When I bought my flight from Tallinn to Prague, the cheapest deal I found was with Air Lituanica, Lithuania’s airline, which I would later find out was in fact celebrating its big one year (oooh aaah ) anniversary during the very month I flew with them. They keep luxuries to a minimum, with teenie 30-passenger aircrafts (at least mine was) and the only freebie being hard candies in the colors of the Lithuanian flag. You even had to pay if you wanted a glass of water.
It was additionally the cheapest option because I had a 6:15am flight to Vilnius followed by a six-hour layover before continuing on to Prague (the layover being longer than both flight times put together). Being on an adventure, I thought – why not, save money and see one more Eastern European city. For some reason it’s taken me all these years of traveling to realize that sometimes saving money on a flight in fact ends up costing same or more, in taxi fare to/from the airport late/early when no public transport is available and in this case, having a romp through Vilnius’ Old Town, buying some food and souvenirs. So, there we have it, a lesson learned.
After I booked the flight, my Dad also reminded me that I am in fact one quarter Lithuanian by blood, although I never had a chance to meet my Lithuanian grandfather and remembered next to nothing of our trip to Vilnius, Riga and Kiev when I must’ve been eight or nine years old. Intrigued all the more, I looked forward to my brief rendezvous with this country.
By sheer good fortune, our Lithuanian friend Marina who hasn’t even lived there herself for twelve years, nevertheless lined up Artur, a friend of hers to meet me in the brisk cold of 7:20am and take me to the Old Town. I was profoundly grateful because I’d read countless accounts of shameless overcharging by taxi drivers and had such a short time there. Furthermore, through miscommunication this friend had shown up at the airport the previous Friday, when I was just on my way to Tallinn, at the same ungodly hour of 7am and was a bit frantic, wondering if I’d gotten lost or what. Nevertheless, he came back a week later, with a fountain of facts about the city that he related while driving here, there and everywhere, in a condensed tour of where I could go on my own while he attended his graduation ceremony, insisting he would pick me up again in two hours and drop me back at the airport. That is some incredible chivalry.
By the time I was left to my own devices, my head was spinning a bit from lack of sleep and dehydration and an overabundance of facts and chill temperatures – it was 8C. I made a beeline for the first coffee shop that was open (Inn Coffee We Trust…. hehehe…) and got my morning caffeine and some food. Then I bundled up again and struck out for a touch of sight seeing and souvenir shopping.
|A monument to Grand Duke Gediminas in Cathedral Square, apparently showing the moment he dismounted his horse and declared the land would become his new capital.|
For some reason I'd been craving crepes and had a delicious spinach creation smothered in aged-cheddar sauce at the Senoji Užupio picerija pizzeria/Italian restaurant just across the river from Old Town in a section of the city called Užupis, which is in fact an independent republic as of 1997 and its name means "over the river."
Up next, another tiny airplane ride to the capital of Czech Republic. Whoop whoop!
Even more photos of my half day in Vilnius