A Visit to the Baltic: Lithuania

Apr 08, 2011 Avatar  TravelStore

We flew on Lot Polish Airlines, via Warsaw, and then a connecting flight to Vilnius, Lithuania. While most airlines are charging for almost everything, from water to checking luggage, Lot still serves complimentary meals (hot in business class, sandwiches in economy).

We stayed at the Artis Hotel, in the Old City, and walked everywhere from there. The hotel had a wonderful, large buffet breakfast, with great cheeses, cold meats, smoked fish, pastries, breads, fruit, juices, jams, etc.

Vilnius is a lovely city with cobblestone streets and painted buildings. In many ways similar to Western Europe, with many baroque churches. We had arranged for a walking city tour, which was great. We rode up to the castle, walked all around, and visited a church with beautiful statues.

There was a fair in progress on the main pedestrian street selling local foods and handicrafts, such as hand-made socks, mittens, and sweaters. We ate lunch there, pointing to things being cooked, as we could not figure out what people were saying. The language is difficult, and although I speak several well, I was unable to understand any of the Baltic ones. The natives were friendly, though, and tried to help us.

One evening we went to the symphony where a special program of Russian music was performed. The concert hall was small and within walking distance from our hotel. This all made it a most enjoyable experience. As we were wondering what the comments meant, I asked the people seated in front of us, and they translated for us for the remainder of the evening.

We rented a car on our last day here and drove to Trakai, where several hundred Karaites still live. They are people going back to the 14th century. Trakai is a charming town with an old castle and a lake with sailboats and other water excursion vehicles. The main street had very charming wooden painted houses; 0ne being the the local museum, which we visited. We had lunch at one of the Karaite restaurants, where we enjoyed “pasties”, pocket like pies filled with meat or vegetables. Excellent!

From there we drove through forests, to the Hill of Crosses. Thousands of them, in various sizes, many created from wood, some created from metal, some ornate, and some very simple. All this dates back many years and has become a pilgrimage site.

Driving was easy, as the roads are excellent and not very busy, so no worries of getting stuck or lost, or having any problems. Also distances are not that big, so one gets to places fairly fast.