Featured City: Vilnius, Lithuania–Castles and Cathedrals and Zappa, too…

View from a Window in Vilnius

VILNIUS is Lithuania’s main city and capital, and a picturesque one at that.  Its origins are murky but by the time of the commonwealth with Poland city walls were being built, a university opened, and migrants were coming from all over.  That all changed with the Russian occupation a few centuries later.  Its Jews were massacred in WWII, and its intelligentsia deported afterward.  Then ordinary citizens were deported and Russians moved in, until 1991.  Today it is a modern European city.

Bigger than Tallinn, Vilnius is still easily walkable.  The entire center is a UNESCO world heritage site.  There are castles, cathedrals, genocide museums, the ruins of the Castle of Gediminas on Castle Hill, a 16th C. Gothic Church of St. Anne, a dozen 17th C. Baroque churches, notably the Church of SS. Peter and Paul, a cathedral that dates from 1387, and… a monument to Frank Zappa.  It has not yet been colonized for Western parties.  Give it another year or two.

I was there in June of 2009, part of a loop through Scandinavia and back down through the Baltics to Warsaw.  If you wanted, you could easily cross through five countries in one day… but not me.  I liked Vilnius so much that I hung around for days.  Yahoo still thinks I’m from Vilnius.  Yes, the WiFi was good.  And so are the hostels.  One of our partner hostels there is Fortuna Hostel, with beds starting at only ten bucks. Yeow!  it’s all written up with with complete specs and contact info in our book “Backpackers & Flashpackers in Eastern Europe.”  They’ll be featured in the upcoming edition of our new book, “1000 Hostels in North Europe,” too, due out in September.  Check it out