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Name: Melissa

About Me

Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City

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London | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne

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Skin by Falter

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Friday, December 16, 2011
Even though I love my job to bits, there is one thing that if the airline took away from me I'd be resigning straight away - my travel benefits. I know that there are very few other jobs that would allow me to travel and enjoy other countries and cultures as much as this one, and whether it be on a layover or on my own time I still have a passion for travelling 6 years on. So when I saw on my October roster 4 days off sandwiched between some rest days, I was straight onto Trip Advisor trying to find cheap hotels to somewhere I hadn't been before. I was gravitating towards Vilnius, as after finishing off the Nordics in August, this would be my last city in the Baltics to cross of my 'countries visited' list. Tickets were booked, hotel was booked, and when I landed I even had a tour booked.

I had a great tour guide - if I do book one it's usually with a large-ish group, and I'm the youngest tourist there by about 15 years, and the entire tour is peppered with questions from others about history I've usually read about before the tour. So it was nice to be the only one on the tour (it was 4 degrees at 10.00am - I guess every other tourist wanted to sleep) and not only that the guide was actually my age - the lovely Natasha from Vilnius City Tours. She was as local as you could get, and very passionate about her home city. It was close to the best tour I think I've ever been on.

So now onto the landmarks, and the first stop was the Church of St Peter and Paul (Šv. apaštalų Petro ir Povilo bažnyčia)... I'm warning you all, this post is very photo-heavy, particularly with many places of worship, but I couldn't really help myself considering how insanely beautiful this was. The concept behind the sculptures in each chapel was that they were to be seen in some sort of theatrical sequence, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Also it is vastly different from every other church in Vilnius is that it doesn't go crazy with colour - white clearly dominates, but it still manages to be jaw-droppingly stunning.

Exterior of the church

Christening Bath in the Baptistery.

Chapel of the Holy Queens. The two large Turkish Drums somehow didn't seem to fit in with the church.

Chapel of St Augustine. The church is full of surprises, such as the elephant stucco sculptures on the left.

There was a christening on when I visited, but no one seemed to mind me taking photos, especially after a small Litas donation.

The stunning sailboat lantern, a gift from Venice. It's far more sparkly in real life.

The dome of the church. There's an inscription around the dome which is the same as St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, which I've inadvertantly cut out from the picture. If you look right into the highest part of the dome you can see the face of God looking down on His people.

Chapel of St Ursula

Chapel of the Military Saints

So following the sequence, we come to the Chapel of the Crucifixtion

Stucco statue of the Queen of Death

Lots of skulls in this Chapel.

Gates of Dawn (Ausros Vartai), in the south part of the Old Town. There are a lot of pilgrims who flock here from neighbouring countries, so I had to make a few attempts at trying to see the Chapel. After the 7pm mass I managed to get a photo of...

Chapel of Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn. The sides of the altar is adorned in some intricate silver (possibly pewter) detailing. Such a joy to see.

So onto the Vilnius Cathdral and Cathedral Square...

Monument to Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania

Cathedral Bell Tower. You can climb here and take an amazing view of Vilnius, but I prefered to wait until I was at the Hill of the Three Crosses.

Front view of the Vilnius Cathedral (Arkikatedra Bazilika).

Chapel of St Casamir and sarcophagus.

Gediminas' Tower

Entrance to the National Museum of Lithuania, housed within the New Arsenal of the Vilnius Castle Complex. You can see Gediminas Castle Tower in the Background.

Žaliasis tiltas, also known as the Green Bridge, above the river Neris. There are still some Soviet realism sculptures on the bridge - there was much debate after Lithuanian independance as to whether or not to have them torn down.

A conversation between the banks of the Šnipiškės and Old Town sides of the Neris. This one is saying "I love you!"

"I love you too!"

So a few years ago someone floated about an idea of having local artists create sculptures to pepper throughout the city of Vilnius to make it more 'cultural' and 'tourist -friendly'. The rings underneath the bridge were derived from an old legend of someone scaring the residents and flying his light aircraft underneath the bridge - the rings were to prevent anyone from attempting the feat again. No explaination was given for the pipe-thing in the second picture, though I was assured by my guide that it was, indeed, a sculpture and not some city plumbing.

