I made a short visit to Vilnius in part to see the Baltic states, and in part to further my research and knowledge of the Holocaust. I found this to be a beautiful city, with good food and quick easy transport.
My base of operation was Hotel Runmis in a double room, booked for a single person. The hotel from the outside looks modern, and inside is a bit basic, but is very much what can be expected of economy accommodation.
The hotel is about 400 meters from the main rail station via a foot bridge over the tracks. In this regard it is convenient if able-bodied, but requires negotiating multiple stairs if disabled (so taxi or other transport might be needed).
There seemed at first to be a slight musty smell to the room, but this soon passed, and was not noticed again on any returns to the room. The furniture seemed very much Scandinavian flat pack, but the room was comfortable. The room was clean, and the shower good. The bathroom tap water was very cloudy, but cleared if let to set. There was however a water cooler in the reception area. The sleep quality was good, and the mattress firm. The staff’s English is very limited, but they tried to be helpful.
My exploring was via the Vilnius Tour Bus on day one, and by rail and taxi on day two. Both were affordable and easy to use. The bus route began in front of the cathedral and took in many of the city’s splendid churches.
The image of the Iron Wolf was found throughout the city. It is the symbol of the city, and is based on a legend about the founding of Vilnius. The Grand Duke of Lithuania, Gediminas was hunting in holy woods in the Valley of Sventaragis in the year 1323. He had a dream in which he saw an iron wolf on the mountaintop. This lone wolf of iron howled as loudly as hundreds of wolves in unison. Confused by the dream, the Grand Duke sought an interpretation. A wise priest told him, “the Iron Wolf signifies a large and mighty city. The city will stand as strong as iron and its walls will protect the land from its enemies. The howling means a clamor will arise from it reaching far beyond the country’s borders and proclaiming through long centuries the glory of Lithuania.”
Ausros Gates (Gates of Dawn) are a must see if in Vilnius. These former defensive city gates are beautiful, and packed with religious significance. The icon of Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn is at the chapel there.
I ate a few of my meals at Gusto Blynine. I happened onto this place in my wanderings, and found it a great place for a bite and a bit of a break. The food is tasty and the selection of fillings was good. Yes, the menu is primarily pancakes, but there are also main courses, “beer snacks,” and other options. On my first stop in, I had a stewed salmon pancake and a cup of coffee (served with a biscuit by the way). The food was well prepared and the service good so I returned for dinner that night and breakfast the following day (Potato pancake with herring and omelette with strewed carrot and peppers respectively. The atmosphere is pleasant, though very “family restaurant” in its feel.
Day two was the research day. But that is a different post.