Hey, everyone! I’ve just recently got back from my 2 1/2 week trip to Lithuania and Russia! While these destinations may seem really obscure and random I was pleasantly surprised with the trip in general. My mother is Lithuanian so we visited family for the majority of the trip but the later half (Russia) was spent mostly sight-seeing/touring. I’ll be describing my itinerary/thoughts/places I would see (or not see) again!
Day 1- Flight to London
Very few major airlines fly to Lithuania so the first leg of the trip was spent in London and then we transferred to the capital, Vilnius. The flight to London was relatively painless having spent the majority of the flight watching Narcos, sleeping or listening to music.
Day 2- London
We landed at around 10 am London time and took the Tube to our hotel in Covent Garden. For those who do not know, Covent Garden is a neighborhood in downtown London know for its shopping and relative accessibility to the major attractions. I was in London last summer as well and having liked Covent Garden so much I was happy to be staying here. After checking into the hotel I followed my natural instinct: shopping. I know this sounds dumb. I had traveled all the way to London yet was wasting my time shopping rather than seeing Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and other well-known attractions. The thing is, London has AMAZING shopping!! I especially like London in the summer when all of the roof top bars open and many pop-up shops. I was particularly happy to be within a 3-minute walk to Charlotte Tilbury, a British brand that is only available at Nordstroms in the U.S. (from what I know). The day was pretty much spent roaming and shopping. Earlier that evening we had dinner with my cousin and her boyfriend at an Indian restaurant (not sure what the name is but I’ll try and figure it out). The samosas were mediocre, however. I later got ice cream that night and walked along the Thames.
Day 3- London
Rather than shopping today I was dragged out to do some sight-seeing (not complaining though). I had already visited some of the major sites the previous year so I was taking everything very slow. I visited Westminster Abbey in the morning where I was eventually yelled at by a security guard for taking a photo of something (Oops!). I did an audio tour throughout the cathedral (I’m not sure of the distinction between a cathedral and church). Afterward, we walked towards Parliment and Big Ben for a much-needed photo-op. After checking that off my bucket-list I proceeded to go to Harrods. The department store had a very nice food section where I picked up a sandwich and pineapple juice. I then roamed around the store which is seven floors I believe. The stores within Harrods consisted of Chanel, Prada, Balmain, etc… It was still interesting to walk through the floors and I enjoyed the beauty department. Hyde Park is located near Harrods so I then walked over to the park after my cousin had recommended visiting the Serpentine, the large lake within the park. The park was filled with families, rollerbladers, horses and basically everything/everyone in between. I walked around the Serpentine and saw people paddle boating, rowing, etc. A family asked me to take a photo of them and I also feel so much pressure when people ask me to take photos because I don’t want to goof up a photo that I was entrusted to take!! I’m pretty positive it was fine, however. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what I did after this but I’m pretty positive I walked through Chinatown, got food and ice cream and then went to bed. It was interesting because the concierge at the hotel was also Lithuanian and helped us print out our boarding passes for the next day.
Day 4- London to Vilnius
The next morning we got up early and went to Luton Airport. From there we flew Whizz Air to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Around 800,000 people live in Vilnius while only 2.8 million people live in the whole country. I have never been to Lithuania before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. If I’m being honest, I somewhat expected a third-world country as Lithuania was relatively recently a communist-state. I remember hearing about Lithuania from my family, many of which consisted of stories of my crazy taxidermist aunt, life in Siberia and life under communism and Soviet Rule, where restaurants only had 3 items on the menu and visits to the capital were limited to only 4 days. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Vilnius was a legitimate European city with beautiful churches and a growing food scene. I arrived in Vilnius at around 7 p.m. so I checked into the hotel and then went out to a traditional Lithuanian restaurant that night with other family members. I really enjoyed eating kepta duona (fried bread) on the first night and throughout the trip! We walked around the city afterward and surprisingly the sun only sets at around 10 p.m.
