Old town Vilnius,Lithuania

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June 30th 2013
Published: July 6th 2013
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Another city,another old town to look over and take it in the history and architecture and the weather has come right for some serious walking.

The suburb the apartment is located in has some wide open spaces between the apartment blocks and the land in the area is not dead flat giving an aesthetically pleasing view.

Yesterday when we walked to the supermarket we noticed two signs pointing to Centras(middle of the city)one saying 3km and the other saying 6km.Which one was right or perhaps there were two different routes to take?We weren't sure but if it was only 3km it would be worth walking rather than taking the car and having to find a park.However if it was 6km then that would add another 6km return to the journey and make it a long and tiring day.It was difficult to work out and as we hadn't been able to connect to the internet as there seemed to be some sort of block either on our laptop or on the modem in the flat we couldn't access Google maps to work it out by putting a couple of streets in to check the distance.

From where the apartment was located we couldn't see the city centre to get an idea of how far away it actually was and as it turned out the centre was located in a valley.

We decided to head out and walk but after getting to the second sign showing 6km we had our doubts again and turned around and went back to take the car to Centras.With so little traffic on the roads we thought that like a lot of other European cities,Vilnius would be quiet on a Sunday.

It did turn out to be 6km to the city and we had no trouble finding a car park which on Sunday was free.That was a double bonus!

For a change we needed to do a little bit of downhill walking to the old city,something we haven't had to do for some weeks as all the places we have walked around recently have been flat.

Vilinus has certainly had some investment in recent years if the number of new glass tall buildings in the new commercial centre was anything to go by.

The Neris River flows through the centre of the valley and divides the old and new parts of the city.Like most of the rivers we have passed over since crossing into Poland and heading northwards the river was an unattractive dirty brown in colour which doesn't always appear to be to recent heavy rain but more about the ecological conditions.

While today was pleasantly warm in the mid 20's we gave some thought to what the city would be like in the winter when temperatures as low as -25C are not uncommon and the river at times freezes over.

We walked along the river bank to where a funicular or something more like a lift takes you up a short steep bank to the remains of the an old castle built in 1409 and the Gediminas Tower where we climbed to the top to get what would have to be the best advantage point in the old town to see the old town laid out before us.It gave us an opportunity to plan a path through some of the points of interest and also to note where there seemed to be some outdoor cafes with yellow umbrellas to sit under and have some lunch.

Walking through a shady square we came upon the Vilinus Cathedral with a service just ending and what seemed like hundreds of parishioners pouring outside.Seems like going to church is still a popular occurrence in Vilnius going by the numbers.We took a quick peek inside but with another service starting there wasn't an opportunity to stroll around the interior as we like to do.

By now we were ready for lunch and we were sure the yellow umbrellas we had seen from the top of the castle hill were just around the corner.But no!Perhaps the scene we had been looking at was much wider than what we had thought.Another 5 minutes walking did bring us to an area of cafes with plenty of shade and even though they weren't the ones we were looking for we took a seat and ordered up some traditional Lithuanian food which is based fairly heavily around potatos.

After lunch and some further walking we did discover the yellow umbrellas in the market square with its attractive, well cared for Baroque and Renaissance style buildings.All Saints church is at the top of the square and was built in the early 1500's and featured an appealing interior in pale pastel colours.

Further walking took us past the small part of the city wall that remains and a couple of other Baroque style churches which were either closed or were holding services making it awkward to get inside to stroll around.

We finally arrived at the main shopping street for this side of the city which effectively ran through the old town without actually taking anything away from thinking that you are back in the days when the old town was the prominent part of the city.Here there were crowds of young people out enjoying some organised activities including 'ice hockey' without the ice,mini tennis and break dancing.The road was closed off to traffic making a relaxed atmosphere and the locals seemed to be really enjoying what was going on.

We returned to other side of the Neris River and up the short hill up to the car via the Green Bridge with its 4 Soviet era statues representing agriculture,peace,youth and industry.Somehow they look out of place with a city downtown area that has modernised itself rapidly since independence.

Back home we were glad we hadn't tried to walk into the city as we would have struggled to get the 6km back home after spending the nearly 5 hours we had walking the old town.

It had been a short stay of 2 nights in Vilnius but we had done it justice and tomorrow its off further north and into another country,Latvia

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