#26 Lithuania


Having discovered the comfort, affordability and convenience of bus travel in the Baltic States, Peter and Penny again caught the Lux Express to their fourth and final destination on this Northern European tour. Though still chilly, they were glad of some drier weather to explore the beautiful city of Vilnius. They dropped off their luggage and headed straight for the Old Town, entering through the Gate of Dawn, where visitors come to venerate a golden icon of the Virgin Mary. While strolling the cobbled streets, the pair wondered why they had heard so little about the stunning architecture of Vilnius, which to them rivals that of any greatly acclaimed city in Europe. They found their way to Cathedral Square, intrigued by the bright, columned Cathedral lined with statues and the separate, even more imposing bell tower. They thought the exterior of this Cathedral, one of many churches to see in Vilnius, unusual in its design, though as ornately and impressively decorated both within and out as any they had come across. With so much to see and learn about, Peter and Penny decided a walking tour was in order. So bright and early Sunday morning they headed for the Town Hall meeting point, from where a knowledgeable and engaging tour guide led them through the sites of Old Town including the former Jewish Ghetto. They learned with dismay that Vilnius, once known as the Jerusalem of the North, had had a significant Jewish population before WW2. Later, they temporarily left their 26th country and crossed a bridge into the artsy neighbourhood known as the Republic of Užupis. They found out that though only fictionally independent, it boasts its own currency, flag and constitution and annually celebrates its independence on April 1st every year. They perused the many mirror plaque translations of Užupis’ quirky constitution, stopping to read it in English and surprised to find it in Irish. Following their tour, the pair relaxed over a potato pancake lunch before one last uphill walk to see the Gediminas Castle Tower and catch a view of the charming city from above. With so much to write home about, Peter and Penny felt #26 Lithuania was the perfect end to their autumn tour.