No less than the Lux Bus takes approximately 4 hours from Riga, Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania. With free wifi, free movies, hot beverages and ‘lounge class’ where you have a single seat and don’t have to sit next to anybody at a snip of €5 more, this €20 bus ride is a bargain. It’s so damned luxurious you almost don’t want it to end. Decisions, decisions at Vilnius Coach Station – taxi or public transport – taxi price 25 Lithuanian Litas (€7), what the hell, go for it, but even the driver’s friend visibly gasps at the price. I’ve been ripped off and I know it. Hostel Filaretai is boring. No rocking common room and the kitchen’s far away at the other end but it’s clean and the showers are hot. But what I realize and the best thing of all, is that it’s location takes you through the quirky Republic of Užupis, the ‘other side of the river’ Vilna, populated by artists, musicians and the mayor of Vilnius himself, with its own constitution!
Don’t fight, don’t win, don’t surrender are its three mottos with items such as “People have the right to live by the River Vilnelé”, “The River Vilnelé has the right to flow past people”, “A dog has the right to be a dog”, “People have the right to have no rights”, just a few of the serious, tongue-in-cheek ‘laws’ to be strictly adhered to. Stop by at Prie Angelo with its cream coloured walls of angels and ceramic dolls and feel yourself wrapped in a blanket of great service and good food. The sweet tomato salad with dill and catfish in cream sauce is nicely washed down with overtones of melon and honey in the two large glasses Pinot Grigio while the smooth Spanish brandy with cappuccino made with heart, settles the stomach into a satisfying saturation. The bill reaches the whopping heights of 80 LTL (€27).
There are far less tourists in the Old Town than in Riga’s and the laziness of the meandering river is calming on the spirit. The topography turns it into a hilly escapade of climbing to Gedimina’s Tower where the view stretches along the water towards the old and new. I learn about the Baltic Way, a human chain of linked hands protesting against the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact dividing Eastern Europe into ‘spheres of influence’ resulting in the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States. A peaceful demonstration, 2 million people spanning 600 kilometres saying no to 40 years of spying, deportations, suffering and lack of freedom. My faith in humankind restored.
Read about Cracow, Poland in Bussing Through the Baltics 3.