Suitcase and World: Vilnius. Charm and Churches.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vilnius. Charm and Churches.

Old Town Vilnius is filled with Old World Charm. Plenty of narrow streets and nooks and crannies to explore!

After exploring Gediminas Hill and Cathedral Square, we made our way to the outskirts of Old Town.  Here, the streets are broader with a lot more traffic and traffic lights.  There are more commercial establishments and people.   Even so, it's got it's charm.

I don't think we had even walked a block before we came upon another little kiosk.  Bro decided to check it out and when 15 seconds had passed and he was still inside, I decided to join him.  I was curious to see what had caught his attention.

Apparently, it was the pastries behind the counter.  They were puff pastries and Bro cannot resist anything that is puff pastry.  Here, the delectable bites were filled with meat.  In Lithuania they're known as kibinai.  The classic filling is apparently mutton and onion but that didn't sound too appealing to me so we decided to get a couple of pork filled ones to share.  The server kindly warmed them up in the microwave for us.

Final verdict.  Very tasty.  I would have rather had these than anything else I've eaten so far.  You really can't go wrong with meat filled pastries!

This part of Old Town Vilnius really felt more like a neighborhood - lots of apartments everywhere. There were plenty of little squares and gardens for people to enjoy.

Another *victim* of the yarn bombers :-)

We spotted a pedestrian only thoroughfare and it was heading back in the direction of the heart of Old Town so we went down it.  The skies had been darkening for quite sometime now and soon raindrops began to fall.

As the rain got harder, we had to seek shelter since we had neither umbrella or rainjackets.  We darted under the protective overhang of a door.  Wouldn't you know we standing outside a teashop?

With the downpour facing us, oh what to do but go inside Pinavija Cafe and Bakery? :-)  Oh....and they had a sign touting the high marks that they had received from TripAdvisor in 2013.  Good enough for me!

Hello pastries!  You know my name.

This place was just so darn cute.   I used the rain as an excuse for us to takes seats at a small table. I ordered a slice of apple pie and a small pot of tea.  I shared the pie with Bro but enjoyed the tea all to myself.  It was quite some time before the rain stopped. It was good that we had a bit of a forced break.  It had been a long day of walking and we were slowly beginning to lose steam.

From the bakery, we made our way back to Old Town. 

Back down a narrow street with a view of the Catholic Church of the Holy
Spirit and the Dominican Monastery.

I didn't realize how artsy a place Vilnius is but there's truly a lot of creativity here. I wish I had taken more photos of the art I saw.  Here's one example.  This was a sigh outside the entrance to a shop.

Even their store fronts are gorgeous.  This is a florist shop near our hotel.

As much as I have complained about traditional Lithuanian food not being very appetizing, they have some first class bakeries here that can stand up to the best of them in Europe....perhaps with the exception of a few countries in western Europe.  There's a lot of class and elegance in this Old Town.

The counter at Ponių laimė.  It was really hard not to want to order one of everything.

Vilinius truly is a city full of churches.  Reminded me of Peubla, Mexico where there seemed to be a church on every city block.  Only difference is that the churches here are of more denominations and they're much larger in size!

It there's one church that was easily recognizable for me, it was Church of St. Casimir,
with it's distinctive charcoal gray topped spire.

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, located right in Town Square.

Church of the Holy Trinity and Basilian Monastery, about a block away
from Town Square.

Church of St Theresa and just behind it, the Gate of the Dawn.

When I first saw the Gate of the Dawn, I saw the cross on the top and thought it was a church.  Odd name though for church.  It actuality, it is a gate.  Built between 1503 and 1522, the Gate of the Dawn was as a part of defensive fortifications for the city of Vilnius.  It was and continues to be one of the most important religious, historical and cultural monuments in Vilnius.

Gate of the Dawn.

In the 16th century city gates often contained religious artifacts intended to guard the city from attacks and to bless travelers. The Chapel in the Gate of Dawn contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers. For centuries the picture has been one of the symbols of the city and an object of veneration for both Roman Catholic and Orthodox inhabitants. Thousands of votive offerings adorn the walls and many pilgrims from neighboring countries come to pray in front of the beloved painting. Masses are held in Lithuanian and Polish languages.

Standing on the street, we could see people walking about on the 2nd floor.  We decided to head up there but there was no obvious entry.  Then we saw people trickling out of a particular door.  We decided to take our chances. Inside, we headed up the stairs and entered into a very small chapel filled with religious icons and statues.  It was filled with people, both walking around and sitting and praying.  I didn't feel comfortable taking photos in their presence - somehow felt it would be rude so I kept my camera down.

Just to behind the woman is an icon of the Virgin Mary.

Our last view of Old Town, the grandest church of them all, my favorite, St. Casimir.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were exhausted.  It really had been a long day.  For dinner, we headed back to the neighborhood eatery we were at last night.  I once again ordered the koldunai. This time I had them fried.  Verdict?  Better steamed.

I can't believe our time in Vilnius is over.  My one regret for this trip is that I underestimated Vilnius.  I thought it would be the least interesting of the three Baltic capital cities and so I allocated the least amount of time to it.  I could not have been more wrong.  At a minimum, you need two full days here.  Maybe one day I will get to come back and experience more of this charming city that will forever hold fond memories for me.

Tomorrow our road trip through Lithuania continues and if what I've seen and experienced in Vilnius is any indication, it will be an awesome time!

Goodnight from Vilnius.