Day 6: Jess is a Wanderer arrives in Vilnius, Lithuania's capital
Arriving into Vilnius
FYI... it's still freezing. I'm still inadequately dressed. Isn't summer in Europe supposed to be wonderful? The kind of thing that people from other continents dream of: al fresco dining on a cobbled terrace; socks and sandals donning the feet of wide-eyed visitors; and red-faced sweaty tourists licking ice-creams on street corners? There's none of that here! Everyone (except us), it seems, is in winter coats, wooly hats and gloves. We definitely missed a memo somewhere. Anyway, we arrived after another glorious coach ride and checked into the HOSTEL OF DOOM. It's getting its own paragraph. Brace yourselves. Back to that later.
Vilnius is a small and quaint town with a number of high-end retail shops that I could never afford to shop in! Its cobbled streets are littered with the same upmarket restaurants and bars that we had seen previously in Tallinn and Riga. Umbrellas, flowers and railings create al-fresco dining areas on the cobbles and everything feels ultra-European. It's at this point I have to admit that I was feeling a bit 'citied-out'. ??? you may ask. Basically, I'd traipsed around the old towns of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius felt more of the same. As a result, I don't really have any pics except the ones above as I was just enjoying taking in the atmosphere and leaving the camera to one side. Don't get me wrong, the architecture is to be admired and so on but it was time to leave the city and head somewhere more quirky. But first, let me tell you about this hostel!!!
The Hostel of Doom
Imagine your worst nightmare. Then imagine having to sleep in it. Then realise that you're already sleeping in your nightmare whilst imagining being it in...!! Yes, exactly. That's the situation we found ourselves in.
Let me start at the beginning. In case you don't already know, backpacking has lots of ups and downs. Whilst many events and days are ups, there are definitely times when you're tired. And cold. And hungry. And fed up. And tired. And hungry. And grumpy. And sometimes you're irritable too. At the point of finding the Hostel of Doom, we had only been on the road for six days and that's no time at all. However, the irritability had indeed begun to kick in.
This hostel was booked for three reasons:
1. It was totally cheap (should have been a warning sign in hindsight).
2. It was super close to the train and bus stations (allowing easy travel out of the city).
3. It had 'girls only' dormitories (after the experience in Tallinn with the smelly, snoring men we didn't want to go through that again!)
These reasons are not anything out of the ordinary for the average backpacker. Simple requests, preferences and specifications in order to keep irritability at bay and allow us to live within our means. Well... it seems it couldn't really have gone more wrong!
Arriving (once more up around eight flights of stairs, we really need to stop doing that!!!) we were greeted by a bewildered young chap who didn't really know what was going on. There seemed to be a problem with our booking (oh how we wished there had been no room at the inn) so he called on his stern-faced, Russian-esque, intimidating beyond belief, no older than us, colleague to come and assist. And didn't she just.
'There's no female dormitory for you' she announces and then leads us to our bedroom which sleeps 8 (not 5 as we had booked) and of the beds which were taken, they were middle-aged men who very obviously lived at the hostel. It was at this point that we should have politely said, 'No thank you' and gone on our merry way. Only we couldn't. We were totally trapped as we had already paid. Note to self. DO NOT PAY BEFORE SEEING THE DIGS. Ugh, it was vile. And then men in the room (this is such a cliché and I hate that I'm even writing it but this blog is to be an account of the truth after all!) were so friendly at first. They wanted to know all about us and they seemed friendly and harmless. Of course they did! Then they turned a little more sleazy and it was just uncomfortable. Not cool. And we had paid for TWO NIGHTS in this nightmare.
With the ability to sleep more than 100 people at any time, there was one female bathroom with one toilet and one shower inside it. Basically, the moral of the story is that anything with 5 Euros in its name should be avoided at all costs. In fact, I would pay to never have to stay in a similar place again! OK, rant over. For more about our time in Lithuania, click here for The Hill of Crosses.