Lithuania 2011: Vilnius 3

Today I skipped breakfast and made a supermarket my first stop.

I’d decided I wanted to go to Vingis Park, an open green area out to the west of the city. I planned my route, avoiding the long route via Gediminas and started off in the Old Town.

This starts just around the corner at the Gates of Dawn and it seems to mark the point where the city starts to become pleasant. I went down to the square with the stalls next to the Russian church and this time turned left to head down towards the university and the Presidential Palace. Even at 11ish in the morning it was still quiet, except people in military uniforms – some decorative, some functional – getting on an army coach and some people taking photos of the uni’s philosophy department.

I followed the road and found myself back in Cathedral Square. That would lead back into Gediminas so I went back and took the back streets to try and find the road across.

I soon discovered I was on Pylimas gatve, the northern end of my road and it looked familiar. I was one junction down from where I watched the trolleybus yesterday. I made my way up the hill to a bench to consult my maps.

I was in more or less the right place. I had to climb up a sloping road and keep going straight on. Handily, this also took me right past the Frank Zappa statue. No, I don’t know. I suspect most of the locals don’t know why either.

I followed the road until I reached St Anne’s, a pretty church with bright green onion domes I’d seen from the bus on Wednesday and on the horizon from the hill yesterday. At the bottom it’s brick but the top is all white under the green domes. I kept following the road, past the Finnish Ambassador’s house (I can’t read either Lithuanian or Finnish very well but that was easy to work out) and on until the road became a pleasant tree-lined avenue. At the end of that was a pretty little green house opposite a not-quite-finished glass tower hotel. And beyond them, the road went over a dual carriageway and into Vingis Park.

I didn’t like it. It was pine forest, it was thick with ice and it didn’t feel like the peaceful open space I’d expected. I immediately abandoned my plans of sitting on the grass to eat my bread and cheese. I wanted to get back to civilisation.

It had been about an hour and a half since I’d left the hotel. One toe was particularly painful and I knew there were no benches until I got back to St Anne’s. I limped along wishing I’d never come out here.

Eventually I made it. I took off my boot and had a drink and watched people in suits milling around an odd-shaped white building, trying to decide if they were there for a wedding or a funeral.

When I eventually got up and hobbled down the road in the direction of Gediminas I found the sign on the door. If you ignore -ius, -iu,-as etc stuck on the end of words it’s reasonably manageable to figure out nouns in Lithuanian and I could read that this was a registry office. My favourite Lithuanian word so far is ‘picarija’. Any guesses what it means?

I made my way across the park area behind the office, already starting to really really hate ice and snow and followed a never-ending staircase down onto the streets below. From there I was 170m from Gediminas.

I found a park on the corner with red paths leading to lots of benches. It was all in front of a particularly big church and it was sunny and it looked ideal for lunch, even if it was a bit late by now.

I did not eat my lunch there. I very quickly discovered that the red paths with melted snow on top made reddish mud two inches deep which coated my boots and would probably have sucked sandals off altogether. I went back to the benches on the pavement and ate bread and cheese watching the traffic again. Further up on the corner there seemed to be someone dressed as a very bright green banana possibly handing out leaflets but he didn’t come close enough for me to see what he was actually meant to be.

After a leisurely lunch I walked back down Gediminas, wondering where I could buy an SD card. I have taken quite a lot of photos. I didn’t find anywhere but I stopped in Gedimino9 again. The shop called Lucky Duck was open. Initially it looked like bath stuff but then I spotted the ducks. I now have eight brightly coloured Lithuanian ducks and will have to do some luggage rearrangement to get them home.

It was a huge effort to walk back. By the time I got to Cathedral Square I was starting to feel like I was almost at the hotel already. But first there was the trek through the Old Town. I made it to the triangular square in front of the Town Hall and just sat there. It could be no more than another half mile to go but even standing up seemed impossible. I sat there for so long.

Eventually I decided I would drag myself up and on but I would count my steps. It couldn’t be that far. Just up the road to the Gates of Dawn, then round the corner and down to the south end of Pylimo. 1400 steps. Biggish steps at first but they got smaller and smaller as I approached the last two corners.

Tomorrow I will shop. Shopping is likely to be difficult on Sunday and I don’t want to be dragging my 9.7kg suitcase around the shops on Monday on the way to the airport. Maybe on Sunday I will try to get out to Trakai.

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