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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Warsaw to Vilnius couchette. Couchette? Sounds nice - it is not. Matthew and I share with a sweet elderly Polish woman. Accommodation for six - forget that - three is too many!

At 03:00 the passport control arrive. Polskis and the Lithuanians scour our passports.

At 04:30 the train is still being re-shunted. A very slow non seam-welded track to Vilnius. The rail infrastructure in Lithuania has seen happier times.

 

Vilnius, Lithuania

StatuesBrick Church - St Anna'sVilnius is the capital of Lithuania, the southernmost of the Baltic States.

A short walk from the station we find a smart fresh clean hotel. The Mikotel (£33:91). It looks brand new. The kindly receptionist welcomes us.

I grab 2 hours sleep - sheer luxury - while Matthew reconnoitres the town.

How wonderful after the night on the train - the pleasure of a shower! Some travellers think it's cool not to shower. Silly idea.

TowerThree Cross HillIt's useful having Matthew do the leg work. I utter "lead on" and he does.

We enter the old town via the Gates of Dawn and explore the main street of Vilnius. We choose a street cafe on the old street - sausage meat dumplings. Any beggars are promptly told to "move on" by cafe minders.

The view from the top of the tower is most excellent, with a fine display of arms and armour through the ages

The castle is "very nice". Just don't walk down any unmarked paths on the way down: they lead to closed gates at the bottom.

An impressive new palace, a reconstruction of the old one, is being built by the cathedral.
 

Barbed WireBarracade

Today is a national mid-summer holiday - everything is quiet and closed up.

We walk to the parliament buildings and witness the barricades, remnants of the country's fight for independence from the former USSR.

 

BarracadeFountainThe Vilnius Massacre Revisited
Standing up for freedom
 
EveningGates of DawnThere's heavy rain in the evening - this doesn't stop us. I've got a coat and I'm going to use it! We feed and imbibe under cover of a restaurant's large tarpaulin roof; entertaining ourselves by ordering food and drinks at random intervals so the poor staff get drenched as they collect each item from over the road.

Somebody on the council has organised the building illuminations just right. Mercury on white painted frontages, sodium on coloured.

A wet walk back to the hotel and prepare for an early morning (07:00) departure to Rīga.

ChurchThe Blackberry's GPRS email connection has stayed up all the way from Prague. Nice, very nice.

Jörgen Städje's Vilnius Page
Daily Baltic News

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