It turns out that writing a blog consistently gets much harder as the cities get closer together in terms of travel time. I had a nice 4 hour bus ride to write my Riga blog post, but from Vilnius to Krakow was just 2 sub-hour long flights with a 40 minute connection in between. But we (and our bags) made it! Both flights were on a small Dash 8 plane, the same type we normally fly from Denver to Vail. The first landing was exciting, too, as it was partly cloudly in Warsaw and so we encountered a few bumps. Lots more to say about Krakow, but we'll save that for a future post that is hopefully not as delayed as this one. After all, we do have a 6 hour ride coming up Monday from Krakow to Budapest!
So a post about Vilnius is a good time to talk about the Baltics in general, as it represents the bookend of our week long exploration of the Baltic capitals that we started off in Tallinn. I absolutely gushed about Tallinn when we first arrived, immediately falling in love with the old town there. But after seeing Riga and Vilnius I think Tallinn feels more limited to me. After all, what did we do that WASN'T in the old town? Tallinn now feels like old town and nothing else. Which at the time was great, but like with a Disney resort, after a while you appreciate the real world too.
Riga probably had the best balance between old town and real world. The old town sights were really nice, but you could also easily head out of the old town area for great architecture, dining, or a not-as-dangerous-as-it-seems stroll through the Moscow neighborhood.
So what about Vilnius? After all is said and done, I think it's my favorite. The funny thing about the Vilnius old town is that even when you're in it you can take a left turn into an alley and walk through a heavily-graffiti'ed apartment building with a partially melted dumpster. And you keep walking and you're back to cute cafes again. So there isn't balance, per se, but an intermixing that feels more real than the other two. Perhaps Vilnius just isn't as far along in the tourist trade as the other two, or perhaps it's location away from the coast makes a difference. I'm not sure, but I liked it. And one more thing, I think Vilnius has the single most impressive square of the three. But also graffiti:
So as for the tactical rundown of what we did in Vilnius, it was much of the same as the first two Baltic capitals. Much exploration of impressive churches, restored fortifications, and finding of playgrounds.
One neat addition to the usual rundown was exploring the Užupis area, which is a self-declared independent republic located within Vilnius. They have a fantastic constitution which we enjoyed reading.