Scandinavia 2013:
Day 4 - Vilnius, Lithuania


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Scandinavia 2013: [Day 1 - Oslo] [Day 2 - Oslo] [Day 3 - Copenhagen] [Day 4 - Vilnius] [Day 5 - Stockholm] [Day 6 - Stockholm] [Day 7 - Umeå] [Day 8 - Umeå] [Day 9 - Umeå]

Tuesday, November 5, 2013: We rose very early and took the Metro to the Copenhagen airport. It was just a 15 minute trip from the station at Kongens Nytorv. This amazing display was part of one of the duty free shops at the airport.
Once were were checked in, we had some breakfast -- a ham and cheese sandwich and a chocolate roll. Mmmm, tasty.
We carefully spent every last bit of Danish money we had, leaving the last few coins in the coin return slot of a vending machine for someone to find, then boarded our flight to Vilnius, Lithuania.
Coming into Vilnius, we got this photo of the old town area that we'd be exploring in depth later in the day.
We also passed the country's first IKEA, which had just opened in August. After years of producing furniture for IKEA, it was about time that the country actually had one.
Tom was amused by the Soviet-era planes on the ground at the airport.
Arrival and baggage claim took almost no time. We exchanged money, stored our two suitcases for the day, and met our tour guide, Marius, exactly at noon as we had agreed. He brought his car around to the loading/unloading area here and we were off.
We headed out of the city and passed some Soviet-era apartments. The structure in front contains garages.
Here's another set of Soviet-era apartments in slightly better shape.
This is the Vilnius TV tower.
Yes, folks, from here you can drive to Minsk, Belarus. In fact, it was just a 45-minute drive to the Belarus border from Vilnius, but we didn't have time to go there because we were headed to Trakai instead.
Here's a Lithuanian cemetery filled with flowers.
We got near Trakai and passed the first of approximately 100 churches. Marius knew the history of each one, but we're just going to show you the pictures instead.
Here's the second one.
We stopped at one of the branches of the Trakai History Museum ...
... and took a look around the grounds briefly.
This pretty little house ...
... contained a special cutout to show the original tongue-and-groove construction of the house underneath.
Here are the grounds behind the museum.
We got back in the car and headed to the main attraction: ...
... Trakai Island Castle, located on one of the many islands in Lake Galvė.
We crossed a bridge to a small island first. This is the view back to the mainland. This area is much more crowded in the summer, but on a drizzly November day, there were no crowds.
This is one of many likenesses we saw of Vytautas the Great, a major figure in Lithuania's history.
Orchy had to get his photo taken in Lithuania and this seemed like the best place.
Here is the large courtyard inside the first entrance.
We stopped here to pay the entrance fee to the museum inside the castle, and opted to pay a tiny bit more for permission to take photos as well.
We entered the castle over a genuine drawbridge that hung over what used to be a moat. Cool!
This is the beautiful inner courtyard. The museum is housed in rooms on all three floors.
Here's Vytautas again wearing an awesome hat.
The castle, built in the 14th and 15th century, fell into disrepair over time, but was restored during the 20th century.
This map shows Lake Galvė and the surrounding lakes in the region.
Everyone likes a comfortable shirt, especially one made out of ancient chain mail.
These are some of the original tiles from the castle ...
... and here are some original chess pieces.
This was one of several pots buried with a soldier's riches in the ground to be found later. Unfortunately, "later" turned out to come much too late for the soldier who originally buried it.
Here's another look at the cool ceilings in the castle.
This exhibit shows the spread of the various European empires many centuries ago.
This painting represents the castle as it appeared prior to the restoration process.
There are two ethnic groups in the Trakai area: the Karaimai (Karaims, Karaimų) ...
... and the Tatoriai (Tartars).
This is the coat of arms of Lithuania.
If Debbie was still collecting pressed pennies, this would have been a thrilling find, but she resisted the urge to start up her collection again.
At this point, we were on the third level of the castle. To exit, we could head out to the courtyard and take the stairs, or use this steep, spiral staircase. Spiral, of course!
We headed to a local Karaimų folk restaurant called Kybynlar.
It featured lots of covered outdoor seating for the summer crowds, and some cozy indoor dining rooms.
Marius ordered tea, and we shared an orange Fanta, Lithuanian beer, Svyturis, and a shot of a traditional Karaimų liqueur, trauktinė, which is a variation on regional favorite krupnik.
Marius helped us order lunch. We had a plate of fried bread that was delicious and tasted very strongly of garlic, plus we had an assortment of kybynlar: pastries filled with lamb, chicken, beef, or spinach and cottage cheese.
After lunch, we drove into Vilnius.
We saw several Maersk containers during our drive.
Here's an electric bus. We saw several of them and they all showed their age, but it was great to see them on the road.
Marius had mentioned European bison during our drive. It was the first we had heard of this animal, but then we heard about them several times in the week after we returned.
Look! It's 3M! Debbie's father worked at 3M when she was growing up, so it was fun to see their Lithuania location.
This building had a nearly two-story high sculpture of a grasshopper on it. No idea why.
