Today the spotlight shines over to Europe on the pretty Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. The Baltic region has three picturesque capitals, the others being Tallinn and Riga, and Vilnius is probably the little sister of those two, but that is because (I’m educated guessing a little here) it receives less tourists. And people are missing out!
It’s an absolutely charming city with cobblestone alleyways, hills, squares and so much more. The Baltics are on the whole pretty good value for money, and Lithuania is probably the cheapest of the three. I stayed in a youth hostel there, but they had a little apartment to rent and it was less than $40 a night and was spacious and pretty awesome, full of character too.
Vilnius has a number of attractions around the city from the usual batch of churches to city gates and the like. There is a castle which overlooks the city, so perfect for photos (especially at sunrise or set), and in autumn the surrounding hills are all covered in beautiful reds and yellows. It was originally built in the 13th century with changes and more building up to the 18th. Climb the hill to the Three Crosses, a beautiful spot for quiet reflection or to look across Vilnius.
Settle down for some filling, delicious meals. Beware that the sauce might not agree with your stomach, I should probably add! But nevertheless, the food, if you like meat, is pretty tasty in Vilnius. There’s plenty of interesting medieval architecture to see as you wander the streets and lanes, and then you can take a day trip out to one of the most beautiful spots near Vilnius, Lake Trakai.
Trakai is reached on a public bus which costs very little, and it is quite an interesting little town with lots of old, wooden houses as you walk down the road towards the lake. The lake is beautiful and relaxing, with a few boats on it – probably a lot more in summer. Then, there is the very impressive Trakai Castle across a bridge as the lake acts as a kind of moat. In fact the castle is on an island.
It’s a very picturesque castle with plenty of rooms and grounds to wander around for an hour or so. The building of the castle began in the 14th century, and was completed by 1409. What is there today is still rather extensive, but it seems clear that much of it is reconstruction. However this doesn’t detract on the castle as a place to visit. With a whole day you could take in the lake, the castle, the town and have a nice meal, even walk around the entire lake.
There are too many churches in Vilnius to name, and many of them are impressive and have quite beautiful designs. The people I met in Vilnius were also very friendly – I even met a man giving away free hugs.
Vilnius is really a stop worth making on any European trip, without the in-your-face tourism which, for me at least, sometimes ruins experiences. It’s a real, genuine piece of historic Europe and one I thoroughly recommend! May the journey never end!