So after the success of mine and Yvette's trip to India in October last year, with minimal damage to ourselves and those around us,I thought it only fair to give 'us' a second shot to see if the curse has well and truly been broken.
If you're reading this as one of my regular readers, I don't really need to explain the travelling curse. And if you're new, just take a look at Seattle 2013, The Only Way Isn't Tenerife, and any of my India blogs. Then you'll know.
So anyway, things went pretty smoothly in Lithuania (I'm alive aren't I?). Why Lithuania you may ask? Well the answer is simple; I discovered you could quite literally eat a beaver in this country.
The day before our flight, I made the monumental mistake of eating smelly chicken and 6 days out-of-date eggs. Needless to say, I was pretty ill and it was a few days in before my stomach settled. We arrived in Vilnius before lunch time and walking through the gate, were mobbed by a crowd of camera wielding paparazzi. We naturally assumed they were there for us but in hind sight they were probably there for the Olympian looking woman with all the medals standing just in front of us. Exiting the airport, I was in my element delighting at the sight of the taxi drivers milling around in all their stereotypical henchman-like glory. All wore the same grim expressions, leather jackets and cigarettes protruding from their lips.
Our drive took us 10 mins to reach the city centre and whilst the views on the way in weren't much to write about, the old town in the centre where we were staying was very cute. But eerily quiet. We were dropped off at the hotel, and shown to our apartment by a little old Lithuanian lady who knew no English. The room was incredible...massive and with a balcony overlooking a cobbled courtyard.
I was still feeling a wee bit haggard from the food poisoning but we ambled out for a walk around the city and got lost almost immediately. We stopped to inspect the map at a coffee shop playing death metal, but still couldnt figure it out. We were exited and hungry and desperate to try some local food so followed our noses eventually stopping in a little cafe on what appeared to be the main street. There were lots of interesting things on the menu however we were disappointed when it later transpired that we were in a Greek restaurant.
The old town is actually really pretty and almost medieval looking, and is built around a massive green mound complete with ye olde castle on top. The hill looked incredibly steep and I lacked the motivation to climb up it until I saw a spiral cobbled walkway slinked around it. Since the weather was so nice, Yvette and I clambered up for a stunning view of the city. Approaching the castle door, I (hilariously) knocked loudly and shouted ‘HELLO!’ on what appeared to be an old wooden door, but was actually the entrance to a very quiet museum dedicated to the city’s early history. A sour faced man opened the door displaying an unmistakable expression of distaste for what was probably a regular annoyance. Oops. Inside, we paid the pricey sum of €2 and climbed the vertigo inducing staircase to the very top of the castle where we made out with a suit of armour and did legcocks on canons etc. Standard.
After further wandering around the city, photographing monuments, photobombing tourists, drinking beer, and judging people by their clothes, we returned to the room to freshen up before hitting the town for a ‘crazy’ Wednesday night. Woooo. We weren’t disappointed! We began our reign of terror in Snekutis (roughly translated to ‘Chatterbox’), a small wooden crap shack on a residential street to the east of the city which took us 4 attempts to find and almost resulted in us breaking and entering someone’s home. We decided to come here following a review which recommended the place for home-brewed beer and local dishes. We ordered a plate of smoked pigs ears and some of that intoxicating beer to wash them down o.0.. We continued our crawl around a few other pubs and everything got rather messy when we recruited a chatty Irish man in the Dirty Duck. Moving swiftly from lovely cheap Lithuanian beer, to large measures of gin, we were soon ready to move elsewhere. Our Irish guy, Donal, seemed thoroughly amused by the two over-chatty lasses from the Isle of Man and decided he couldn’t miss a night out with two such distinguished individuals. He accompanied us downstairs, and to our delight we discovered a nightclub in the basement of the complex we were already in. Pushing through the doors, we entered the club which was not unlike how The Venue used to look. It was also complete with all the cheesy pop classics from The Venue era, including Spice Girls, N’Sync, 50 Cent etc. After goofing around on the dancefloor for about 2 hours, we decided to leave. Yvette mentioned something about offending Donal (which sounded about right to me) and that he’d buggered off.
