First day in Vilnius: taxis, home rental, food and a lot of snow
After two months we left Athens and have just arrived in Lithuania at around midnight. My first impressions of this town is that it’s tiny and that there are not as many people nor cars around. The streets are vast and sort of empty contrasting with the densely populated Athens where scratched and bumped cars are blocking your way.
The airport is small and looks more like a train station.
Tada! I hereby present snow and my well-adjusted (fake!) furry winter coat.
We will be in Vilnius for two weeks which is the capital with only about half a million inhabitants. Here is how we rented a flat, some pictures of Lithuanian food probes and a word on taxis.
TAXIS IN VILNIUS
We were advised not to flag a taxi down nor to take a taxi from the airport taxi stand. These are apparently rip-off taxis charging three times as much (5-6 Lt per km plus a service charge of 10 Lt) in comparison to normal taxis (2 Lt per km starting at around 2 Lt).
We are in the eastern block of Europe and taxi scams seem to be all the same. At least in my Polish hometown Szczecin taxis also function in the same way in front of the main train station.
Our flat owner Veronika sent a taxi down for us. Calling a cab is the rule, otherwise it can get very expensive. Fares are officially overpriced. I got this flyer with costly rates at the airport which Veronika set straight, getting mad at the price conspiracy. She said the police are in on this.
So thankfully we only paid 23 Lt from the airport to the centrally located parliament.
The other side of the flyer is more useful with info on HOW TO GET TO THE CITY FROM VILNIUS AIRPORT using public transport.
OUR 90s APARTMENT
There are a lot of lousy places in Vilnius for rent on the net. It took more effort to find a decent place to stay despite our search-for-home strategies. We finally found Veronika’s flat on Airbnb. It is very spacious with 60 m2 and has a superb location. We are are paying 45 Euros per day. That is more than our apartments in Athens or Budapest (which was around 20 Euros/day). A hefty fee of 9% goes to airbnb. Still okay, if compared to a hotel splash out.
Tomek at his new office. The living room. Like out of a 90s mail-order catalogue: the updated 80s look. Clean, bare long spaces cluttered with integrated wall shelves and an earthen palette, sort of African inspired. The orange 90s-chintz wallpaper clashing with the black leather couch and chairs. We also have the typical 90s Gothic touch: black tulle curtains with black velvet patterns on wine red fabric. Classic.
There even is a fake fire place. ‘Don’t turn first two button or you will get electric shock’,Veronica warned us of hidden dangers.
I was surprised by workers walking past our window. There is ongoing construction at the roof which means that we are up at early these days.
Lithuania and Poland have the same gusto. All renovated bathrooms after the fall of communism in Poland look like that. Characteristic capitalist 90s tiles.
The 90s loved to mix patterns and structures. A lot.
I tried to count the colour and pattern variety in the apartment… and failed. The kitchen ceiling is a soft pastel green, the walls are peach and pink and yellow on the window side, the floor is black, the cupboards brown, the tiles structured in brown-orange.
In the bed room design is just as overwhelming. Wallpaper is very detailed. There are integrated lilac shelves and wall panels with almost matching soft purple tulle curtains. There are floor pedestals and a carved dividing wall. Dried flower arrangements.
As a young maid I dried all the roses from Tomek and displayed them in a glass-box-frame. That is true love in the late 90s.
The hall features crocodile print wall paper and is the clear cut interior decoration winner.
Let’s leave the 90s and look out the window to see Gedimino Prospektas Street in the present. Tomek in front of our apartment building and Maxima supermarket. Ignore the scaffolding.
The highlight right in front of our balcony. The ‘palace’ that governs the country. Seimas Palace, the administrative complex of the Lithuanian parliament. It was in the Grand Hall that Lithuania’s independence from the Soviet Union was re-established in 1990.
Build in 1982 by the Nasvytis brothers, it has little of a ‘palace’. Well, maybe the vastness.
And the view to our right. The National Library that looks like a neoclassic temple and was established in 1570.
We took some time to shop at Maxima, the local supermarket, right at our doorstep.
Here is a glimpse and taste of Lithuanian diets and the lunches of parliament members.
Despite the stickers, these do not include strawberries but various salads from the supermarket salad bar.
The salads remind me of typical Polish ‘surowki’ with cabbage, carrots, dill and mayonnaise. And I found my favourite drink, the ‘kefyras’.
A very Polish dish (I thought) as I saw the fish-shrimp-dill-aspic cake. I used to hate those jelly like concoctions but Lithuania has changed that. The pink blob is very sweet raspberry curd, packed flat like a sandwich.
Spoiled by bakeries and pastry shops on almost every Athenian street, we haven’t seen a bakery around yet, so it was supermarket buns – still pretty good and the garlic butter rolls were fresh and tasty.
A big part of the shop is dedicated to alcohol. There will be customers for intoxicants in the early morning and throughout the day. It is so cold now, we are wearing sweaters around the house. Maybe ethanol is a better warming-up option.
I simply don’t know.