Lithuania might be the most random trip I’ve taken in my travel career so far. After living in Europe so long I was beginning to get bored of traveling every weekend (believe it or not). We definitely overdid it and eventually places started blending together. At some point, it seemed like every Western European city consisted of an old town, central square, a castle overlooking a river, and the nightlife area. Of course there is MUCH more to each city but I was much younger and primarily concerned with partying. I needed a break, but where could I go.
Most of the Middle East was off limits for me for diplomatic reasons and a weekend wouldn’t be long enough to fly to the Americas. I began to look East again. I had some friends from Lithuania while living in Rome and thought of them. It just so happened one of my home airports (BRU) had a special price for a roundtrip to Vilnius. It was meant to happen!
I remember boarding the plane and getting looks of confusion or maybe curiosity. A plane of what I assume were Lithuanians and now me. Halfway through the flight the young lady sitting next to me asked me my name, where I was from and what I would be doing in Lithuania. When I told her just exploring as a tourist she seemed a little confused.Lithuania is a tiny country in the Baltic portion of Europe. Not the most famous tourist destination I presume. All I knew about it was that our Olympic basketball team lost to theirs in the 2004 Olympics which was unheard of before then. She gave me some recommendations to check out while I was there. I thought of asking for her info but decided against it. Usually when this happens, people dominate your trip showing you around instead of you exploring and finding things on your own.
VNO was at the time the smallest airport I had ever seen (that honor now belongs to Santorini). We were in and out pretty quickly. The taxi ride was pretty quiet. Old style cars. When I tipped the driver he became really friendly and gave me a few tips. Basically not to cross the railroad tracks into the bad part of town, where the bars were, etc.
On this trip I really wanted to test myself and decided to stay a hostel. I booked a bed at Hostel Jamaika. It was a pretty large building. I don’t remember the prices exactly but I’ll guess and say it was under 20 euro for a weekend stay which was insane.
The manager at the time was a friendly Russian guy who showed me around a bit and explained how things worked in the city. The hostel experience was amazing. I spent a bit of time in the kitchen talking to people from all over. One girl from Ukraine sticks out in my memory. She was really friendly and animated but I don’t think she understood that I didn’t speak Ukrainian. At one point she was motioning for me to come, and saying something I didn’t understand. I just smiled and shrugged, unsure of what to do or say, so she left. Later someone explained she was asking me to go on a walk and get to know each other better. Not exactly sure how that would’ve worked but I appreciated the gesture.
Vilnius itself was nice. When I was visiting they had been a member of the EU for a decade. I’m assuming like most Eastern countries, most of the young people left for the bigger economies in Europe for better job opportunities. It was still a very homogenous society, with people visibly curious as I walked around taking pics. The only visible immigrant I came across was a DJ from Venezuela and a chef from Mexico with his own restaurant. We were all pretty confused at what each other was doing there haha. I think it’s cool that other people have the wanderer spirit as I do.
Vilnius was safe and clean. Everything was shockingly inexpensive which was a nice change. The food was a bit different that what I’m used to. I remember not being thrilled about a particular dish and the hostess asking if everything was ok. Not wanting to be rude I ate it but felt out of it for a few hours. It was some kind of purple soup. Not really my favorite meal ever. Later I found a place that made these AMAZING dumplings so I was happy again.
On my last day I borrowed a bike from the hostel and rode around exploring. It was a very peaceful and relaxed trip unlike most of my other traveling at the time. I think it’s important to find that balance. I’m a bit older now so most of my traveling is relaxed these days. My body appreciates this newfound level of relaxation.