Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is known for its baroque architecture, especially in its medieval Old Town, but it’s difficult to discern any architectural features. This is partly because everything is covered in snow and partly because it’s almost too cold to be out on the street, let alone look around. We scuttle around, trying not to skid on the icy patches. I buy a felt Russian army hat with ear covers from a shop filled with war memorabilia. I’m not sure I look overly elegant, but it does the job.
Vilnius has the largest medieval old town in central and Eastern Europe. It’s UNESCO-protected, of course, as are the other Baltic state capitals. There is the usual melange of churches, parks, squares, bars, cafes and restaurants. The Vilnius Castle Complex is particularly picturesque, the grounds dotted with locals enjoying the snow. It makes a great Christmas card scene. The river alongside confusingly has two names, Neris and Vilnia. Take your pick. Užupis, the trendy neighbourhood on the other side of the river, declared itself an independent republic on April 1, 1997.
The countryside is mainly flat, so a more diminutive castle on top of a small hill is hard to miss. Though the climb to Gediminas Tower is tough in these conditions.
The best news is that Vilnius is incredibly cheap, especially the vodka. I'm loading up.
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