"The Lithuania Story" Lithuania by RB_Oakes
Lithuania Travel Guide: 5,243 reviews and 11,930 photos
My first introduction to Lithuania was via the filth-encrusted squat toilets at the border. Pure, unadulterated putrifaction. In fact, while others are kept in better shape, all the public facilities in Lithuania are squatters. I may have to get used to that at some point on this trip, but not yet.
Vilnius is a mid-sized city with an old town that is only somewhat touristy. There are some cool buildings, plus of course the gates of dawn. Didn't see any pipers there, unfortunately. In the market, I got hassled for trying to take a picture. At least I had my traveller's cool with me that day, because I don't normally tolerate that kind of crap from non-law enforcement types. At the Tiffany Pub, the local beer bar (all bars in Lithuania called beer bars, but they're not such in the North American sense of the term), the night ended with a bar fight. I was with Per and we just watched. The Azerbaijani restaurant Piti had some really great food. It was my first experience with Caucasian cuisine and since I'm headed for Russia I can assure you it won't be my last.
Kaunas is odd. it has an old town, a long pedestrian mall and sits where two rivers meet, yet there's hardly any nightlife. 400,000 people and it acts more like 40,000. In fact, the banks of the rivers aren't developed at all, for commerce, residential or industry. There were burned out buildings and vacant lots on one bank, and the rest were all marshes. You wouldn't see that in any Canadian city. This night also featured a bar fight, as some guy stumbled into the bar absolutely smashed, invited himself to the table next to us and after a few minutes decided he needed the woman's purse.
Panevezys was the next stop, and a pleasant place to spend some time, with a spacious park that surrounds a lazy, lily-strewn river. All rivers in Lithuania, come to think of it, are lazy and lily-strewn.
By this point, bus tickets between towns were in the $2-4 range, with some trips being less than what it takes to ride from one subway stop to the next in Toronto. Pasvalys is in the north of the country - a small town that is big in terms of beer. It, too, has a sleepy river. I was taking a picture of said river after investigating said beer, and in the process of catching up to my guide, I fell and took a header into a tree. So you see, my head hurting in the morning had nothing to do with all those spectacular brews at Alaus Baras Kielas.
The town of Birzai is synonymous with beer for Lithuanians. We were checking into the only hotel in town - Tyla - and were told that we were lucky to get a room as there was a beer festival going on. Excuse me?? Birzai itself is actually not mind-blowing in terms of beer. But at the festival we met some other beer writers and learned how traditional Lithuanian beer is made. The Hotel Tyla comes highly recommended, by the way. Set beside a marsh just outside town, it is peaceful and scenic. The service was tops, too, and the manager on duty drove us to the bus station when we couldn't track down a cab.
My last stop was Pakruojis. I enjoyed a dirt cheap bus ride through the countryside to get there. Pakruojis is drowning in beer. Very good beer. Very strong beer. As I was travelling solo again it took two days to take it all in. The bars open at 7 or 8 am. If there were more bars, it would have been a recipe for disaster, especially considering that the beer only costs about 40 cents per half-litre. There were few bars in town, so it was mostly me wandering around the countryside looking for more beer. The sun was shining, I got mooed at a few times, lazed by the river and had a chin-wag with a goat.
- Pros:Affordable, quiet corner of Europe
- Cons:Tough language to get a grip on
- In a nutshell:I dug it
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