Travel Month: February 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

February was a good month for travel, despite the planning stages starting out a bit rocky. Initially, J and I wanted to go skiing (him) bird watching (me) in Alesund, Norway, but after a series of bad colds and business we never got around to booking any tickets or a place to stay. (This trip must happen next year!) With only a week to spare before our designated February break we booked super last minute flights to Paris and landed a sweet AirBnB. This was my first time visiting France and found it the perfect way to wind-down from a crazy month. 

We wandered into two absolutely wonderful bookstores and picked up some new reads. We munched on dainty macarons, splendid eclairs, and sweet nutella crepes while strolling around the Eiffel Tower. We sat speechless in the Monet rooms at the Orangerie Museum and we lazed at our apartment. It was wonderful.



Yes, this bookstore was as awesome as its name!

I could just feeling Hemingway in the walls!





Before our trip, we mostly hid from the cold, dreary weather in Vilnius. We did make it to a weird and wonderful street fair that was all about burning a straw figure to banish winter until next year. The weather has since been a bit warmer and sunnier...maybe it worked?

Over here on the blog I had a minor update, curtesy of the fabulous Amanda from Living in Another Language. I'm also launching an expat newsletter- so if you are living in or planning on moving to Vilnius sign up to keep up to date with events around the city! Signing up will also enter you for a chance to win some local treat!

I've also written several posts lately about Vilnius and wrapped up my posts from my time spent in Rome. Here are some of my favorite posts from this month:

4 Reasons to Visit Rome in January
Finding a Piece of Home in Vilnius
Creative Lithuania: Pottery Class
Chasing Away Winter, Pancake Day, and Restoration of State Day


Other than a lot of work coming up in March, I'm not sure what else the month will hold. Perhaps a trip to Tallinn will be in the cards?

How was your February? What are your plans for March?

13 Free Things To Do In Vilnius

Wednesday, February 25, 2015



Vilnius is already a European budget destination. Coffee generally costs about 1.50 Euro, full dinners are often around 10 Euros (unless you eat at the more expensive restaurants in town), and admission into most museums is affordable (the KGB Museum is a must visit!). If you are looking to extend your budget even further there are numerous free things to do around the city.

1) The Vilnius Free Walking Tour. The Vilnius Free Walking Tour (also available in other cities) is a three hour free tour that takes you to less-well-known areas of Vilnius. I took this tour in the late fall last year and absolutely loved it. The tour guide was wonderful and she introduced us to many facts about Vilnius and about Lithuanian culture that I hadn't previously learned about. I highly recommend this tour!



2) Cathedral Square and the Vilnius Cathedral. Vilnius Cathedral is free to enter and both the interior and exterior are beautiful. Cathedral Square surrounds the Cathedral and is a popular place to spend time. Cathedral Square is also one of the main areas for free events that happen around the city.

3) Uzupis Constitution. Uzupis named itself a a republic of Vilnius in 1997 and is filled with art galleries and restaurants. Uzupis has its own constitution with interesting rules such as "Everyone has the right to be unique." April 1 is Uzupis Day where you can celebrate Uzupis independence with a passport stamp, free activities, and a fountain full of beer.




4) The Hill of Three Crosses. Overlooking the Vilnius Old Town is a hill bearing three white crosses. The hike up to this hill and the overlook is completely free. The hike is short and the view of the city is beautiful.



5) Gediminas Tower. To get another free view of Vilnius Old Town, take a stroll up to the Gediminas Tower. Entering the tower costs a few euro, but it is free to wander the grounds and walk up the hill. Another perfect place to view Vilnius from above.




6) Bernardine Cemetery. The Bernardine Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Vilnius and if you have the time, is a perfect place to wander. The cemetery is unruly, hilly, and under reconstruction making it even more unique.




7) Vingis Park. If you are craving some time away from the city, but don't want to travel far, head to Vingis Park. Vingis Park is a bit of a walk (about 30 minutes) from the Old Town, but is a completely free and very larger park (with botanical garden and skate park).

8) Take a Self-Guided Street Art Walking Tour. There are some awesome pieces of street art around Vilnius that were created by famous street artists including my favorite, Millo. I've compiled a huge list and map of some great street art pieces around the city. See more here!



9) Literatu Street. Literatu Street holds a permanent outdoor gallery that highlights the works of local authors and authors who wrote famous books in Lithuania.




10) Street Fairs and Outdoor Events. Vilnius is awesome when it comes to street fairs and free events. Almost every weekend in the summer and fall sees some kind of street fair with entertainment. To find free events check out the Vilnius Events webpage.




11) Gates of Dawn. The Gates of Dawn is the last surviving old city gate of a wall that surrounded the entire Old Town. Inside of the Gates of Dawn is a chapel that holds a famous icon.

12) Bernardine and St. Anne's Church. Visiting any church in Vilnius is free (unless you take a guided tour), but this church complex just happens to be my favorite. Just look at that incredible brick and stucco exterior! The inside (especially the ceilings) is just as incredible!




13) Street Art in Uzupis. I love Uzupis. I love the street art, the art galleries (free to enter!), and the cool little shops that keep popping up (every time I'm in Uzupis there is a new store opening). If you like quirky places with off-beat art (A stuffed unicorn with boobs that sits like a person?) you will love Uzupis.






Would you visit Vilnius? What budget friendly things do you like to do in your area?


Vilnius Newsletter

Monday, February 23, 2015

Expat information for people living in Vilnius, Lithuania



Beginning this spring I'll be sending out a newsletter featuring upcoming events in and around Vilnius. I'll also be sharing restaurant reviews, favorite cafes, and providing other information for expats in or travelers to Vilnius. On March 31 I'll be sending out my first monthly Vilnius Newsletter. If you are interested in staying up-to-date on events in and around Vilnius you can sign up on my sidebar!

