Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Baltic's - Part 3

Our final week in the Baltic's was spent in Vilnius, Lithuania. Like the other Baltic capitals that we visited, Vilnius's old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has served as the Lithuanian capital since 1323. During that time the country has been annexed or occupied by Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland, Germany, and the Soviet Union. You can clearly see evidence of the country's checkered past in the different architectural styles that mix throughout the city.

Arriving in the city we continued our culinary journey with more beer and fried rye bread.

In addition we dined at two gourmet restaurants based on reviews found on Trip Advisor. This was a good call, because the meal we had at 1Dublis was one of the best meals ever!

Within the Vilnius old town is an interesting bohemian area that has proclaimed itself an independent republic, The Republic of Uzupis. This odd little republic has its own flag, currency, president and army (11 men strong). Its constitution is engraved on metal plates suspended from a street wall. The people's rights include:
"People have the right to have no rights."
 "People have the right to be happy." 
"People have the right to be unhappy."
"A dog has the right to be a dog." 

Uzupis captures the spirit of Vilnius and it's reflective of the bohemian lifestyle of many of the Lithuanian people. There is artwork throughout the city. You'll find streets filled with paintings, and street lights and trees that have been fitted with knitted socks!

One of my personal favorites in Uzupis is a pub called Snekutis. I'd learned about Snekutis years ago while watching an episode of Three Sheets. The owner of the pub (now three locations in Vilnius... so go to the original in Uzupis if you can) is a whacky local known for his beard, hat, and constant laughing. Snekutis is the perfect name, because in Lithuanian it means a person who talks a lot after drinking.

On my day off we hopped a bus to nearby Trakai Castle. Trakai is a unique and incredibly beautiful castle built on an island in Lake Galve. The castle was one of the main centers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and became the residence for Grand Duke Kęstutis.

The village on the lake shore across from the castle caters to the tourists with row boats, paddle boats, lake cruises and everything you'd expect from an attraction like this. It probably goes without saying, but this is an incredibly popular location to get married. While we were there I think we counted four separate wedding parties.

Vilnius is one of the few cities in the world where you can take a hot air balloon ride that launches from the center of the city. We booked a ride but were unfortunately shut out by the weather. This is going on the list of things to do when we return!

Our trip to the Baltic's was a memorable one, and has encouraged us to explore more of that part of the world. If you have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it!

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