We somehow got home and to bed and woke up with hangovers dying to be rectified with some lovely traditional Lithuanian food. Yvette wasn’t quite ‘all there’ yet so I nipped out to get much needed water and cans of coke etc. I waltzed into the nearest convenience shop around the corner and was instantly confused about what the etiquette was supposed to be. All of the stock was on shelves behind a counter that went around the entire store. Only 2 women were working this counter, and all of them intent on ignoring me. There was no queuing system but people were coming and going, and I was still standing there. My headache couldn’t deal with it so I barged up to one of the women and shoved my wad of cash right in her face, and repeated ‘COKE! COKE!! GET ME SOME F**KING COKE!! Until coke was brought and I was made to leave. Back at the room, I surveyed the other items I managed to wheedle out of the gormless assistant and realised I had bough a Danish pastry, and some chicken soup croutons. This wouldn’t do at all. It was time for proper food.
Over a questionable breakfast of gelatinous meat filled zeppelins that smelled like warmed up dog food, something I would later regret, Yvette filled in some of the missing pieces of the puzzle from the night before.
It seemed our lovely wee Irish guy Donal, was actually some kind of depraved sex pest and was offended - to the point of being upset - when Yvette confirmed we would not be joining him for a threesome in his hotel room!!! So annoyed was he, for putting so much time and effort into laying the foundations on which to build up to a polygamous relationship with both of us, that he stormed out of the nightclub never to be seen again. I don’t even know why I was surprised. Just another normal day at the office…
Stodgy food eaten, and stomachs complaining, we decided in our bastardly state, there was no other option but to find H&M and do retail therapy. Anyone that knows me knows I do not take kindly to shopping, but on this occasion, I was happy to wander around one shop. I couldn’t feel I could stretch to any more than 2 so H&M it was, and I must admit, the therapy worked! After emptying half my bank account, we breaked with some frozen yoghurt and wasted about 20 minutes trying to work out toilet etiquette which was just as confusing as supermarket etiquette. Dumping our purchases all over the room, we got ourselves ready for our next endeavour.
Let the shooosting begin! We hailed a cab to take us to a shooting range which we found was a dilapidated building just outside the city centre. We wandered aimlessly through deserted corridors until the smell of gunpowder penetrated our nostrils. We were at the stop of a staircase, staring at a heavy metal door with a buzzer next to it and a sign in Lithuanian. I pressed the buzzer a couple of times and pondered what type of place this was. I half expected to be greeted by gun wielding Russian gangsters, prostitutes and crack dealers. Eventually a man came and ushered us inside. He insisted on walking behind us down the long wooden corridor which unnerved me slightly. What I initially mistook as rudeness was actually just a severe lack of English…he was actually a pleasant enough fellow. He led us into the range room, floor littered with empty shells, Kalashnikovs and shotguns stacked haphazardly in open lockers. Ear muffs on, the chap showed us how to lock ‘n’ load then BAM! Bullseye! First shot. Oh yes. We shot a glock, a Wesson, and a Kalashnikov….the Kalash being favourite. Watching Yvette on her go, I laughed at her scared anticipation of the recoil; every time she shot, her eyes were slammed shut and body rigid…it was a good experience and we left happy
Because we sort of knew roughly where we were, we didn’t want to take a cab back into town, so we began walking until we reached a bus stop where people were queuing. Again, we were lost on the etiquette when we jumped onto the bus as nobody seemed to be paying but some people had scan cards. We waited until we saw something familiar and jumped off about a 20 min walk from Castle Hill. We jumped off and walked closer to the apartment. We enjoyed a lovely meal, then stocked up on snacks for the following day, face packs and nail varnish for a pampered night in (due to horrible hangover and lots of money spent in H&M).
