Oh my goodness. Vilnius. What a special little place.
Ben and I travelled there last weekend to renew our Russian visas (bureaucratic blahness, but we got to travel to somewhere we probably never would have otherwise) and we had an amazing time exploring that adorable little city.
So, first of all: I totally thought Vilnius was going to be like Russia. And I know that it is its own country and all that, I guess I--we--just figured that because it was so close and had been apart of the USSR that I don't know... it'd be like Russia.
Nope. We were both blown away by how European it was, how clean it was, how kinda the people were, how great they were to us as tourists (very helpful and welcoming), how inexpensive and good the food was (the most important factor when traveling to any city), everything. Totally different.
Ben actually got a good tip from one of his students before we left and that was not to just jump into speaking Russian with the locals--they do all speak Russian, but they don't like Russians. So we always approached people asking if they could speak English and when they said no, we spoke to them in Russian. The few times we skipped that step and went right in with the Russian, people were noticeably colder. It was quite interesting, honestly.
Anyway, Vilnius is a pretty small city and really easy to just wander around in. It, like many old European cities, has an Old Town and New Town. You can actually go up onto some hills around the city and take pictures looking down onto the Old Town (we didn't do this because it rained all of Sunday, but we did get to see the views from the walk to our flat), which is pretty spectacular.
On Saturday we wandered through Old Town and found ourselves in the middle of a little festival. Tons of people were dressed in traditional Lithuanian clothing and people were performing songs on a stage in the middle of an art market. Ben and I grabbed some kabobs and beer and took it all in. We bought a few pieces of art (including that tiny flute which literally caused the biggest ruckus at the airport-I can't imagine what they thought it was, but they sure were afraid of it when they were running my bag through the scanner over and over and looking through it) and added some freckles to our noses. We spent the night bar hoping and eating croissants and talking about all the places we've been and all the things we've learned from them.
On Sunday, it rained. And we realized that I--the Queen of Packing--had forgotten our converter for the outlets. So no technology for us. No bother, we walked down to the grocery store near the Airbnb flat we were staying and bought a deck of cards and played cribbage and drank the Disaronno and the Lemoncello we'd bought duty free in the Moscow airport. We actually had a really great day and it was kind of nice not to be pulled away from facebook or the news or our never-ending buzz of emails.
On Monday morning we got our new visas (three-years baby...) and walked around New Town a bit before we boarded our flight back to Moscow.
So another good, solid trip under our belt. I'm really hoping we'll be able to pull off a trip to Greece or somewhere beachy sometime in the early fall, but we've got to see where our money is when that time comes.
In the meantime, I think we'll be hitting up the local "beach" and going to see this circus hopefully this weekend.
I hope you all had a great weekend and make plans to go see Vilnius one day!