After Riga, it was back on that Baltic bus luxury towards Lithuania. This time I watched The Fifth Estate as we cruised through the Latvian landscape and approached the Soviet apartment blocks that surround the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic states, but again, it was a place that I knew very little about. I know a couple of Lithuanians in London and had spotted their magnificently coloured flag while on the bus in Leyton. But that was about all…
Guess what? Another Old Town!
Once I arrive in Vilnius, I head on a trolley-bus to my apartment, then back into town to meet my friend who has flown over from the UK. Over the next few days, I find it difficult to get a strong grasp of Lithuania. Vilnius does have a very pretty Old Town, but by this point I’m quite fatigued by medieval buildings, churches and cobbled streets. In other news, milk is called pienas, there’s a pregnancy test called Ouch! and Kim Jong-un advertises Lithuanian pork rolls.
We get out of Vilnius for a couple of days and visit my colleague in Kaunas. Unfortunately, a friend in London and my Riga host’s fiancee have both questioned why I would ever visit the town, citing its abundance of ‘chavs’ as a reason to avoid. Naturally, I’m fated to view Kaunas through these chav-tinted glasses (although the multiple appearances of some accordian-playing Hare Krishnas on the New Town high street provides a mild distraction). We also visit a nice big lake and castle in Trakai, which is gorgeous, but rather touristy.
Hipster cakes and mushrooms
If I’m honest, the best thing for me about Lithuania is the cakes. On the recommendation of my Riga connection, one of the first things I do in Vilnius is grab something to eat at vegan cafe Chaika. I cannot fault this place! The coffee is rich and strong, the interior is full of vintage armchairs and my man is playing Coltrane on vinyl. But the most amazing part of my Chaika experience is the cake. Call me pretentious and you’d be right, because I choose their vegan matcha chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and it’s so lush. The other wonderful sweet treat in Lithuania are these gingerbread-filled mushroom-shaped bad boys, which I buy on a whim and love.
A dreamy departure lounge cinema
When I get to Vilnius airport, I’m given a beautiful surprise. Instead of being forced to walk through perfumes and whiskey, I come across a mini-cinema showing short films for travellers to watch while they wait. I love films and get annoyed by enforced capitalism, so this is heavenly. I watch a lovely Hungarian film by a director Barnabás Tóth. The film is about an older man Vilmos, who drives his wife around. His wife is a bit of moaner, always redirecting Vilmos in the wrong directions and complaining about his driving. As the film unfolds, you find out where Vilmos has been driving his wife and the film takes a touching turn. Anyhow, I won’t spoil it, so check out My Guide:
It was a great way to finish up in the Baltics and prepare for my journey into Ukraine…