We had booked three rooms in the Grata, with me getting to share with Sarah as I’m the best sleeper in the group and she snores like a trooper…so we woke up early the next day and went for an immense breakfast.
It didn’t quite hit the heights of Riga as there was no sparkling wine…but the little potato balls went down a treat with everyone, as did the curd wrapped pancakes. It was a great mixture of hot and cold stuff. Enough for variety every day. Filled up on breakfast we headed out into the cold, and it wasn’t too bad as we went past a lovely church.
Saw some random writing….could do with a translation….
…and descended into the old town. We stopped on the way to get warming cups of coffee and hot apple drinks. Wrapped up warm we wandered past some beautiful old buildings and past the university.
We had learnt thank you in Lithuanian – Aciu (aa-choo) and found the graffiti very polite.
We turned down a street towards Cathedral Square and, trying to ignore the huge Christmas tree to our left we instead walked towards Gedimimas Tower, placed on a small hill in the middle of the tower. It used to have Vilnius castle perched on top but now just has the tower and some ruins.
There were some spectacular views to be had and you can pay 5E to go into the tower. The cold wind was biting on the exposed hilltop and we walked over to look at the three crosses on the opposite hill before we made the descent back down. My lonely planet guide had mentioned a funicular but sadly it wasn’t in service when we were there. It would have been useful as it was quite steep and slippy going down the hill.
Walking along the river we looped round the hill and passed by King Mindaugas statue, the first and last King of Lithuania.
We then emerged into cathedral square with the tower, Christmas markets and cathedral all waiting to be explored.
It was all very grand and pretty as we walked over to a nativity scene (minus baby Jesus, Mary and several other characters.
We went into the cathedral which was free, and even though I’m not a religious person I always find their buildings very peaceful. There were some interesting sights and the possibility of a crypt tour which we didn’t end up having time for.
We had been walking for a couple of hours now so we decided to enter the markets and have a nice mulled wine. The markets themselves were just the sort of thing you’d find in ones back in the UK but the wine and waffles/donuts were cheaper and tasty.
While we drank our mulled wine we planned on our next course of action…to go and see some more churches, there was meant to be a cool street leading to St Anne’s Church with lots of pieces of artwork from local artists, but either it had been painted over or we were on the wrong street. The churches were nice and coincided with being close to the Uzupis district.
The Uzupis district is an artsy area which in 1997 the residents declared it as a free republic with their own president and constitution. It’s compared to the famous freetown christiana in Copenhagen.
(Angel of Uzupis)
Although it is not known whether they are serious about independence or not, their national day is April 1st (Fools day) which may be an indication. There wasn’t a lot going on when we were there but they have their constitution in several languages on one street.
“A dog has the right to be a dog”
Powerful stuff! Anywaaay we walked down through the district when Stef was googling where a famous graffiti piece was. Working out we were pretty close to it we took a 20 minute walk to Keule Ruke, a cool little burger/rib joint with impressive graffiti art and excellent food.
Famous Putin-Trump kiss.
We had a beer and some food and Stef found a map with some cool sounding bars which seemed to be leading back towards the hotel. So after a quick discussion we agreed to do a mini bar crawl. The first bar was actually a gents barbers, the second wasn’t open yet…so we ended up in a small local bar with a weird smell and an unimpressed barmaid. It was super cheap but Liz struggled to ask for a blonde beer, using a few terms for it, eventually the barmaid disappeared for a bit before returning with no answer. Whiskey and local lager it was then.
We quickly left after warming up and tried the next bar, Bukowski’s. This was more like it, extensive range of beers and spirits, food and cocktails. It was a cool bar and we sat having a few drinks when the realisation dawned on us, this was going to be it for the night. No going back to the hotel, just good food and drinks for the rest of the night.
(Something funny clearly happening here)
Once people had lined their stomachs our excellent bar guide took us to Apoteka, a trendy ‘speakeasy’ type place which did cocktails and not much else. It was more expensive here but still less than prices in the UK. Around 8E per cocktail. They were all super tasty and we got bat snacks!
After this we were unsure of where to go, so after some awkward conversation with the bar man we walked in the general direction of the town hall where we were told we’d find bars and restaurants. Lo and behold we did! The square was lovely with lights and a tree and we met an old Lithuanian man who recommended a traditional restaurant, so we piled in and sat down. A little tipsy we decided to order some traditional things, so we got some bread and cheese sauce again, Lithuanian liquors and Pork ear.
The breadsticks were amazing. The pork ear came however, and it didn’t have us diving in with our forks. It was a huge ear boiled and slapped ontop of some barley and bacon bits.
It’s the first time I’ve ever gagged on food, and I’ve eaten tarantula and bbq’d frog. It was fatty, full of crunchy cartilage and the only thing to do was wash it down with the spirits.
The spirits were almost as bad! They burned as they went down, with a couple tasting like paint stripper. It was fun to try these things though, especially seeing other people’s faces eating/drinking it. We got chatting to an older group of Norwegians, being Welsh went down a lot better than the two English girls on the table!
After this we went next door to a bar I had read was Star Wars themed…however there was nothing to do with star wars in there, instead a collection of carboot sale items were nailed around the room. I think it was called Who Hit John and it was tiny inside but quite cool only with a scary mannequin thing in the bathroom!
Liz then made a Russian friend who recommended a bar called Paparazzi, so we walked over there, not realising it was over 20 minutes away, but Stef did a great job finding it
(Scary statue on the way)
This was our final destination and a few more drinks were had before it was clearly bedtime and some sore heads were due in the morning.