Vilnius Travel Guide
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Typically when you think of quaint villages and local charm surrounded by autumn colors, your mind fixates on the East Coast. But banish the thought, since Lithuania totally kicks butt in all of those departments.
The capital Vilnius has an old town city centre that is also a UNESCO heritage site, and from here you can grab excursions to the south of the country and its forests full of fresh air, like Dzukija National park or Grutas Park, the latter of which is peppered with statues of Soviet political figuresbring your fancy camera for these. But our highest recommendation goes to 4x4 off-roading through the forests.
Austrian city Linz is just one of the European capitals of culture for 2009--one's just not enough culture, apparently. The second is the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, a place we rather like, but we're not quite sure they've got the right approach to this whole "culture" thing.
Visit their official website and you'll see the Vilnius gang are already getting worried. Headlining the site is a ramble about re-doing the Capital of Culture budget so that they can save eight million Litas (over $3 million) because of the economic crisis.
So who knows what will remain. We're figuring the New Year's Eve sound and light show is too close to cancel, but will June's culture night and next November's light festival survive the budget cuts?
The good news is we're guessing the haiku project isn't too pricey in the first place, so you'll still be able to read a few Vilnius-inspired three-liners.
· Vilnius Capital of Culture 2009 [Official Site]
· No Kangaroos But Tons of Culture in Austria in 2009 [Jaunted]
· Vilnius Travel Guide [Jaunted]
[Photo: Vilnius CultureLive]
In the beautiful Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, weird things are about to interrupt the cityscape of heritage houses and communist buildings. The Guggenheim Museum plans to open another branch in the city, and since the Guggenheim has a tradition of inhabiting memorable buildings, this one will be no exception.
Depending on the angle you choose, the new Zaha Hadid-designed building looks a bit like a cruise ship, a spaceship or (we think) a giant computer mouse. Quite how this fits into Vilnius is something we can't quite imagine, but perhaps the point is that it doesn't.
If you want to see the design up close, along with the two losing ideas, they're being exhibited at the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center in Vilnius until the end of June. Miss that, and nobody's sure quite how long you might have to wait to see the actual space ship land in Lithuania.
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Everyone's got their own low cost carrier these days, even former Soviet states like Lithuania. And while Lithuania's FlyLAL doesn't usually offer the ridiculous 1 flights or taxes-and-charges-only fares you'll find on other European budget airlines, it does advertise "cheap direct flights to Vilnius" (Lithuania's capital) and has a heap of flights on sale for 199 Litas ($85).
FlyLAL has quite a colorful history: it began life way back in 1938 as Lithuania's national carrier, became a branch of Aeroflot during the Soviet era and nearly went bust in 2005. Then it reemerged with new owners and a budget airline philosophy--and Western aircraft to replace any Russian planes it still flew--and is now cruising right along. Earlier this year it was named the most punctual airline flying into London Gatwick.
The other neat thing about FlyLAL is that it still supplies meals on particular flights. For example, Vilnius to Brussels flights get a free hot meal; Vilnius to Munich flights get a free cold meal. Some longer flights get nothing, but the short hop from Vilnius to Tallinn is rewarded with a free snack. Must be a case of Lithuanian logic.
Jaunted--all over that Vilnius action. That's our new slogan. We're all over Lithuania in real-time.
Readers may have missed it buried on the first inside page of the NYT Travel section yesterday, but there was an "Editor's Note" about that Vilnius blurb we cocked our eyebrows at a few weeks ago.
In the note, the Times cops to missing that the bars mentioned in the article had been out of business for several years, as one of our own intrepid readers pointed out. "The article should have made clear that it was not based on first-hand reporting on the scene," they say.
Yup, that's another dirty little secret of travel writing. Newspapers often don't send the writers to destinations they cover for smaller articles in Travel sections. Instead, those writers just crib from previous articles in newspaper and magazines and supplement with other sources. In other words, no trip to Vilnius, unless the writer is booked via the land of pure imagination.
Blogs, though, have correspondents everywhere. So tell us, gentle readers, where should a tourist in Vilnius head in search of post-perestroika alcohol? Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
[Image via romantzki/Flickr]
· Vilnius Silliness [Jaunted]
· Editor's Note [New York Times]
Sometimes it is oh-so-very-hard to keep track of those pesky multinational organizations/watering holes. Here's what the NY Times recently reported about Vilnius' embrace of its past:
Gray Soviet-era buildings have been converted into sleek hotels, agitprop statues of Socialist workers have become Kodak moments for amused tourists, and trendy restaurants play off the borscht past. NATO, a bar in Vilnius, the capital, for example, was decorated with military hardware, while other bars played old Politburo conferences on their TV's.
Sounds great, except NATO bar has been closed for quite a while, according to a Jaunted tipster, who just so happened to write a travel guide to Vilnius:
There is no NATO bar in Vilnius. It closed about six years ago. There are also no bars that play old Politburo conferences on their TV's. If there were, I'd know about 'em. The article is half a decade out of date.
Which leads us to ask--is anyone clamoring for televised Politburo conferences at the neighborhood pub?
Hat Tip To Andrew
[Image via Shauna/Flickr]