Just below the IBM office is this restaurant selling stuffed pastries similar to the ones we had just eaten. The font on the restaurant sign makes it even harder to tell that it is in the Cyrillic alphabet.
We were headed to Gediminas' Tower in the old town area.
We arrived and found the funicular out of order, so we chose not to take the time to walk to the top.
This diagonal quartet of gray kitties watched us leave.
The parking lot in front of Gediminas' Tower has a great view of the Neris River.
Speaking of great views, we drove up the hill for a look over the city.
On the fence behind us were locks added by couples in love. We hope it worked out for Waldemar and Sabina whose lock was dated 2009.
Next, we drove into the old town, passing the Gate of Dawn on our way.
Here's one of the buildings of the university, which is right next door to ...
... the Presidential Palace.
We saw Cathedral Square with its bell tower and ...
... the Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Vladislav. Dusk was falling as we entered.
The candles provided some lighting for our photos, ...
... but it was completely dark in the Chapel of St. Casimir so we used a flash to capture his ornate sarcophagus.
Here is Gediminas, one of the first rulers of Lithuania.
This is the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, a recently constructed building on the location of previous versions of the Royal Palace.
We walked up Pilies Street which is a pretty little mishmash of different styles of architecture, ...
... then turned left at the building with the teapots built into it.
This took us through narrow Bernardinų Street with this interesting feature: a cutout of the current style of wall to show the original masonry underneath.
This led us to St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church with some of the most intricate brickwork we've ever seen. Seriously, click on the photo to see it a little bit closer. Do it.
Tucked behind St. Anne's is the Bernardine Church. This photo shows many different styles of crosses all within the same church ensemble.
We went inside the Bernardine Church (full name: Church of St. Francis of Assisi).
The organ pipes were massive.
There was another church down the street that we didn't visit (Church of the Holy Mother of God), but we took this photo because of the significance of ...
... this little triangle that marks the spot where the Lithuanian movement for independence began in 1988, according to Marius.
The banner on this building promotes eu2013.lt -- the website created for Lithuania's presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013.
We walked along Literarų Street, which has dozens of tiny artworks built into the walls. Each is numbered and represents poets and writers important to Lithuanian literature.
We're not sure what an Illinois license plate has to do with Lithuanian literature though.
The works continued up the hill for another block or two, and so did we.
We passed this church (Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva) as we walked up Didžioji street, ...
... and made it to Town Hall Square.
This small street leading from the square is marked by a lit sign as being the Vilnius Ghetto, 1941 - 1943.
Further up the square is Vilnius Town Hall, which was temporarily sporting a golden column on the right.
We continued even further uphill along Aušros Vartų street, passing this church (St. Casimir's Church), ...
... and this one (Sts. Johns' Church).
This is a very cool glass awning over the Hotel Europa Royale.
We finally reached the Gate of Dawn again, this time seen from the other side than we had seen before we started our walking tour. This is the chapel of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, with Our Lady visible on the way from the street below. At this point, we walked all the way back through the Old Town.
Nearly back at the car, we still had another 20 minutes or so of Marius' time before we needed to head to the airport, so he took us to St. Nicholas' Church, built in 1320. It is the oldest church in Vilnius.
We headed to the airport and discussed Lithuania's love of basketball, then thanked and tipped Marius.
We retrieved our luggage from storage and headed to one of the small airport's restaurants: the Olympic Cafe.
We were beyond exhausted and had more than earned a beer and a Coke Zero.
Debbie's dinner was this crepe-like wrap served with mushroom sauce.
Tom went with traditional American fare and was forced to share a French fry or two with Debbie. After dinner, we bought some souvenir chocolates for Debbie's colleague, Susan, who is of Lithuanian descent, then exchanged our remaining bills for Euros, since they didn't have US dollars at the exchange.
We flew to Riga, Latvia. Here is Riga. Aside from the airport, this is all we saw of it, but it still counts. We've now collected all three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Orchy was there too. Here is proof.
We had one last flight of the day -- this time, to our final destination of Sweden.
Once we collected our luggage in Stockholm, we took the very comfortable, free-wi-fi-enabled Arlanda Express to Stockholm's Central Station.
Our hotel, the Radisson Blu Royal Viking Hotel, was just a couple hundred meters around the corner from the Arlanda Express station. We were thrilled to see the size of our room.

It wasn't long before we were asleep.

Day 5 >


Scandinavia 2013: [Day 1 - Oslo] [Day 2 - Oslo] [Day 3 - Copenhagen] [Day 4 - Vilnius] [Day 5 - Stockholm] [Day 6 - Stockholm] [Day 7 - Umeå] [Day 8 - Umeå] [Day 9 - Umeå]

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