Vilnius, genocide and the white Christmas.
So there were some very sore heads this morning but we managed to make it to breakfast and, after an extra hours nap we departed minus 3 of the group who were still feeling the effects.
Our main goal today was to go to the Genocide Museum and learn a little local history. Conveniently it was only a 15 minute walk away from the hotel, down near Gediminas St. It’s 4E for entry and the main floor gives you a detailed back drop to what happened under Soviet rule. It doesn’t hold back at all, it’s heartbreaking to read about the families sent to the work camps in Russia and learning about the resistance to Soviet rule.
There’s a lot of reading but also some really interesting parts, we enjoyed the mini model of a bunker and some of the pictures were harrowing.
The most interesting part of the museum is the prison in the basement, filled with tiny jail cells, torture chambers with think padded doors so no one can hear you scream. While we were there they had an interesting exhibit on Belarusian activists and their stories, a stark reminder that there are still issues in Europe around freedom of speech.
We followed a corridor through to the courtyard which was freezing enough for us, hard to imagine what it would have been like for the prisoners. This led to the most gruesome part of the exhibit…the execution chamber, a video showed just how cold and clinical the officers were, and how terrified the prisoners must have been in their final seconds of life. There were even bullet holes in the wall. Our other friends who arrived later found it really difficult to even be in there.
Things were made even harder with the lingering hangover affecting us all. The top floor has some interesting bits on Soviet spying techniques with people being watched and tapped…imagine a world where you can’t trust anyone or anything!? After some more information on the resistance we were ready to go….walking out it was difficult not to feel for the 20,000 or so Lithuanians who died during these tragic times.
(Big brother is watching you Sarah)
We agreed with the others we would find a restaurant to have a late lunch and wait for them there, so we walked out past the monuments and onto the main Gediminas St.
As we walked along, the one thing we had wanted happened…slowly little flecks of snow started tumbling down. It was lovely as night was falling and when we checked it was due to continue all evening.
We stopped in Can Can Pizza restaurant as they did a variety of dishes amd it was super cheap. Sarah and I shared a 50cm pizza, Sarah tried a dodgy oily dumpling filled with meat, and Calvin and Stef had chicken pot pie and gnocchi. Not very Lithuanian but after a hard day hungover and walking round a very depressing museum it was just what we needed.
The others arrived as we were eating and had their food before we set off down the street back towards the markets.
The streets were all beautifully lit up as the snow started to come down.
We arrived at the markets to merry Xmas tunes and the locals smiling and laughing. Grabbing a table we all got hot drinks, mainly mulled wine…Took some pictures of the impressively lit up tree and relaxed in the cold.
(Calvin and Stef)
(Liz and I)
It’s a lovely way to spend an evening and the mulled wine was lovely I think the snow always makes things seem that bit more magical too. Everyone soon started to feel the chill however so off we went to find warmth and shelter. On our way I had read about the Stebuklas tile which, when spinning on it clockwise, would grant you a wish.
We all had fun spinning on the tile making our wishes.
After this Calvin and I remembered seeing a bar called Craft and Draft which is housed underground on Gediminas St and is pretty cool with a vast array of well priced whiskeys and beers. I had honey beer for 2E and it was excellent. There is a really good craft ale scene in Lithuania and it was nice to sample some of the local beers while we were there.
Next up was to find a late night dinner. We had spotted a place called drama burger earlier in the day and it was in the general direction of the hotel.
(The art of imitation)
(Footprints in cathedral square)
These footprints represent the 25th anniversary of the Baltic way, where a human chain was created that spanned the entire Baltic states from Tallinn to Vilnius to protest Soviet rule!
The burgers were delicious at drama burger, Liz even making the outrageous statement that they were the best she had ever had! With that bold announcement we made our way back to the hotel where snow had started to settle.
The next day was uneventful as we made our way to the airport post breakfast, but I would just say that I try to avoid Uber because of certain ethical points but the taxi was 5E rather than the 14.50E we were charged on the first night! So maybe my morals will be tested from now on! We also got the bonus of a young Lithuanian expressing his disappointment at the pagan conservative government currently in power in Vilnius, and I always think it’s interesting to get a locals perspective on politics.