Lithuania


Šiauliai Lithuania to Riga Latvia by mini-bus

As I headed to Lithuania, world-traveling friend Esther Snippe “Facebooked me” telling me that if I was going to be in Lithuania, I had to go to Riga (the capital of Latvia). Due to the Schengen Agreement, my time in Europe was limited to three months. In all of my years (3 + 1½) of traveling, I had never entered a country and only gone to one town. That just isn’t in line with how I travel.

But Riga and its many fine Art Nouveau buildings beaconed and the Schengen limitations make me crazy — so I made an exception and went to Riga.

Want to join me on my 2½-hour bus ride from Šiauliai (show-leh) Lithuania to Riga Latvia?


Hill of the Crosses, Lithuania

The story of the Hill of the Crosses in Šiauliai is a testament to humanity as well as of faith. As I am not Christian, a cross doesn’t have the same feeling that it does to Christians. However, this is a show of people who, through the generations, fought Czarist Russia and then Soviet Russia for their freedoms.


Cell phone & data SIM card in Lithuania

I arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania on a Thursday afternoon at 3pm. I’d needed to text my friend Pedro on Friday afternoon but was able to use the roaming feature on my Polish SIM card. (I’m pretty sure that data would have expired by the time I got back to Poland anyway.) When Pedro came with me to get a SIM the next afternoon, the nearest shop was closed. So I didn’t get a SIM unil my 3rd day in Vilnius.

However, it never occurred to me that a bus or train station was actually THE place to buy a SIM card and I had not learned that at this point in my travels. (It turns out that was the case, at least in the major cities, through the entire area.) Having known, I might have purchased my SIM and plan at the Vilnius Coach Station, which is right across from the train station.

For $1.35 I got:
150 phone minutes
1,000 text messages
100mb data

The cellular package I bought in Lithuania.

Castle ruins of Vilnius Lithuania

My second day in Vilnius, after visiting the Lithuanian Archives in search of my family history, I again met Pedro in the afternoon and he showed me around. We walked to the Gediminas Tower, or specifically, Gediminas Tower. It is the last standing part of the Upper Castle, which is what remains of Vilnius castle complex, hoping to get there while it was still open.

For speed, we opted to walk around to the front, the river side, and took the funicular, then walked down.

These are some of my photos of the castle remnants.


Vilnius bus and train stations

Are you wondering arriving in Vilnius, Lithuania and getting to a great hostel or hotel for your stay there? You’re in luck because both the bus station and train station — right across from each other — are easily walkable to the beautiful old city of Vilnius, where there are several options for accommodations.


Traditional Lithuania food in Vilnius

For my first meal in Vilnius, Lithuania, I wanted something traditional. My Portuguese friend Pedro, having met me at the bus, was with me for the afternoon and evening. After we’d checked me into a great hostel, we kept an eye out for a good, but affordable place to eat.

The main street through the old city is really nice, but, as you’d expect, the restaurants are touristy and costly. I felt we did fairly well finding Forto Dvaras.


Warsaw to Vilnius on SimpleBus

8:15am
I am comfortably seated on SimpleBus, as our driver makes his way over a mostly (so far) 2-lane road through green countryside. At one point we were surrounded by trees and I imagined how Jews hid out there once. Now, as we near Lomza we are going through open farm fields sometimes separated by Clusters of trees sometimes there is a row or two of tall trees separating the farm and home from the road. I think I see corn growing.

2:31
I replied to Pedro and he texted:
“Ok ok…I am on my way to the station…see you there at the entrance.”
He asked if I found a CouchSurfing host. I hadn’t had any luck and asked if he knew hostels. He said there are at least four and he would help. It is so amazing to land somewhere and not go it alone. (First Michal in Warsaw, then Dorota in Krakow, and now Pedro in Vilnius. This was a very different trip for me!)

3:00
IWhen the bus pulled into the Vilnius Coach Station, Pedro was waiting for me. It was fabulous to be met by a friend. (Technically an acquaintance, but in travels like this, I consider such a nice guy a friend.)

I was in Vilnius, Lithuania — a place I’d never thought I’d get to in my life. What would I find here, in the city (or area) of my family’s past generations?


Hostelgate reception

Great hostel in Vilnius Lithuania

Hostelgate Backpackers is an ideally located hostel right on what I think is the main street of the old city. Not far down this street is the Astoria Hotel and other top hotels are right there, too.

Clean, convenient, friendly. Various sized dorm rooms. Good kitchen. Comfy places to hang out. Supermarket right down the road too.