Today was another early start (as is always the case with me when travelling!). We filled up on another awesome breakfast at the Artagonist Hotel and then got all wrapped up and ventured out into Vilnius once more.
We were immediately met by dense crowds, as Kaziuko Muge was already in full swing. We battled through the crowds to the park area, next to the Cathedral. Our original plan was to walk up to Gediminas Tower but sadly that was not to be, as the tower and the hill were closed for essential maintenance, we therefore went for Plan B, and decided to walk to the Three Crosses.
The walk started off with a nice stroll along and across the river but this ‘nice stroll’ soon turned into a strenuous hike up very rickety, wooden steps! The walk was steep, but thankfully short, and after shedding most of our layers, as we made our way up to the top, and stopping a few times to catch out breath, and sometimes our balance (the steps were soon uneven!), we eventually made it to the top, and wow, we were met with the most incredible view across Vilnius.
Legend has it that this is the site where seven Franciscan friars were beheaded, and in the 16th century, three wooden crosses were placed here to mark this. Unfortunately, the original crosses, being made from wood, had rotted and so were replaced by the crosses you see today. No-one knows if this legend is true or not, but it seems the most popular version of events, for this legendary spot in Vilnius.
Having not climbed the Gediminas Hill, I cannot compare it BUT I have to say I think this one may well beat it, as you get to look out across Gediminis Tower, high above Vilnius! We spent a very long time at the top, taking loads of pictures and just soaking in the view, and making the most of the cold breeze. To be honest, I was pretty reluctant to head back down, not just because of the crazy, rickety steps, but because I was enjoying just standing there and taking in the amazing view. Unfortunately though, I had a jam packed day planned out, and so, reluctantly, we pulled ourselves away, and began to make the descent.
Somehow, I managed to get us lost on the way down, I was convinced (and still am) that there is another route down the hill which takes you directly to Uzupis, our next stop. This unfortunately didn’t seem to work out, and we had to double back and come back down the way we came. I have to say, going down was a lot harder than coming up!
Eventually we made it to the base of the hill in one piece. We were met by a super cute horse that was wandering along the side of the river with it’s owner, it’s bells ringing as he nodded his head in pure joy. Happy horse.
We wandered along the edge of the river, in the direction of Uzupis. No-one else seemed to be taking this route, they all seemed to be on the other side of the river, but I was determined that this was the right way. It was’t. The path soon turned into a mud slope which was rather precarious to walk along, as it plunged straight into the fast moving waters below. I think I may have got this wrong.
We did however make it to Uzupis, and after crossing some bridges and ending up back in Kaziuko Muge, we eventually found the actual bridge crossing into Uzupis, and off we went in search of the post office. Now, I had read on numerous blogs that if you went to the post office with your passport, you could get it stamped, as Uzupis is an independent republic. After wandering a few streets, and realising all the tourists had disappeared, I started to question whether this was, in fact, true. However, I was determined to get a new passport stamp, so I continued defiantly, much to my boyfriends dismay. Eventually I located the post office and ventured inside. I was met by two local women who seemed less than impressed that some tourist had just wandered into their local post office. They seemed even more annoyed when I asked for my passport to be stamped. They shooed me out and locked the door behind me. Oops.
So, for anyone reading this DO NOT GO TO THE POST OFFICE. Feeling a bit disheartened, we decided to find our lunch spot. We walked passed this hut, that really did not look inviting. It said ‘pub’ on the side and I turned to Chris and was like “I’m glad we aren’t going there, it looks less than inviting” ha. Little did I know, this was actually my planned spot and after consulting Google maps, we decided to give it a chance. Looks can be deceiving after all.
We ventured inside through a small wooden door and were met with a very small, make shift pub, which i’m not gunna lie, was not at all what I was expecting BUT all the blogs and reviews I had read mentioned Snekutis and I decided to trust them (despite the recent Post Office debacle!).
We sat down and were straight away seen to by the waiter who brought us menus. We perused them for a while and noticed that to begin with, we had the place to ourselves! We decided to go for a traditional lunch and ordered the famous Zeppelin (not it’s actual name), beetroot soup and curd pancakes. We went to the bar and placed our order and also got a couple of litres of their home brew beer. All the pubs in Vilnius brew their own beer in the basement, it’s pretty awesome actually and every single ‘home brew’ we tried was really good!
We sat on our little wooden benches and sipped our beer, as the small pub slowly filled up. In no time at all, every table was packed with locals and tourists eager for some cheap local fare, and even cheaper beer!
Eventually our food arrived and after a few cursory glances, we decided to just go for it. We started with the COLD beetroot soup. It was, erm, interesting. An acquired taste one would say! It just felt wrong eating it like a soup, but it was served with warm potatoes, and when you dipped these into the soup, and treated it more like a dip, it was actually quite tasty. Although we (well Chris) made the mistake of ordering a large soup, we did not need a large soup, rookie mistake. Go for the small. Trust me.
