Experience The Old World Charm of Vilnius

What happens when a warm weather person ventures into the Baltics in winter? A lot of complaining about loss of feeling in the extremities of the body. I will never understand how people can live in such horrible temperatures! But I had heard that the old world charm of Vilnius in Lithuania was something that I really needed to experience first-hand. So I put on 20 layers and got myself on a plane.

Experience The Old World Charm of Vilnius – Airport or Train Station?

As far as international airports go, the Vilnius International Airport, or Vilniaus oro uostas in Lithuanian, is a bit on the smaller side. It is still the largest of four airports in Vilnius and sees about 5 million passengers through its halls a year. Upon entering the terminal, you could be excused for mistaking it for a train station.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Airport

The nice lady at the tourist information centre indicated which bus went to the old town and where it left from. Luckily the bus stop was just outside the terminal building. So I waited inside, away from the cold, where I could see the bus stop. It was already dark at 5pm.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Airport Bus Stop

The number 88 bus didn’t take long to arrive. Unlike what I’m used to at home, where you enter a bus through the front door, this bus took passengers through the back door. In my tired state, I just sat down without paying. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realised I hadn’t paid. The driver didn’t seem fussed about this at all and nonchalantly took my €1 when approached later.

The Old Town At Night

Upon arriving at the bus stop near the old town, a short walk from the main road took me to a cobbled street. As lovely and old-worldy as it looked, it really wasn’t easy to walk on. The cobbles were the biggest I’d ever seen. A few metres of walking on that was annoying enough to make me switch to the narrow footpath to the side of the road.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Cobbled Road

I went to the old town centre to search for some food. Almost everything was closed except a small supermarket, that looked like a convenience store, and a Hesburger. Hesburger is like a Finnish version of McDonald’s. It actually outsells McDonald’s in Finland and the Baltic states. As options were running low, I settled on the €1 Cheeseburger. It was as disgusting as I thought it’d be.

I grabbed some supplies from the convenience store/supermarket. I didn’t want to eat another cheeseburger the next day. Most groceries were reasonably priced, which was great for the budget. The old town did have a certain charm about it, but it was also a little boring. At the time I thought it could be because it was night and many things were closed.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Empty Streets During the Day
Maybe it’ll be a bit more lively during the day, I thought. It was not.

Exploring the Old World Charm of Vilnius by Day

I was struggling to get myself out into the cold, but I really wanted to see the city. Just as I was ready to go, it started snowing! I wasn’t going out in that, so I decided to stay inside a bit longer. I ventured out about 20 minutes later to find not one trace of the recent snow anywhere. Where did it go? Did I imagine it was snowing? No, I’m 100% sure it was snowing. Obviously snow works in mysterious ways incomprehensible to the mind of a warm weather person.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Where's the snow?
Where’s the snow?

Magic snow aside, the cloudy skies seemed to accentuate the beauty of some of the buildings. But they didn’t seem to do much for the mood of the locals. I’m quite used to people being friendly and approaching me wherever I travel. Things were a little different in Lithuania. People just didn’t seem to want to talk. I mean, they would interact with me if I asked for directions, but they’d give the shortest answer possible. They would constantly look like they were uncomfortable with the situation and waiting for any opportunity to get out of it.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Cloudy Sky

This happened with just about every Lithuanian I tried to engage with. All except the smoking lady at the bus station. She never actually spoke to me but her interactions with others were quite hilarious. She shamelessly interrupted conversations smokers were having with their friends to get a cigarette.

The hilarity leveled up when she approached a smoking tourist. She didn’t speak English, so she just stood near the tourist and his friend. Then she started nodding her head and looking at them while they were talking. When they stopped to look at her, she pointed to the guy’s smoke and put her hand out in a ‘give me’ kind of fashion. Needless to say, the poor guy was a bit dumbfounded and handed her a cigarette. He then watched her walk off towards her next victim.

