Fri, 29 Aug 2008 16:41:23 +0000
Vilnius Day 1 Index Riga Day 1
A nice gentle lie-in this morning, to give the coffee shops time to open. When they did, I got a breakfast of fried nuts, "flakes" and yoghurt. Effectively, a small plate of Swiss muesli. Not bad.
The next most interesting thing on the agenda for today was the castle. It's not much of a castle, and what there is was bombed flat in WWII, but hey, it's the compulsory thing-you-can-climb-for-a-view in Vilnius, so off I went. It sits on top of a not especially tall hill, and for the chronically lazy (or, I guess, disabled) they've installed a funicular railway. I couldn't find the path up the hill, so I was forced to take the funicular. A very odd looking thing too, about elevator size, perched on its railings.
Well, the view is the view, and without even a proper climb to give a feeling of accomplishment, I was left a bit underwhelmed. But it's a nice enough spot. They have a few loose military bits and bobs in the "museum", which at least gives a mediaeval flavour to the place.
I tried to find the path on the way back, and actually walked all the way down the hill only to find that the gate was locked. It turned out that most of the ways to the path were closed and taped off, and they'd just missed the spot I happened to take. So I had to walk back up to take the funicular back down again. Wheee.
From the castle I'd spotted the three crosses on the neighbouring hill, so what the hell, let's go for another climb. The crosses mark the place where some early Christian missionaries were martyred in a fashion that is apparently too brutal for the museum plaques to detail.
Lithuania seems to have hung onto paganism for a remarkably long time, but eventually in the 13th century they got totally crusaded up. They're certainly very firmly Catholic now.
For lunch I got myself some "Zeppelins", basically kn#del stuffed with mince, and covered in cream and pork crackling sauce. Good hearty stuff. I washed it down with a couple of beers. There are lots of good restaurants in Vilnius that will do you a sensibly sized lunch with some less-sensibly sized beer to wash it down. I'm enjoying this aspect of Vilnius.
From the old city you can see some modern-looking skyscrapers peering over the treeline, so I thought I'd walk to the other side of the river to sample the bustling metropolis side of Vilnius life. In fact the skyscrapers look less towering when you're near to them, and there didn't seem to be any bustle as such. I just wandered along the riverfront. Actually not Vilnius's prettiest side.
After fortifying myself with some coffee and cake, I ventured off to see another church, St. Peter and St. Paul. Unlike St. Anne, this one was geniunely impressive inside. I like it when they leave the plasterwork unpainted, so the church is flooded with white light. And this plasterwork was especially intricate. Lovely stuff.
I managed to get lost on the way back. For some reason I started thinking about T-Mobile, which put me in a foul mood (I realise that I've probably lost yet another phone number thanks to their bloody expire-after-six-month policy). And it started to rain. But I was cheered up immensely by this bridge. It seems (without being able to read Lithuanian) that local couples engrave a padlock and then lock it to the bridge railings as a sign of affection. How unbearably sweet.
And much nicer than carving your names in tree trunks. Plus, presumably you can keep the key and remove it again when you break up, so there's practical advantages too.
For dinner I got some Lithuanian tagliatelli, which actually reminded me more of the Chinese dumplings Heidi taught me how to make. Convergent evolution at work I guess. I didn't enjoy these as much as the zeppelins, but then that's a hard act to follow.
Vilnius Day 1 Index Riga Day 1