Category Archives: Accommodation

Lost in the Streets of Vilnius

Thus far, I’d been extremely successful in not getting lost. But, somehow, it took me a while to get my bearings once I arrived at the Vilnius bus station. Even after asking random people and consulting a map, I ended up taking the long route to get to the Old Town.

When I finally arrived, I couldn’t find my hostel. I knew I was on the right street but couldn’t find the door! Like a typical lost tourist, I lugged my backpack up and down the street trying to find the correct street number.

At last I located the door that led to the hostel above and was able to check in. After a no-nonsense check in, I settled into at 12-bed dorm, which I was dreading. However, it turned out the room was enormous and everyone would definitely fit in it.

My first foray into Vilnius was to walk around the Old Town and take it in. Like most European old towns, Vilnius is completely walkable and is probably one of the best ways to see things. As I walked along, I noticed many shops selling amber jewelry and articles made from wool.

When I got to Gediminas Castle Hill, I buckled down and decided to hike to the top. I pushed on despite the bitingly cold wind. It may not look like it from the pictures, but the air had a definite chill to it. Only later did I realize that there was a funicular on the other side of the hill in which I could have easily ridden to the top for a small fee. Ah, such is life sometimes.

I must admit that the walk was not overly difficult, especially if you’re relatively in shape. That being said though, I am not in shape and wore the wrong footwear to boot ( boots would’ve been a better choice) as the ground was old, disintegrating cobblestones and dirt. Still, I pushed on against the elements and a stunning view rewarded me at the top.

Across the way stood three crosses on a hill, which is called Crooked Castle, and is part of perimeter defenses of the past. Today they stand like sentinels surrounded by lush forest. I enjoyed the fact that so much green space was preserved here in the middle of a bustling Old Town.

After taking a look inside a cathedral and walking through many streets filled with other religious houses, I decided I needed to warm up and stopped at a bookstore with an adjoining cafe. In a blink, a large, steaming cup of hot chocolate warmed me from the inside out. What a great way to wind down the day!


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Filed under Accommodation, Attraction, Lithuania

Sunshine and Lunch in Riga

After an uneventful (the best kind) bus ride from Tallinn, I arrived in Riga before lunchtime. The bus station was located in an industrial-looking area, but just across the way I could see the beginnings of the Old Town. After crossing a huge boulevard using underground tunnels, I managed to blindly pick the right road and find my hostel.

Unlike the Estonian hostel, this one was modern with simple decor and an almost minimalist design. I liked it. It was also really clean, and the room was spacious. After settling in, I picked up a map from reception and got online to check out the town. As usual, I did just enough research to get from the bus station to my hostel. After that, I planned to wing it from there.

After about an hour, I decided to head out to see the city. With the sun shining and a brisk wind blowing, it was a perfect day to explore a new city on foot. As I wandered through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, I was amazed at how the old buildings towered above me, even after being bombed during World War II. The work to reconstruct the damaged buildings and keep the old style is incredible.

I also enjoyed the mix of green spaces throughout the city, which provided a nice retreat from the bustling tourist crowds. Although Riga is no London in terms of tourist foot traffic, it still seems to get its fair share of people around the shops. I have also heard that Riga is a mean place to party, if you’re into that kinda thing.

Taking a dining suggestion off my map, I had lunch at a small cafeteria-like restaurant serving authentic Latvian food. Don’t ask me what I ended up eating. It was one of those point and smile situations. I was charged by the amount of food selected so it was a pretty cheap meal in the end. The place seemed to be very local with lots of working people on their lunch breaks. I think I was just about the only foreigner in the place. Interestingly enough, practically everyone had a glass of milk with their lunch. Is this a thing in Latvia?


Filed under Accommodation, Attraction, Latvia

Strolling Around Tallinn’s Old Town

Early the next morning, the ferry docked in Tallinn and I took my first steps in Estonia. I disembarked and headed toward the Old Town and my hostel. It turned out to be farther than I expected, but I made it even while humping my two backpacks.

My hostel was located down a quiet, cobblestone lane. As I entered the main door and walked up three flights of stairs, I marveled at the well-worn steps of the stone building. How old was this place? It dawned on me that I could never find anything like this in Hawaii.

After getting settled into my room, I joined some people from my hostel on a walking tour of the city. This tour was led by a local student and she provided really good historical background on the city.

The tour guide took us around the Old Town for about two hours. It was a fun introduction to a city and country of which I had no previous knowledge. I think this is one of the best ways to learn about a new place – straight from the mouth of locals, especially when they’re young. Young people usually give you their honest opinion about their home.

I enjoyed my first visit to Tallinn even though it wasn’t originally on my list of must-see places. The Old Town is compact and easy-going on foot. The architecture is authentically medieval and interesting. It just feels historical, even though I’m sure it’s not one of the first places to come to mind when you think about visiting Europe. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so others must agree with me. I wish I had more time to explore the area, but I only stayed for a few nights.

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Filed under Accommodation, Estonia