Traveling to Lithuania Tips – Your next European Destination
A year ago if you had asked me where Lithuania is I don’t even know if I would have been able to tell you it is in Europe. I certainly hope so. I have since learned that Vilnius is the capital and also visited Klaipeda and Siauliai. Due to the lack of tourists here I really enjoyed my visit. The time of the year was also perfect, it was not steaming hot and definitely not freezing.
What has to be on your to-do list:
The Hill of Crosses
You can do a day tour here from Vilnius from 65 Euro or Riga from 50 Euro. I decided to actually go to Siauliai (Pronounced: Shoo Lai). It is located 12 km outside town. If you have a hire car you can drive there and park on the road out the front and interfere beautiful sunset photos. There is also the option to catch the bus and you will get dropped off 2km before the Hill of Crosses. A taxi driver also offered to take me for 30 Euros. I got there because Yuri from Belarus was speaking Belarusian to me and I would respond in English. Eventually, with the assistance of Google Translator, we worked out he was trying to ask me if I would like to go along. This saved me a 2km walk or 30 Euros. It also meant I got to visit at the perfect time of the day: sunset! You can check back later for a post on my visit to the Hill of Crosses, the history and the myths surrounding this pilgrimage.
Hill of Witches-
To get here you will need to visit Klaipeda. This city should be up for an award for the most livable city in the world. I stayed in one of the two and a half hostels in town. It was a leisurely 20-minute walk to the ferry terminal. It cost 80 cents for a return ticket across to Kursiu National Park. It then also cost me 1.40 Euro to get from Smiltyne to Juodkrante. You should also not be as lazy as me and sleep in and make this a full day outing to include Nida. I only managed to go for a walk through the Hill of Witches. I saw two other groups walk through there at the time and this is during summer. It added to the creepy effect you would expect from somewhere called the Hill of Witches. I swear I even heard a wolf howl whilst I was there. But it must have been my imagination.
Saints Peter and Paul’s Church
I walked in towards the end of a service. I realized I had never been in a Catholic sermon. What awaited me was a melodious worship. I could not resist the urge to sit down and absorb it all. Once the service finished I got the opportunity to take some photos of the inside beauty of the Church. From the outside, you may be deceived but once inside you will be pleasantly surprised. The interior is all white and in the center is a magnificent ship-shaped chandelier.
Vilnius Old Town
I was staying right outside the Gate of Dawn, Vilnius. I found this to be a very walkable city. I can’t comment on public transport since I would just walk everywhere. Reason for this every corner would have an impressive feature to feast your eyes on. For me, this is the best way to experience a city. So if it is not raining cats and dogs and you have two perfectly functioning legs – Walk! The Old Town had various sites I was hunting down – Literature street where hundreds of artwork adorned the walls paying respect to writers from Lithuania. The Vilnius university – one of the oldest can also be found in the old town. If you stop to read the plaques you will be reminded of the struggle Lithuania faced over the years for freedom. One of the Jesuit churches was even turned into a museum for Atheism during communist rule.
If you are a foodie then you must try this restaurant out. For 65 Euros you will get a 7-course menu with extra small bites, welcome drink, and nonalcoholic beverages during dinner. This restaurant focuses on the Lithuanian food and going back to the basics. The entire meal will be served over three hours and you need to make sure you book in advance. I have a friend who has compared this to Michelin rated restaurants. I trust her since she has just finished her journey across every Michelin rated restaurant in NYC with the exception of sushi restaurants.
These are just some of my top recommendations but there is so much more than this country has to offer and I highly implore you to add it to your bucket list.
How to get around Lithuania:
I caught the bus for less than 20 Euros from Warsaw overnight, There are also three International airports. I highly recommend catching the bus internally. In Vilnius, Klaipeda, and Siauliai the bus stations are right near the city centers. Taxies are also extremely affordable to get to your accommodation from the bus stop. I paid between 2 Euros and 4 Euros for all my taxi fares. Just make sure you request the meter. The views in between cities are also breathtaking. It was also only about 10 Euros per trip from city to city. If you want even more comfort the girl at my hostel recommended the train, however, I am a bus my way around the world girl.
Where should you stay:
I stayed in three hostels averaging about 10 Euros a night. If you are a budget traveler Vilnius offers a few hostels however Klaipeda has two and a half and Siauliai had one. Alternatively, 2-star accommodation to 5 stars can cost anywhere between 20 Euros to 100 Euros on average. Since they were all very walking able cities always make sure you select accommodation within walking distance.
What food will you find:
If you are Lithuanian please excuse me for any errors. I am a restaurant type so visited several different restaurants. For me, the food could sometimes be very oily and would often opt for salads. You will see potato pancakes on almost every menu. There is also a tree cake that I tried but would never have again. It was similar to a bland vanilla biscuit in a weird shape and I wish they gave me more chocolate sauce to make it easier to eat. They will eat absolutely everything from the pig so don’t be surprised to find smoked pig ears on your menu for an accompaniment to beer. They have this dark sourish bread and you can order soup out of a bread bowl. Overall I enjoyed my flavor experience for Lithuanian food and you should not shy away from tasting different options.
Apparently many Lithuanians can speak English but this was not my experience. It was a bit of a struggle at times especially when the receptionist in your hostel does not know a word of English. I only learned “Thank you” which translates to Aciu so just pretend someone sneezed when you say that. Waiters knew a bit more English. The menus will always be available in three languages but I would still point out exactly what I want to order. When I tried to book a tour in Vilnius to the Hill of Crosses they got a bit confused and were looking up the bus timetable to the town. Perhaps some pre-planning for Lithuania will not go to waste and booking accommodation, transport, and tours online.
If you were like me unprepared and did not have a Sim Card covering all of Europe you can buy one for 3 Euros that will give you 3GB for a month without Identification. Just ask at any mini grocer. Lithuania can also brag with the fastest internet speeds in the world.
Since I am doing this mission to raise mental health awareness around the world it is important to note that since the end of Communism suicide rates have skyrocketed. It is listed as the 4th highest in the world by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015.
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