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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Vilnius, Lithuania

I have found the Baltic countries interesting since learning about their difficult place in history, but I never expected to actually go to one. Since I was back in Europe for a term, I figured Lithuania would be a good place to go for the weekend. I went by myself, stayed in a hostel and met fabulously interesting fellow traveler and local Lithuanians alike.

Vilnius is a weird city in the winter because the streets are really empty and quiet. There hardly seems to be anyone around-- but there's evidence that people live, work and party (drink) there. The bars are full and the people are quite friendly once you learn their second religion is basketball. I found it to be a city of extremes-- absolutely beautiful in some places, but decaying in others. It's proud of both its pagan and Christian heritage... it seems like it wouldn't make sense, but they fit together some how. It's a city full of sad history and human suffering, but it is also home to a very strong art scene. 

One place that is going to stay with me for a long time is the KGB museum in Vilnius. I am a firm believer that any time a city has a museum dedicated to a dark part of its history, it's worth going to visit. It was an interesting museum because it celebrated life while also explaining the suffering under the KGB. The basement of it was the KGB prison area. Of all the disturbing things in that museum,  the paddled cell with the straitjacket was the worst.  I don't think I'm ever going to forget what that room looks like. 

Vilnius was an interesting place to visit for the weekend, and I suspect it was a good introduction to the Baltic states in general. I enjoyed my time there and loved the deeply artistic energy that runs through the city. While I can't say that it was a "super fun party weekend city" that a lot of my peers travel for, I definitely think it's a good place for a solo weekend alone. 

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