Returning to Vilnius
Due to speaking at Agile Lithuania, I returned to Vilnius, one of the cities I'd visited as part of my 12 Cities in 12 Months tour. I took the time to visit some of the places I had not seen on my last visit to this beautiful Balkan city.
Sights & Culture
One of the most striking buildings in the city, at the edge of Old Town and start of new and sitting in the shadow of both Gedemenes Tower and the Grand Dukes residence, Vilnius Cathedral is an excellent starting point for any walking tour of the City. The white buildings and round tower are memorable, though give more of an impression of a Roman temple than a traditional church.
St Annes Church is an Impressive Gothic building on route to the Three Crosses on a main road and stands somewhat separate from much of the Old Town. It is worth a visit, and its distinct profile can easily be picked out from any of the higher viewing points in the city like Gedemenes Tower or the Three Crosses.
Originally built in the 13th Century from wood, Gedemenes Tower is in a prime strategic position giving views over the city and the river. The climb up is being improved with a new walkway and the promise of a Funicular soon.
The castle itself has a couple of floors showcasing videos and some weaponry, but it is the view that makes it worth the entrance fee.
The TV Tower sits outside the main city, and has an 11 euro entrance fee. A fast elevator up to the viewing floor takes you to a cicular platform, similar to every other TV Tower you'll visit.
There is a slowly rotating outer band on which the tables are set for the restaurant so over the course of perhaps forty-five minutes you see the full circle. Heading there at key meal times will be busy, but out of lunch hour it seemed reasonable with only a short wait for a table.
In cloudy weather several of the sights cannot be seen, but it is claimed on a good day you can even see as far as Trakai Island Castle.
The glass needs cleaning but how that is even possible remains unclear.
The view is good, but only really for about fifty degrees because that is when it faces the city, the rest of the time you are looking more over wilderness.
Saint Parasceve Orthodox Church
Constructed in pastel hues, the Orthodox Church stands out against the more ornate churches and stark soviet brutalism. In addition, it is fronted by a small market of tourist goods.
A little further out of Old town is Pranciskonu Rumai, an old church predates Lithuania conversion to Christianity and is still in use. Sat in small grounds, it is worth a visit.
Museums & Galleries
Valstybinis Vilniaus Gaono žydų muziejus
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum is an old building that has been heavily converted inside and gives a spacious and light filled impression.
for some reason, it was free during my visit, the normal entry price is 4 EUR, and is well worth it. The Museum is closed on a Saturday for Sabbath.
As well as the Museum, there is a central lecture hall/theatre space used regularly.
Lithuania is one of main Jewish cultural centres, and has been for centuries, there is a strong sense of Jewish identity in the city, and Lithuanian Yiddish became the foundation for Yiddish literature in Europe.
On the first floor, the space is used for a donation of artwork of Samuel Bak, a Lithuanian Jew and Artist from the second World War.
Scattered around the first floor, there are also a series of sculptures. Some quite strange.
There is also a series of long posters on Jewish life in Lithuania over the centuries leading up to the Second World War.
Through a fire door, there is a walkthrough for the Holocaust victims. During this walk you carry a stone in remembrance.
The top floor holds older Jewish art, and objects Mostly done by litvaks, the Orthodox Lithuanian Jews.
Finally, there was a temporary exhibit, Bartosz Fratczak's (non)-existence. 4 years finding abandoned Jewish sites in Lithuania and documenting them. Highlighting the tragic impact the Holocaust had on the Lithuanian Jewish population.
Vilnius Museum of Illusions
In the centre of town, the Vilnius Museum of Illusions offers a quite expensive chance to see a selection of optical illusions. The illusions are all interactive and there are a number of super-helpful staff on hand to explain or help demonstrate.
Contemporary Art Centre
The Contemporary Art Centre is also an art house cinema, and I watched part III of La Flor, a 15h Spanish film about female assassins.
Aside from the cinema, the exhibitions are good, the venue is a nice open space, and not cluttered. Several large rooms contain the collections and a small library is available for use.
Restaurants & Bars
A fantastic, though peculiar restaurant. Bon Chop is on one of the major streets and offers a chiller of meats to select from which is then cooked perfectly to your specification.
Be warned, two small dogs also call the place home.
The restaurant in the Comfort Hotel is surprisingly good, excellent even. The menu is fairly limited, but the costs are reasonable given the quality. The service is attentive and the food is well presented and delicious.
Parks & Gardens
Jurgos Ivanauskaitės skveras
Near the Comfort Hotel is a small square used by locals, but dominated by a chiseled stone cat statue, with a simple carved smiling face.
Before you reach the TV Tower, in a small square is Aukojimas, a statue reaching up to the sun and lit in the evenings.