Street Art

I’d heard that a famous political mural with Trump and Putin kissing was near where I was staying. I wanted to find it! Of course, things didn’t quite go to plan. All I had was a street name, so I found that street. The mural was nowhere to be seen. I did find some other art along the way.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Street Art

That mural was right across the road from this interesting statement hung on the side of a train..
K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Train Statement

Was it a sign of a dystopian future? Or are the people of Vilnius really not able to express opinions after 10pm? It would explain their stoic demeanors and standoffish ways. Anyway, back to the art. Once I’d given up on finding the famous mural, I came across this in a back street.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Alien Street Art

If it hadn’t been for this, I’d have never noticed the drainpipe next to it. The thing I had been searching for was there. Sort of.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Putin Trump Mural Sticker

As I couldn’t find the original, this was the closest I’d get to seeing it. Then I spotted an embroidered car. I wondered, how many months would that take to make?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Embroidered Car

The last arty thing I spotted, while not strictly street art, was still cool. What’s the best way to make something stare-worthy? Use coloured lights!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Light Art

Bernardine Park/Bernardinų sodas

On the west banks of the Vilnia River lies Bernadine Park. It has an interesting history that has seen it closed and reopened under different names by different regimes. These days it’s mainly full of manicured beds of flowers and fountains. From there you can access two historical monuments. The Trys Kryžiai or Three Crosses and the Gediminas Castle Tower.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Three Crosses K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Gediminas Castle Tower

I had intended to climb the hills for both of these. The path to The Gediminas Castle Tower from the Bernadine Park was closed for repair. This was also the path that was needed to access another path that led to the Kalnų Parkas and the Three Crosses. That meant that both required a longer walk around the outside of the park to reach their other access points. So I chose to just do the castle tower as it was rapidly approaching sunset.

Experience the Old World Charm of Vilnius – Gediminas Castle Tower at Sunset

The tower is actually a part of the Lithuanian National Museum, the main building of which is a few minutes walk from the tower. The path up to the tower is short, but steep.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Path to the Gediminas Castle Tower

A lot of the path is cobbled too, which makes it a little bit more difficult to navigate. I guess that’s why a funicular has been built to take people to the top of the hill for €1, or €2 for a return trip.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. City View From Gediminas Castle Tower

You can see almost the whole city from the top of the hill. I’ve got to admit that it was a pretty amazing view. The top of the hill was very windy. It was already quite cold without the wind. So you can imagine how difficult it was to take pictures with numb hands. But I just had to get a shot of this amazing sunset!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Sunset View From the Gediminas Castle Tower

Experiencing the Old World Charm of Vilnius at Night

Winter in Lithuania brings about an early sunset. So it starts getting dark before 5pm. The cold seems to really kick in after the sunset too. But that didn’t stop me from checking out the city after dark. Well, that and the fact that I was on the other side of the city from my accommodation and had to walk back.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Vilnia River

The river looked so pretty and peaceful after sunset, even though there was a main road running either side of it. It actually looked quite amazing at dusk.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Vilnia River After Sunset

I walked alongside the river for as long as I could, before heading back into the city via an intersecting road. It wasn’t long before I came upon another park, so it seems like there’s a fair amount of green spots in the city.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Lights in Park

This park was lit up with lights that changed colours at intervals. You don’t want to know how much time I spent staring at them! Let’s just say that I was so distracted by the lights that it took me a while to realise that there was an ice rink right behind me. Complete with a disco ball!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Ice Skating at Night

Luxury Bus

Once it was time to leave Vilnius, I got myself a €16 bus ticket to Riga. I was not at all happy about paying that much for a 5 hour trip. But I guess that’s just par for the course in Europe. I remember wondering, when I purchased the ticket, what was so special about this bus? Was there a reason it cost so much?

Well, it was the most luxurious bus that I took in all of the Baltics. Or anywhere for that matter! The seats were roomy and comfortable. The heating was set at just the right temperature. And there was a hot drinks machine that dispensed coffee, hot chocolate and tea! I tried to drink €16 worth of tea, so I think I got my money’s worth!

Stay tuned for the continuing adventure in Latvia.

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Amazingly Unique Adventures Around The World

Are you an adventure lover? We have compiled this awesome list to help you plan your next adrenaline-filled holiday. On a budget! If you’re tired of the same old boring sights and you’re looking for something to get your blood pumping, you’ll love this list of amazingly unique adventures around the world!

Africa

Let’s take a trip to the little-known, but wonderfully welcoming northern African country of Mauritania. Its location just south of the Sahara makes it very flat and desert-like. What Mauritania has that no other country does, is one of the longest freight trains in the world that allows stowaways! It’s colloquially known as The Iron Train.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Riding The Iron Train In Mauritania

The loaded up train runs from the iron ore mines in Zouérat to Noudhibou via Choum, then returns to Zouérat empty. Stowaways can hop on at any of the three stations, but competition for the best cargo car can be fierce! You don’t want to end up with a two kilometre walk back to the station because you got on the wrong end of the train!

