Our first full day in Vilnius proved to be a testing one at times. It started off in the wee hours of the morning, binge-watching Game of Thrones. Our late morning breakfast-making was slightly hindered by a package of bacon that had mysteriously gone missing some time between putting it in the cart and buying all the groceries. John went back to the grocery store while I attempted to by tickets to a Bill Bailey Qualmpeddler Tour which was an utter FAIL.
Lithuanian based ticket buying websites, and we have encountered two today so far, are absolute and total crap. I happen to have some experience in this arena and I have never seen such janky, buggy, craptastic websites. The payment gateway service interfaces look like something I created in my html class 10 years ago. I hung up 8 seats in an attempt to check out, which were released back into the wild 6 hours later. No one answered the customer service or venue phone number, no emails to the web master were returned. Truly frustrating. I would have written it off as one shitty website if the whole circus wasn’t repeated later in the evening as we attempted to buy Aerosmith tickets from another broker. I know my former employer is solidly based in the English speaking countries only…but if there is a country that needs the help of the goddess that is Karyn Elliot and her team of wizards, it’s Lithuania.
We ate quite a ranty breakfast, to say the least. Shaking our frustrations away for the moment, we ventured out into the city, which to our un-heat-conditioned bodies felt like the surface of the sun. When the first hot day of spring rolls around, it always blows my mind that we do Bonnaroo each year at temperatures of 90+ degrees, when, at that precise moment, 77 degrees feels like a sauna. At least when it is hot in the States, you know you have some icy cold air-conditioning to collapse under…not in Europe, friends!
Sweaty and red-faced, we wandered through the cobbled street of Old Town Vilnius, without much of a plan. The first thing that happens to me when I get uncomfortably hot, is a delightful shade of magenta that spreads all over my face and neck. It’s very sexy. John laughed at me…my mouth got smaller. As I was slogging through the heat, I realized that I had forgotten to put on deodorant this morning after the shower…this gathered a couple more black clouds over my head. At the precise moment that all my clothes were fully saturated with sweat, we decided to climb up Gediminas Hill
This is where Vilnius was founded, and has been topped since the 13th century with a red-brick tower. The tower that marks the spot today was reconstructed in 1930 from ruined walls, ruined as a result of one of the many Russian occupations (1655-61). When you reach the top, you are treated to a 360 degree view of Vilnius, from Old Town to new.
When I began to get lightheaded, I knew it was time for fluids and lunch. We rode the funicular down the hill and found a shady spot to eat our sandwiches. We spent a large bit of our lunch break trying to tempt the curious sparrows to eat out of our hands…until I remembered the seagull incident we witnessed on the Fjord ferry. This made me feel slightly foolish, so we just upended the bag of crumbs on the grass and exited stage right.
Next stop was St. Anne’s Church, a late 15th century Gothic masterpiece. It was built with 33 different kinds of red brick which make up the arches and pinnacles of the facade. Apparently Napoleon was so impressed with this little wonder that he wanted to take it back to France with him “in the palm of his hand.”
I was told that the interior of the church paled in comparison to the exterior, but we weren’t going to pass up the deliciously cool air that all European churches hold. As it turns out, the interior was well worth a look…soaring columns and beautifully painted ceilings. There were curious paintings that used inlaid metal, something I had never seen before.
Every now and again, someone would pass through a large wooden door marker Staff ONLY and let it shut behind them with a huge bang that resonated up and down the nave, making the few tourists that were poking around jump out of their skins. Other than that, it was quiet and dignified, and most importantly, filled with cool, cool air. Upon exiting, I noticed my first ever real-life yarn bomb!
We were on our way back to the flat, trudging along in the heat, when we passed an opening from which the most heavenly cold air was flowing. We looked up, expecting to see another church, but there was really no signs of one, just a building that lined the street that looked like all the buildings around us. We followed this refreshing breath of air, much like cartoon dogs get lifted by their noses to pie cooling in farmhouse windows, down a cavernous tunnel. We turned the corner and was met by an awesome sight. The phrase “took my breath away” is absolutely accurate in this case. In front of us was a HUGE church interior, decorated with carvings, alters, gold filigree, domed ceilings and stained glass windows.
We had accidentally stumbled into the Church of the Holy Spirit. My hands were over my mouth, as I had stifled the surprised gasp that escaped upon seeing this magnificent sight. A tiny old women saw me and smiled, she gestured for us to step inside.
The Church of the Holy Spirit is one of the oldest in Vilnius. It dates back to the beginning of the 15th century and was built by Grand Duke Vytautas. Prior to this current church, the site once held a former church that dates back to before the country converted to Christianity. Today it is the parish church of the city’s Polish community. It’s famed for it’s crypt, which holds over 2000 mummified corpses from the 17th and 18th centuries. The bodies are well preserved due to the cold dry air present in and below the church, which is evident, as you can actually see your breath. There were many tiny old women sitting in the pews, holding rosaries. It’s the first church I have been in that was so quiet and still, I could hear the whispers of the worshipers as they prayed. It’s interior is one of the most valuable collections in Lithuania, and has 16 different alters, many of which were being visited by elderly women in heavy overcoats and head scarfs. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place that felt so sacred. It was hard to wander around and take pictures as the precense of actual, active worship was overwhelming. We took a seat in the pews and just soaked it in for about 5 minutes.
Tomorrow is John’s birthday! No plans as of yet, other than Bill Bailey…but I am sure there will be some pints!