Chilling like a Vil...nius

A place my friends called random became my favorite city.

The prevailing reaction when I told people I was planning a trip to Vilnius was “wow, random.” It certainly seemed an odd choice to my friends whose dream vacations usually took place in Paris, Milan, or Barcelona. While I definitely want to visit those places some day, but they just don’t seem right for where I am in my life. I associate them with honeymoons, family vacations, and BFF adventures, not a solo expedition. Vilnius seems to be a relatively unconventional destination for American tourists. What with my chronic datelessness, commingled with the alienating fact that many of my friends are getting married and starting families, unconventional (and maybe a bit alienated) is exactly how I’ve been feeling.

I did little research before this trip; I wanted to go into the experience with no preconceptions or expectations. As soon as I arrived at the apartment where I was to spend the week, I knew I had made the right choice. The space was in what appeared to be a renovated warehouse, and the hallways had an unfinished, abandoned look. As someone who loves to explore wrecks and ruins, it was a perfect fit. The contrast of the modern, minimalist style interior with its grungy exterior only made me fall even more in love with the place. The actual city reflected this juxtaposition of bedraggled and breathtaking.

Above, my apartment and the rundown elevator, Russian signage and creepy hallway.

Old versus new reflected in a modern building on the edge of Old Town.

As a result of my lack of planning, I essentially had no game plan for the week. Since Vilnius is relatively small, I decided to take off on foot in a different direction each day and try to cover as much of the map as possible. I think I managed to cover most of Old Town by the end of my stay.

Brutalist details are emblematic of Vilnius's former Soviet influences.

I got a bit turned around on my first stroll into town. By the time I got to the edge of Old Town, I was eager to look for a place to rest for a bit. I noticed an otherwise inconspicuous place people were popping in and out of. The bartender was friendly, but spoke little english, so my options for beer was “light or dark” and “big or small?” (Light, please, and big, obviously.) The cost of my drink, a delicious Švyturys lager? 3 Euros. Fucking excellent!

Nice jugs, Molines Astosis! If you can't find a sidewalk cafe in Vilnius, you may have already drank too much beer.

This may be a bias from Instagram, but it seems that many folks who dig photography and to travel love to hang out in coffee shops. I’m not a fan, so my twist on “coffee culture” is a copious amount of day drinking. It became obvious by the ubiquity of sidewalk cafes and patrons having a beer as early as 11 AM that Vilnius was my kind of town.

Back in the day, it's like cats, cats, cats.

Thus became my game plan for the week. I’d wander into town in the direction of some landmark, stop off for a beer or two, and then head off in another direction. Not that drinking was the only thing I did. I saw some amazing architecture, bought some beautiful linen dresses, and ate delicious deer stew. I proved that I do have some modicum of self control by not spending hundreds on a mosquito trapped in amber-- sorry, Jurassic park fans. Do you like mead? Lithuanian mead is, for lack of a better term, amazeballs.

Vilnius, hands down, is my favorite destination thus far. I didn’t just love my time there; I could actually see myself living in Vilnius some day. Maybe being unconventional isn’t such a bad thing after all.

More pictures of the city can be found on my Instagram account. and my Flickr.

Photos were taken either using a Leica Minilux and Kodak Portra film, or an iPhone 5s and edited with VSCOCam.