out of Vilnius, a man asked me, “How did you like women here?” Unsure, how to respond, I said, “They are nice.” He replied, “No, not nice. They are the best!”
11:05 PM – Warzsawa (Poland) – Simple Express Bus to Vilnius (Lithuania) at 8:45 AM
Fabrika Hostel & Gallery, A. Vienuolio gatvė 4, Vilnius 01104