Let’s carry on with my #europe2011 adventure, shall we? Here’s Part 1 if you need a recap πŸ™‚  Funny story, when I got in the bus from Warsaw, I thought seat numbers were being implemented so I tried to squeeze next to an old lady but then the few passengers who were inside reacted that I can sit anywhere since the bus was pretty empty. Hence my roomy seat in the picture above. πŸ˜› Anyway! Lithuania (Lietuva) is the largest of the three Baltic states and it’s situated just north of Poland. It was the first border I crossed on my way to Tallinn.

The bus I took: Simple Express as suggested by my Estonia-based friend, Cha. πŸ™‚ My Polish friends were teasing me that this line probably doesn’t exist coz it was so cheap and the name is pretty straightforward, but really, it wasn’t bad at all. Especially since my first bus was kinda empty. :))

crossing the Poland – Lithuania border. The officer in the car went up our bus to check our documents. It was in that moment I realized how lucky I was to be given the opportunity to travel.. and how awesome the Schengen Agreement is. :p 

Lithuania became part of the European Union in 2004 and a member of the Schengen Agreement in 2007. Prior to that, these buildings were used for immigration purposes. If I remember correctly, this is in Kaunas (the sign on the bus said Warsaw – Kaunas – Vilnius, haha). πŸ™‚
chocolate from the stopover
Lithuania country side
This is Viktorija, my first ever Lithuanian friend. She was seated at the row before me and we got to talk about our love for traveling. She just came from a conference in Albania and I can only guess how tired she was from traveling and just wanted to relax when she got to back to Vilnius, yet she took the time to show me around her city. β™₯
Quick trivia about Lithuania, its capital is Vilnius and Vilnius was selected as the 2009 European Capital of Culture – a really big deal. After all, according to this, “a city is not chosen as a European Capital of Culture solely for what it is, but mainly for what it plans to do for a year that has to be exceptional. “As such, events were held left and right that year and renovations were also made. Thus, Vilnius is just over flowing with tributes and monuments to Lithuania’s rich culture. 
upon arriving at the City Center, I was greeted by the monument of Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko.

the Vilnius City Center is filled with lots and lots of Churches. Every few steps, you’ll see a church – Catholic, Orthodox, etc – in every color possible. Too bad I was there at night, I would’ve loved to see the details more closely.
we crossed this tunnel and then on the other side was…

… the Lietuvos NacionalinΔ— Filharmonija – or the Lithuanian Filharmonic Concert Hall
Lithuanian flag
cobblestone paths are just so pretty
the Vilnius Royal Palace
a monument of Gediminas, the founder of Vilnius and the Grand Duke of Lithuania. According to folklore, Gediminas had a dream in which a really big wolf was howling so loud – as if there were a hundred wolves – atop a mountain near the River Vilnia. A Pagan priest interpreted this as God’s will for him to build a mighty castle near the river and that beside it, a town – whose heroes’ good deed will make it renowned – will grow.
The Vilnius Cathedral
its intricate ceiling detail

Lithuania hosted Eurobasket 2011 hence the basketball themed lamp post decorations. The competition ended a month before I was there and during the tournament, Viktorija said that these were all lighted. πŸ™‚ Oh, she also said that Lithuanians take basketball seriously. Their national team is pretty good, too πŸ™‚

a monument for Dr. Vincas Kudirka, a poet and physician, who wrote Lithuania’s National Anthem. Behind him are lyrics to the said hymn. Poet and physician – kinda reminds you of our own Jose Rizal..

I also found out that the Baltic States are known for amber.

the majestic Vilnius Opera House. fingers crossed that next time, I actually get to enter this place πŸ˜‰

the tram

I only had around 2 hours in Vilnius and this is as “crash course” as crash course tours go. I’m very lucky to have met Viktorija, the nicest girl ever, who was kind enough to show me around her city. In my short span of time there, I really learned a lot about Lithuania and their colorful history and culture, and at the same time, hear insights from a new friend as we talked about women’s rights in the McDonald’s near the Coach Station (fun fact: Lithuania’s president is female and there are 2 other women in the high-ups of Lithuanian politics).

That’s just one of the things I love about traveling ~ meeting new people and discovering new places. πŸ™‚

(Watch out for Part 3!)


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