Signing up for the newsletter also gives you free access to a downloadable Vilnius Travel Guide and other free, upgraded content only available to newsletter subscribers!

Just look to the left side of the blog for the sign up box!

Russian Orthodox Church in Vilnius

Friday, February 20, 2015



On the same sunny day that J and I walked to the Bernardine Cemetery, we also decided to stroll all the way down Gedimino street to visit a church that we had only seen from a distance.  This Russian Orthodox church (you can tell by the slanted horizontal crossbeam on the cross at the top of the church) has a mouthful of a name - Church of the Apparition of the Holy Mother of God - whew! 

Similar to other Orthodox churches, the inside is decorated with numerous icons and places to light candles. The inside is beautiful, but not notably different from other Orthodox churches that I've been to around the world. I'm sorry that I don't have any photos to show from the inside, but I just felt uncomfortable photographing the inside - better to play it on the safe side than be disrespectful!

One thing I that was unexpected to me was that some women covered their hair when entering the church. I checked to see if this was necessary before entering (I had a scarf with me), it was not, but this is something I've never seen before in an Orthodox church. Does anyone know if this is specific to certain regions?






Do you visit churches when you travel?

Bernardine Cemetery: Wanders Around a Graveyard

Wednesday, February 18, 2015



Back in the fall, J and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather to take a stroll through the Bernardine Cemetery. This cemetery is one of the three oldest cemeteries in Vilnius and is just gigantic (Wikipedia says it is 38,000 square meters). The cemetery was built in 1810 by the Bernardine monks (the same monks from the nearby Bernardine church). Restoration only recently began in the 1990s, and over the years many of the graves sunk into the ground.

This cemetery was so different than ones I've been to in the States, as the grounds are a bit unkept and the terrain was a bit crazy. I've also heard that sometimes in the spring you can find bones coming up from the ground. Creepy!










Just look at that sunny weather! I am so ready for that again. Have you visited old graveyards near you?

Chasing Away Winter, Pancake Day, and Restoration of State Day

Monday, February 16, 2015

A lot of holidays are happening right now in Lithuania! This past weekend was jam-packed with events happening all over Vilnius, and events will continue until Tuesday night.

Uzgavenes or Shrovetide is a traditional holiday that banishes winter by burning a figure made out of straw. Somehow a mass wedding is associated with this banishment of winter, but I still haven't figured out how the two fit together. Also, people are supposed to dress up in masks and costumes, play pranks, and eat a large number of pancakes. Shrovetide will actually be celebrated this Tuesday, but some of the festivities (eating, fairs, burning) took place over the weekend.

This year, shrovetide happens to fall on the day after the Lithuanian Restoration of State Day (February 16). The Restoration of State Day is when Lithuanians gained independence from Germany in 1918. On February 16th their will be fireworks and concerts in Cathedral Square and elsewhere in Vilnius.

For more information about the events taking place next week visit this website.







Do you like learning about culture through the celebration of different holidays?

Creative Lithuania: Pottery Classes

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sometimes, living in Lithuania can be a challenge, so I wanted to focus this year on forgetting about the challenges and enjoying the positives. I've decided to start a monthly post (the second Friday of each month) on the more creative side of Lithuania. In previous posts I've written about Uzupis, which is truly a creative mecca. For this series I wanted to focus on creative events, unique aspects of the culture or language, and cool places that I find around Lithuania. If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them!

If you would like to participate in sharing creative things about where you live, tag your photos on Instagram or tweets on Twitter with #CreativeLithuania  or #CreativeLocale. I'd love to see the creative side of every country! I'll share my favorites each month.


Most Wednesday nights over the past few months have been occupied by a pottery class. I've never taken a pottery class before, but J and I were looking for something fun to entertain us during the long winter. Pottery it is!

Prior to starting the class I okayed it with the teacher, Laura (I've found that some teachers aren't okay with having non-Lithuanian speakers), who welcomed us into the class. Laura is absolutely wonderful. She gave us a large lump of clay and let us go at it. If we had any questions or needed some suggestions, Laura would help us out and show us new techniques.

Another awesome thing about attending this pottery class is that people slowly warm up to each other. You joke, you chat, you compliment work - it is lovely!






 


 



The Details: Adult pottery class takes place on Wednesday evenings at the Vilnius Potter's Workshop from 6 - 8 pm on Paupio g. 2/20 (in Uzupis across the street from Iki). Classes cost about 10.50 Euro per person per class. FYI the schedule online is not up to date. If you want to inquire about a time, it is best to email info@pottery.lt.


Catch up on other Creative Lithuania Posts: Open Kitchen, Beer Marathon, Cat Cafe, Lithuanian Design Block.


What creative things have been going on where you live? Do you like taking art classes?

A View of Vilnius

Wednesday, February 11, 2015



With all of the travel I've been up to lately I haven't had the chance to chat about Vilnius much. This is a shame, because the more time I spend in Vilnius the more I warm up to it. Back in the early fall (I know - a long time ago!) J and I popped into the recently re-opened Cathedral Square Bell Tower.

Right in Cathedral Square you'll find the Cathedral Square Bell Tower. Its a tall structure that maybe Quasimodo might feel at home in. After paying a small fee you can climb up the steep steps to the top of the Bell Tower to glimpse a view of the entire Vilnius Old Town. The entrance fee is so worth it. It was really cool to see the inner workings of a bell tower. Just beware that if you happen to be in the tower when the bells are due to ring your ears are going to hurt.









Do you like checking out touristy places where you live?