Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

15 May 2012

Vilnius

Posted by Will

I’ve just spent 4 days in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, a small city with a population of around 500,000. It was a great time and working up the strength to leave was much harder than in most places. I’ve made more Facebook friends in Vilnius than in any other capital city so far – surely that says something!

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I’m going to start my little piece on Vilnius by writing about beer. The British often boast about the range and quality of their local beers, people say Belgian beer is delicious (it is), the French try their best but can’t quite get it right and the Americans have a spectrum ranging from superb to utterly abysmal. For me, Lithuania gets a higher average beer score than anywhere else I’ve ever visited. For starters the beer is about 1-2% stronger than in other countries. Victoras, the guy I’m staying with, told me that he didn’t rate a particular beer because it was only 5.9%. Secondly, there’s always another locally brewed beer to try. Delicious home-brews (‘live beers’) are standard and usually only cost 5 Litas (£1.15). Hundreds of varieties of bottled beers are found all over Vilnius from the poshest hang-outs to the local supermarkets. Without a doubt my favourite place was Snekutis Uzipis, a small place where barrels are stools, logs are tables and it is impossible to order a bad beer.

The beer is made even better by the food that comes with it. Lithuanian bars serve a whole host of delicious snacks along with a few very dubious ones. Garlic fried bread is incredible, beans with spices are also good, but chopped pigs’ ears should never be recommended. Several minutes chewing a gristly portion of pig ear while a group of anxious Lithuanians wait to hear my verdict were among the more awkward of my stay here, but by and large the food is fantastic. Eating cold beetroot soup with potatoes outside in the sun is a very pleasurable experience as is, surprisingly, taking time to savour a plate of cold pig’s tongue.

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I must mention some of the people I’ve met too. I shared a lot of beers (maybe one too many) with Zach, an American living in London, and it was great to talk with an intelligent person who spoke native English. Barry and his fiancee, Juste, were unbelievably generous in their willingness to talk to me, introduce me to their friends and pay for beers. I spent two evenings with that gang and had a blast both nights till the early hours. Victoras, my host for two nights has been a lot of fun and has taught me enough about the Aikido martial art to defend myself against bandits on the upcoming Polish roads. There are others too, they know who they are, who have made my time in Vilnius. You’re awesome.

Moving onto the city, Vilnius is a genuinely beautiful place. Like Tallinn and Riga it has a well-preserved old town with cobbled streets, a huge cathedral and a higher density of churches than anywhere else I’ve ever seen. Standing in the town hall square must have you within 300m of at least 15-20 churches. Both enormous churches and tiny churches and all lovely to look at. Green spaces are everywhere and the weather means these are all full of local people sunning themselves on benches or lying together on the grass. There aren’t enough tourists to clog the streets and it isn’t too hard to wander down a narrow sidestreet and feel like you’re the only one in town.

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I can’t be too complimentary about this place and I can’t undertand why it isn’t talked about more back in the UK. It’s a cosy city where the streets are stunning, the beer’s the best, the food is for the most part fantastic and the weather at this time of the year is consistently like a British summer’s day. Thank you Vilnius.

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3 Comments already on “Vilnius”
  1. 4:26 pmpermalink
    15 May 2012

    Mumsy

    This a message to thank all of you have been so kind, generous and welcoming to William on his travels so far. He is having an amazing time on this huge adventure and from my point of view it is very comforting to know that he has a proper shower and a good meal once in a while not to mention a beer with a friendly local! If any of you come to the UK you will be very welcome to come and stay with us. William’s Mum x
    Great Vilnius blog!

  2. 8:06 pmpermalink
    15 May 2012

    Juste

    It was so nice meeting you Will! Best luck on your trip! Looking forward to new posts about this great adventure you’re having!

  3. 11:34 ampermalink
    16 Jun 2012

    Vilma

    Will! Thats such a great post about Vilnius! I am so happy you enjoyed the stay in Lithuania. Wish you all the best! :)