Where: Zouérat, Choum and Nouadhibou in Mauritania
Price: FREE!! Yes, you read that right!
Adrenaline rating: 😵
Best time to do it: April to June

Further reading Mauritanian Adventure

Amazingly Unique Adventures Around The World – Asia

The second of our amazingly unique adventures around the world happens in the South East Asian country of Laos. You can hire what looks like an inner tube from a tractor tyre and float for three kilometres down a not so beautiful river. The scenery you’ll see on the way is pretty amazing though!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Tubing on the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng

There are a few riverside bars on the way offering drinks and local delicacies. While the pace of Tubing is generally slow and relaxing, there can be patches of water where the flow is faster than the surrounding water. Or even patches of rocks close to the surface that will conspire to not let you pass. Navigating these can lead to hilarity.

Where: Nam Song River, Vang Vieng, Laos
Price: 55,000KIP/US$6 for the tube and 60,000KIP/US$6.70 deposit returned to you if you take the tube back before 6pm.
Adrenaline rating: 😵😵
Best time to do it: December to February to avoid the crowds, or July to September if you want a faster ride and don’t mind competing for space at the riverside bars.

Europe

Do you like drifting through snow and ice with your butt mere centimetres from the ground? Then this one’s for you! When winter really sets in near the northern Estonian town of Tartu, the winter Go Karts come out. You can hire one of these karts to speed yourself around a frozen lake for 8 minutes.

If you prefer the safety of a car, you can try an Adrenaline Drive, Taxi Lap and Rally Experience. These three options are not quite in the budget range though. Obviously, the weather has to be cold enough for the lake to be sufficiently frozen, so you need a bit of luck on your side for this one.

Where: Lake Võrtsjärv, Tartu, Estonia
Price: 15 for 8 minutes
Adrenaline rating: 😵😵😵😵😵
Best time to do it: January and February, if it’s cold enough for the lake to be completely frozen.

Further Reading: Winter On Lake Võrtsjärv

Amazingly Unique Adventures Around The World – North America

Next up on our list of amazingly unique adventures around the world is Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua. Yes, this is exactly what you think it is! Take a rickety wooden board and fly down the side of an active volcano on it. What could possibly go wrong?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua

In truth, the volcano is constantly monitored and hasn’t erupted since 1999. The tour operator gives you safety gear and a full briefing on how to control your speed on the descent. They’ll even record your speed with a radar gun. It seems 40-50km/h is about average, but some speedsters have been clocked at over 90km/h!

Where: Cerro Negro, Leon, Nicaragua
Price: US$25 + $5 park entrance fee
Adrenaline rating: 😵😵😵
Best time to do it: December to February

Further reading: Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua

South America

A tiny little town in Ecuador provides us with our next unique adventure. The Swing at the Edge of the World. It sits atop a 2600m high mountain overlooking a valley. Legend has it that a grandfather who worked at the seismic monitoring station inside the treehouse at the top of the hill wanted to encourage his grandkids to visit by adding a swing to the treehouse. It worked and eventually word got around.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Swing at the Edge of the World. Casa del Arbol, Banos, Ecuador

Where: Casa del Arbol, Baños, Ecuador
Price: US$1
Adrenaline rating: 😵😵
Best time to do it: Any day! Be prepared for a small line.

Not to be outdone by a smart grandpa, another entrepreneurial soul decided they could ‘one up’ the Swing at the Edge of the World. Hence the Swing to Heaven was created on the other side of the mountain and it’s not for the faint of heart! Sure, it swings but it also rolls and turns. It’s probably best not to eat before trying this one.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Swing to Heaven. Casa del Arbol, Banos, Ecuador

Where: Casa del Arbol, Baños, Ecuador
Price: US$4
Adrenaline rating: 😵😵😵😵😵
Best time to do it: Any day!

Further reading: Baños – A Crazy Little Town in Ecuador

Oceania

Last, but not least, it’s time to head to the land down under, to climb its tallest building, Q1. This climb takes you up 300 stairs to an external observation deck with a 360 degree view of the Gold Coast and the sea below. Normally the climbs start fairly early in the morning to beat the harsh Australian sun. Sunset and night climbs are also available. Ugly jumpsuits and harnesses are provided.

Where: Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Price: From AU$69. Night and sunset climbs cost more.
Adrenaline rating: 😵😵😵
Best time to do it: Spring (September to November) or Autumn (March – May)

Which of these unique adventures would you choose to do? Have you done any already? Leave a comment and let me know.

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