The following day we were due an early start as part of a day long trip to find the legendary Hill of Crosses. We took a cab to the bus station and managed to find our first bus which was around 4 hours long. We drove through bleak Siberian looking countryside dotted with Soviet inspired buildings and run down shacks with chicken coops and and vegetable patches in the gardens.The only sight that broke up the neverending farmland was the thick piney forests. It was crazy to think about the sheer number of people who had to hide and survive in forests like these during the Soviet occupation. Pulling into the first station, we got off the bus, and sat down to our packed lunch before jumping on a smaller second bus which would take us to the Hill of Crosses. We wondered how we would know where to get off but given how everything always seems to always work out for us, left it to fate. Thankfully the bus driver shouted at us to get off in the godforsaken middle of nowhere...I mean literally, I look in every direction and all I can see is flat flat fields, and a single road with a single bus stop. And 2 confused lookin white bitches. Oh thats us. The was one single track dusty lane branching off from the road (again going on seemingly for miles) so we took our chances and followed it. After about 20 minutes of walking, we finally saw it. It looked tiny! However when we got up close, and waited for the Japanese to leave, we had the place to explore by ourselves and most impressive it was! Millions and millions of crosses, many of them memorial crosses, planted by Polish, American, Lithuanian, German amongst many others. The story is that during the Soviet reign, Poland and Lithuania used the spot as a place to plant crosses and crucifixes for loved ones lost during the Uprising. It became a place of Catholic pilgrimage and was bulldozed a number of times by the Soviets, but people continued risking their lives to come here and plant crosses. It was eerily quiet as we walked around, and even more chilling when Yvette started reciting hail marys
We were so glad to have made it here despite it taking around 5 hours. The way back was a bit of a nightmare as there were no buses but thankfully there was a small tourist office who called us a cab into the nearby town. Upon arrival, we got some ice cream and waited for our bus.
We didnt get back until late, however somehow found ourselves eating crepes in an outdoor restaurant, and loading up on beer for another hectic night.
I had seen a bar the night before that seemed popular with the 'alternative' crowd, so we made our way there and immediately caught the eye of a stunning local girl who upon hearing our 'English' accents, insisted on us joining her and her friends. They were all very interested in WHY we were in Vilnius? Could I tell them the real reason? Probably not as I was pretty sure they were lesbians and didnt know if they would think I was making a euphemism if I admitted we were there to eat Beaver. Anyhow, they couldnt understand how we even knew about Vilnius! We laughed at eachothers ideas of stereotypes and they then offered to take us to an amazing viewing platform overlooking the city. I have no idea what time it was but it was completely dark, and the view was amazing, homeless bums aside.
We parted ways with our 3 beautiful tour guides, and made our way to an English themed bar with a phone box in the doorway. We had stowford press then moved back down to the main square. We finally hit one of the bars we had been intending to go to on our first night, 'Who Hit John'. It wasnt particularly our style but naturally we made a few friends in there First up was a lechy old Irish man who could not get enough of yvette and her beautiful eyes and hair...there was also a Scottish man (Yeah I know how the joke goes) and ....unbelievably....A MANX MAN!! Yes thats right, we were sat at the bar, knocking them back when I was tapped on the shoulder and asked why I wasnt in the Rovers! Oh there is no escaping that place! One of my locals....of course
The night progressed and we hooked up with some Aussies and a yank who were there on work. Back in 'The Venue' we went, only this time no sex perverts trying to guilt us into orgies. After another great night boogeying away, I did my disappearing act and waited for Yvette to catch on and meet me outside. Whilst I waited for her, I entertained 5 Nigerian men who were either religious fanatics, homeless, or taxi drivers...I cant be sure. I think there was also dancing? Anyway, Yvette finally emerged and we staggered home around 4am...whoops :-S
We were no good to anyone on that last day and simply wandered the city, went back to H&M, and did a sightseeing bus which ended with a tour of the Museum of Genocide Victims - an amazing museum based inside the old jail. Very VERY good. Would definitely recommend. 10/10. A*
No seriously, the exhibitions were absolutely amazing and I would recommend it to anyone visiting
We saved one of the best things until last, and celebrated the last night of our holiday with the grand finale...BEAVER. Oh Yes. We booked a table in Loki's restaurant and ordered beaver stew on a bed of mash and I have to say it was mighty tasty. The only thing spoiling it was my hangover which didnt want me to eat a beaver. We were back at the apartment fairly early on to get packed and ready for leaving the next day. As you may or may not already know, we knew at this stage we had a problem.
All the clothes we bought at H&M. There was no way everything was going to fit. There was nothing else for it. We would have to wear most our clothes.
The next morning, we finished cramming and Yvette ended up wearing 4 or 5 tops, whereas I opted for 2 pairs of pants and 3 tops.We made it though!
SACRE BLEURGH WE GOT HOME!
And that's the end of that story
NEXT TIME: Seattle July 2015