Day 5- Vilnius
I’m realizing that I’m writing a little too much here but to keep it short I explored Vilnius’s major attractions such as the Gate of Dawn, the Katedra, Gedimino Pilas, etc…
Day 6- Kernave and Trakai
I drove out of Vilnius with my cousins to go to Kernave, the first capital of Lithuania. All that’s left here are rolling hills but it is a pretty view. At the bottom of the hills lies the Neris River and woods. We went wild strawberry picking and proceeded to make flower crowns! Afterward we drove to Trakai, a small town around 30-minutes outside of Vilnius. Trakai is famous for its kibinai which are basically small meat/vegetable stuffed dumplings. There are also many lakes, one of them having a large castle in the middle. I explored the castle which was actually pretty boring but picturesque! We then proceeded to go paddle boating around the castle. For dinner that night we went to someone’s old Sovietic apartment building which was quite interesting.
Day 7- Vilnius to Birstonas
Left Vilnius late morning/early afternoon. Drove to Birstonas where my other family lives and stopped to visit my great aunt on the way. Birstonas is a small town of around 3,000 people and is known for its spas. Here we stayed at Vytautas Mineral Spa. The spa itself is owned by the producers of Vytautas Mineral Water which I suggest that everyone tries at least once in their life! The salty taste leaves your mouth as quickly as it enters it however. That evening we went on a hot air balloon ride over the Namunas River and the surrounding area. Despite my fear of heights, I found the experience relaxing. It was interesting to fly over the little farms and catch the small moments going on such as dogs barking at cows or a deer running through a field. As we flew over towns people slowly left their houses to come take photos. The landing was rough and the balloon fell on its side but the ride back was nice and it was a full moon so it was super pretty!!
Day 8 to 10- Birstonas
We spent the remaining days in Birstonas and occupied the time with going paddle boarding on the Namunas, exploring the downtown area (if you could even call it that) and visiting with family. One day we visited Lithuania’s second biggest city, Kaunas, but it was pretty average compared to Vilnius. However, I wish I got to spend more time here because I saw some pretty areas as we were driving out of the city. My favorite part of the trip was visiting a farm outside of Birstonas that seemed like the most deserted place in the world. The farmhouse was small and cute and it started pouring and the power went out. It was all good though because we had food and I love the sound of the rain.
Day 11- Vilnius
We drove back to Vilnius for the flight, met up with people and got dinner. The next morning we were leaving for St. Petersburg, Russia.
Day 12- Vilnius to St. Petersburg
That morning we flew out of Vilnius to Riga and from Riga to St. Petersburg. The whole excursion was probably a total of 3 hours, however. I took melatonin on the plane and was knocked out. I was grumpy when I landed in Russia due to my hunger but I later got over it. The first day we visited churches and just explored the Nevsky Prospect area. It started pouring so we hopped into a cab and went back to the hotel. Photos below!
Day 13 to 16- St. Petersburg
If I’m being completely honest I didn’t really enjoy Russia. It was a hassle to get a Russian visa and the trip wasn’t really worth it. While there we visited Peterhof Palace, the Hermitage, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the other major attractions, etc. The individual buildings were pretty but when added all together the aesthetic was dark and dreary. The weather was awful too. It was either cloudy or rainy and the sun shined for about 1 hour every day. The sun set very late here as well, similar as in Lithuania. The people here seemed somewhat cold to me. I’m not saying this applies to everyone, however. Workers seemed bothered when you entered into their shop/restaurant. I also rarely saw smiles on the streets in comparison to in Lithuania and London. At this point in the trip I really missed my friends back home and wasn’t too interested in the whole Russia thing.
Day 17- St. Petersburg to London
Flew out of St. Petersburg to London where we spent the night. Didn’t do much here. Next day we flew out back home!!
TAKEAWAY: Really enjoyed London as usual, LOVED Lithuania and wasn’t too interested in Russia. HOWEVER, I thought it was interesting to see how the people there lived and see large historical monuments.