At the beginning of October I returned to Vilnius with my friend and colleague Mike (who had not visited for a couple of years because of illness) and we were both looking forward to visiting some of our old haunts, including Bistro 18, the Kitchen and the finest steak house in the city Markus ir Ko. In the latters case I have to report that although the food is still as good the, customer service still leaves a lot to be desired. I think it is something to do with it being a “pub” atmosphere and all male staff (an occasional smile wouldn’t go amiss). There is however, on selected night an excellent jazz pianist who is extremely talented and on the last visit did a magnificent improvisation on Billy Strayhorns “Take the A Train”
Anyway, we spent six days in the city staying at our usual residence, the Shakespeare Hotel which to my horror has got rid of the draft Svyturys in the bar and replaced it with some “craft beer” which I was not overly impressed with. The breakfasts remain as excellent as ever although I did detect slightly smaller portions, perhaps the influence of the new chef.
We have visited the city around thirty times in the last ten years and have always been lucky with the weather, a couple of blizzards and -30c temperatures being the exception. Unfortunately on this occasion we suffered six days of almost continuous rain with a couple of half days being just damp
Despite this, we braved the elements to get around the city, taking in Gedimino gtv, the old town, a visit to the castle and of course the quirky place that is Uzupis. In the latters case there has been a good deal of development and “gentrification” from the old bohemian area that we first came across ten years ago, and my colleague Mike suggested that it had lost some of its original bohemian charm……….but I guess that is progress for you.
One shop I came across in Uzupis was a little shoe boutique called Vejas Gluosniuose which had on display an old fashioned washing mangle and a door which came from the house next door, Uzupio 13. It is though that a famous old Rabbi lived there at some stage. The shop salvaged the door when that house was renovated 2 years ago and they have made a wonderful job of recycling it, and it looks quite stunning in the shop. If you are in Uzupis do visit this lovely little shop (they speak excellent English, but then, so do most Lithuanians).
I was fortunate to attend a performance of La Boheme at the opera house with my friend Renata and thoroughly enjoyed the performance (see a previous blog for a review of the performance).
Of course we wandered around cathedral square to photograph Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika (or to me the White Cathedral) as well as getting some good shots of the Hill of Three Crosses surrounded by trees in full autumn splendor (this was between downpours of rain).
My highlight of the stay was the walking tour I was taken on by my friends Antanas and Renata, to photograph some of the brutalist Soviet architecture that still blights the city (see my previous blog on this specific topic).
I have to confess that by the end of the six days I was a bit demoralized and depressed at the extremely bad weather which had prevented us doing the walking tours of the city and visiting many of the old places we used to visit e.g. the tea house Skonis Ir Kvapas (on our very first visit I nearly murdered my colleague Mike who insisted he knew where this place was but after walking around for an hour in sweltering heat we still had not found it………suffice to say, he was saved at the very last moment).
So, a rather disappointing visit in many ways but it did afford us the opportunity to meet up with colleagues from Vilnius University and the British Chamber of Commerce (thank you Sandra for your usual excellent hospitality). Moreover, we were able to enjoy a fine meal with Finn and Jurate at Bistro 18 (and an excellent bottle of Italian “Primitivo” red wine) and some excellent discussions.
I have a feeling that this may have been my last visit to Lithuania, and if so, it will be sad because of the weather………..but who knows what the future may hold!
Photography was difficult on this trip but I am posting some shots I took during the week.
Photographs (c) Kindadukish