Next we tried the ‘Zeppelin’ which is a boiled potato stuffed with meat with some sort of white sauce, I am guessing sour cream based? I am going to be honest, this really was not to my taste. The boiled sausage meat was not good, sorry. Chris took to it slightly better than me, but he still struggled to eat it. I am guessing we are just not accustomed to such tastes.
However, the curd pancakes, well they were just delicious. This was my favourite dish in Riga (well, just behind the garlic bread) so it was good to try the Lithuanian version, and it lived up to my hype! We had a few curd stuffed potato cakes with a side of sour cream and jam. When you put all the elements together, it is just a taste sensation in your mouth! Definitely one of my favourite dishes!!
We washed it all down with the home brew and feeling a bit light headed (the home brew was strong) we paid up our bill – which was €9 by the way – and ventured back out into Uzupis, determined to find somewhere to stamp my passport.
We headed back to the main bridge crossing and located the Uzupis constitution. It is printed on mirrored plaques (annoyingly hard to photograph) in numerous languages and included rules such as:
“A cat is not obliged to love it’s owner, but must help in time of need”
“Everyone has the right to be unique”
“Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance”
You can spend sometime reading the numerous rules of the Uzupis constitution! After getting some pictures and often giggling at the rules, we started to look around for somewhere to get my passport stamped. We went in and out of shops and galleries and eventually we were told to go the cafe by the bridge. I went into the only establishment by the bridge, Kavine Baras, and after doing a couple of loops, decided to ask at the bar and low and behold, the lady serving pulled open a drawer and out came the infamous stamp. She asked me to hold out my passport where I wanted the stamp and stamped it. Just like that, I had a shiny new passport stamp (for free).
Still reeling from my unnecessarily long adventure to locate the infamous stamp, we waved goodbye to Uzupis and headed back into the now insanely packed streets of Vilnius. Kaziuko Muge is great if you want to explore the fair but a nightmare if you want to actually get somewhere in Vilnius!
Our next stop was the Gates of Dawn, which to me sounded like something from Game of Thrones! The gate is in fact the city gate of Vilnius and one of the most important religious and cultural sites in Lithuania. There were originally 9 gates to enter Vilnius but all but the Gates of Dawn were destroyed. During the 16th Century, these city gates were often the location of religious artefacts as these were believed to protect and bless the city and travellers. Inside the gate is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, which contains a gold painting of the Virgin Mary.
We passed through the Gates of Dawn and out into the outskirts of Vilnius. We went off in search of the infamous Trump/Putin memorial, which is located a bit out of the city and just adorns the side of a restaurant! Once we had seen the mutual we headed back into Vilnius as we had booked a tour of the cathedral crypt at 4pm. We arrived at the tower next to the cathedral and collected our tickets, and were given little stickers and told to wait outside the tower for our guide. About 10 minutes later our guide appeared and we ventured into the cathedral and then down into the crypts. We learnt so much about Vilnius and Lithuanian History, the royal family (and all it’s dramas) and the cathedral itself. I can highly recommend this tour if ever you are in Vilnius, it is really worth doing!
After our tour, we were feeling rather exhausted and so wandered back to our hotel, via St Anne’s Church. The church is absolutely stunning, both outside and in and is definitely worth a quick pit stop as you explore the city! We then had a quick rest at the hotel before we headed back out for dinner. Our receptionist had recommended Distilerija, which had also been recommended by my friend, Laura, from Hair Wonderful Day who is actually from Vilnius. With two recommendations, we knew we had to go there.
As soon as I walked inside I wanted to take pictures of the decor! We were seated on a large sofa at the back, overlooking the whole restaurant/bar. We ordered our drinks whilst we perused the menu. I went for an awesome Gin and Tonic cocktail, which I can highly recommend. As we had walked so far today we both went for burgers and chips and they were delicious. We even finished it off with dessert!!
Stuffed from our trip to Distillerija, we went off in search of a cool bottle beer bar I had heard of, Bambalyne. We had to consult Google maps a few times but eventually we managed to locate it and we ended up spending the rest of the night there, as we loved it so much. It is essentially a basement bar that is packed with numerous bottles of beer set out in fridges and on shelves. You select the bottles of beer you want, go the counter and either pay or add them to your tab, select the type of glass you want, and then sit down and enjoy. You can then keep doing this as many times as you want. The place was constantly packed and had such a good atmosphere, I was rather sad to leave Bambalyne at the end of the evening! Not least because we were leaving Vilnius first thing in the morning!
We went back to our hotel, finished packing and went to bed. We were feeling rather sad when our alarms went that morning and we headed down to breakfast one last time. Due to our flight time, we didn’t have chance for any more exploration and so checked out of our hotel and grabbed a taxi to the airport, our little adventure in Vilnius was over.
Until next time Lithuania…
You can read Part One here.
If you enjoyed this, you can see more of what I got up to in Vilnius here:
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