My next journey would be into the Baltics – a train from Bialystok across the border to Vilnius, Lithuania, a city I’d very briefly visited back in 2008. I’d resolved to return sometime, so here was that time! I should also point out that this post’s photo were taken with my phone, so are not of the usual standard.
I packed my bags and left the hostel early, as Bialystok – the city where incidentally Esperanto (the universal language) was invented – had only one train to Lithuania a day, and I was determined not to miss it. It would go to Šeštokai, just inside Lithuania, where I’d have to change trains to Vilnius.
I purchased my ticket to Vilnius easily enough, and then went about spending some of my remaining Polish cash, before hopping on board the train. As I was making sure of my stuff, another guy asked me if this was the correct train to some other city. I confidently said no as I’d double checked the platforms several times, but hopped out with him to ask the conductor. We quickly established that it was *I* who was on the wrong train, and with one minute before departure I’d nearly messed up the ONLY train to Lithuania. Lucky!
I found myself in a cabin with a Polish student who had an English exam he was meant to be studying for, but he quickly decided it would be more interesting to procrastinate and justify it by talking English to me. It passed the time fairly well before he hopped off just before the border in Suwalki, and I continued the short distance across the border and into Lithuania.
I had to change trains at the border town of Šeštokai and ended up helping an American woman onto the same train who was doing the great stereotype and speaking loudly and slowly to everyone who couldn’t understand her. She was in Eastern Europe for a homeopathy course and seminar in Riga, so I bit my tongue while she handed out some of her samples for me and other interested passengers to take a look. In some ways she was a good traveller – snacking the local food, learning some phrases, not afraid to stop and stay in small towns, but in other ways she fitted the unfortunate stereotype so many Americans have – the loudest person in the carriage, expecting everyone to know English, and running around with a giant suitcase on wheels in countries where this is just so impractical. She did however use this to her advantage in Vilnius, using the wheelchair/suitcase ramp as a slide, to the bemusement of other passengers.
I had a booking at Old Town hostel in Vilnius, just 400m or so from the station. After my previous efforts I was mildly anxious but there were even signs from the station itself, and soon enough I’d checked in and sorted my bed. I headed out to find some local food and to see if I recognised the town from nearly three years prior, when a friend (Pascal) and I had spent 5 hours in town between flights from Moscow to London.
It wasn’t long before what I was seeing matched what I was remembering, and I’d stumbled upon the main town square. It being rather late – although still pretty light, I found a local restaurant – Kaimas – which turned out to be a chain, I’d later find, and had some local food – including a spicy prawn soup and Didžkukuliai su mesa (a potato stuffed with meat), before returning to the hostel, and to sleep.
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