A short walk later and I was in Kalnai Park, also known to contain the Hill of the Three Crosses...

Amphitheatre in Kalnai Park.

The Three Crosses, from the front and rear.

View of Vilnius from the Hill of the Three Crosses. I know it looks like sunset here, but it was around 2pm or so when this shot was taken.

Vilnius also happens to contain its own micronation - The Republic of Užupis. Even in the gloomy weather it's one of the most colourful areas of the city and has a great bohemian feel to it. Very similar to Montmatre in Paris. Being a self-declared republic, it has its own army (of 12 people!), its own flag, currency, president and constitution. The constitution, especially, is a tourist attraction in itself, written in 8 languages and containing statements such as
  • "People have the right to have no rights."
  • "Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat"
  • "Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence."
  • "Everyone has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday. "
And you get the idea. With the Independence Day falling on April Fool's Day are you surprised?

Entrances to Užupis.

The Angel of Užupis.

The infamous Constitution.

Užupis Bridge, covered with padlocks. Cute concept that can be found not only in Vilnius but in many places in Europe - A couple who get married, or otherwise commit, engrave or write their names on the padlock, sometimes as well as the date of the wedding, then throw the key away. Would have loved to have seen this tradition back in Australia - I think it's great!

The Frank Zappa statue. This is the most difficult thing to look for in the whole city - when driving past in the tour bus my guide pointed it out, and I couldn't even see it. I then went back, thinking I may as well get a photo, and missed it 4-5 times before finally seeing it. Apparently Mr Zappa has zero connection to the city of Vilnius - the proposal for erecting the statue was a 'test' of the new democratic processes by the artists just to see whether or not they could get the project approved. It was, they did up a bust (which wasn't too bad I must say) and hence you have the bust of Frank Zappa on a pole in a parking lot... I guess it ties in with the bohemian mindset that's seemingly everywhere here in Vilnius.

Choral Synagogue.

Church of All Saints, also built in the Baroque style. There was Sunday service on when I arrived, so I didn't go inside.

Church of St Catherine

St. Anne's Church, a Roman Catholic Church. Loving the gothic stylin'.

Vilnius University (Vilniaus Universitetas). The tiny tower on the left housed the old observatory.

Presidential Palace

The top facade of the National Theatre of Lithuania. Love the statue of the three muses.

The interior of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit (Staciatikiu Sv. Dvasios Cerkve). Jaw droppingly beautiful.

Interior of the Church of St Theresa. This was my guide's favourite church, as she said it totally changes character after dark. I tried to enter at around 6.30pm and couldn't get in, so was only able to take a photo the morning after. Beautifully decorated, I must admit.

And of course I have to give some mention to the food! The cuisine is basically similar to other snow-prone climates, lots of soups, creamy sauces, potatoes and what not. Very artery-clogging. It all tasted amazing, so amazing in fact I pretty much had a Lithuanian dish for every single meal. If you're a vegetarian though then there isn't a whole lot on offer here, I'm warning you guys.

I love borscht (Barščiai) - if you're frozen to your bones there's nothing that warms you up like it. I've had borscht everywhere - Riga, Moscow, Vilnius etc, and I've never had a bad serving.

Balandėliai - Cabbage Rolls stuffed with some minced meat, boiled and served with the best sauce I've ever had in my life! I wish I knew what was in that sauce - the only ingredients I could make out were sour cream and paprika...

Kėdainių blynai - Basically potato pancakes served with some sort of remoulade with minced meat in the centre. It was alright but very oily - I wouldn't want to be having this very often.

Cepelinai - The national dish. Named after the Zeppelin, these are made from potato and minced meat and big enough to fit in my hand. It's boiled and served coated in this sour cream and bacon sauce. Tastes absolutely divine.

I'm not finished with Vilnius just yet - I have some photos from the KGB Museum/Museum of the Genocide Victims which I think warrants a seperate post altogether, so stay tuned!

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