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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Lithuanian Flag LITHUANIA


September 1. VILNIUS We had had a nice day of sightseeing and now it was time to get to some of our business.  We, mostly Rob, has been toting all sorts of things that we had picked up along our way through Russia.  There weren't many substantial things but it is amazing how quickly a little booklet here and a church icon there can amass into significant weight.  We had also reconsidered how badly we needed our sleeping bags at this point and decided to ship them back home to lessen our weight.  

We lugged all of our bags of stuff along with us to the post office near the train station.  In route we were in search of a cheap place for breakfast that turned out to no longer exist.  We were able to unload just part of our things at this location since their box supply was limited.  The young woman at the counter that helped us spoke very little English but tried her hardest to help us out.  So, with slightly fewer bags we headed back towards the city center.  There was another recommended cafe on our way and we were pleased to find that it was still in operation.  Seizios Bandeles at Geliu gatve 3 was a specialist in bandeles (rolls) and croissants and after our first visit we were hooked.  The lovely red-haired woman behind the counter, the owner as we later deduced, looked a bit intimidated when we showed up, not sure how to communicate with us.  Rob just smiled and made funny gestures to indicate what we wanted.  Other than recognizing šokoladas as chocolate we were lost anyway so we just ordered one of several different kinds. They were all good but my favorite was the peach puree filled croissant.

From the bakery we headed over to Gedimino Prospect, the main street in the old new part of town.  The large post office there had all of the boxes we needed to ship the rest if our stuff and the staff were very helpful.  We stopped at a cafe on Gedimino Prospect for coffee and people watched for awhile.  The people strolling along were all well dressed but casual.  Some of the cafes were quite posh establishments as well.  Overall the city had such a good feeling of people that were content with life.

We noticed that they main roadway had been blocked off on Gedimino Street and soon saw a parade of college students come marching, rather informally, through the streets.  They had costumes and banners representing their different departments at school.  Some were in traditional dress while others were in scrubs or had their faces painted like a cat, perhaps the mascot.  People shouted out of the office buildings in a show of support for the students. A new school year was about to begin.

Rob visited the the National Bank just off of Gedimino Prospect.  They had a cashier conveniently set up to handle the sale of collector coins and non-circulated bills.  She became Rob's good friend over the next several days as he returned to assembling a collection of old and new Lithuanian currency.  They are scheduled to become part of the Euro so the lifecycle of the litas would just be from their independence in 1991 to the Euro acceptance.  This cashier was also a very patient and friendly person. (I don't mean to belabor the friendliness point but there were a lot of friendly people in Vilnius).

Since we were loving our new country so much we decided it was worth it to stay in Vilnius until our new credit cards arrived.  We were able to call Citibank that night and they gave us an estimate of delivery so we booked another four nights.

September 2. VILNIUS Rob set our early to go to the National Bank while I visited the train station information booth to determine how to visit some other places we wanted to see.  As usual they were helpful and readily wrote down all of the information that I needed.  We met up at our favorite cafe.  Seizios Bandeles was a good 20 minute walk from our hostel but we still found ourselves there every morning eating our chocolate and peach croissants.  When we arrived late one morning the owner shook her finger at us and pointed to her watch but we lucked out and got some tasty rolls baked with hotdog and cheese inside instead.

I had the bus info on how to visit the Europas Parkas and we easily got to the bus transfer point to find out that the next bus didn't come for over an hour.  It would have been good if I had looked more closely at the times the information people had written down for me.  Even after over six months of travel it was lesson we kept relearning!  We decided that the later bus didn't leave much time to see the park before the last return bus came back to Vilnius.  So, it turned into another day of shopping and strolling old Vilnius.  There are worse things to be stuck doing!  We went back to the cafe on Gedimino Prospect for more people watching.  From there were went in search of the University book store which actual lied within the walls of the compound rather than at the logical street address given in our guidebook.  It took several goes around the block to figure that one out.  The shops in old town Vilnius were becoming familiar.  We stopped for lunch at a cozy little Mediterranean restaurant before continuing our shopping tour of Vilnius.  We must have hit every amber shop in the center.

For dinner we decided we should try some local cuisine and picked a traditional travern on Vokieciu Gatve called Zemaiciu Smukle (Tavern).  When we entered it looked like a small pub but when we ducked down the back stairs, and we literally had to duck to fit, we found a set of quaintly decorated little rooms set up to look like a house.  A waiter directed us to a non-smoking room that was tucked back behind a larger room and only consisted of two booths and on small table along a wall with  a fireplace and books.  We went nuts with the ordering.  The meal started with some hot bread - dark bread fried in garlic until it was the consistency of a crouton and then lathered in a mixture of mayonnaise and cheese.  My arteries still cringe but it was delicious.  We followed that with an order of duck and zeplins, shredded potatoes shaped like a torpedo (or zeplin) around a sausage and drowned in cream cheese sauce.  All that along with some wine had us in a food stupor by the end of the meal.  We hadn't been than full since our last Thanksgiving at home!

LITHUANIA Vilnius Aug 30 Aug 31 Sept 1-2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

ESTONIA Tallinn Sept 6-8

FINLAND Helsinki Sept 9

ESTONIA Tallinn Sept 10-11

LATVIA Riga Sept 12-13

LITHUANIA Vilnius Sept 14-15