Vilnius seems to be half-dressed. Let me explain why that’s not a bad thing in this case. I dig how the city looks and acts. Of all the places I’ve been to in the Baltic region so far, Vilnius is the most intellectually busy and music-laden place yet. I cannot begin to imagine what sort of income they pull down, but the bookstores are everywhere you look. I first noticed the music on my quest for a quick, good dinner near the hotel the evening I arrived in Vilnius. A few doors in the direction of Town Hall, a window was thrown open to the chilly evening air, and rather good piano music was spilling free down onto the street from it to passersby like me. Not that many steps further, I walked by a window with the curtain partially closed, on the other side of which someone was working an unfortunate clarinet to the outer envelope of the poor instrument’s capability. After dinner that first evening, I briefly sat in a lobby and listened to a women’s choir rehearsal, unnoticed on the other side of an open door to a large hall. They sounded very good for the 20 minutes or so of my private concert.
Like the previous two capitals I had recently visited, Vilnius is also a university town. Unlike in Tallinn and Riga, the Vilnius student population is visible and vocal. I hiked up a nearby hill which I thought should promise a pretty good overlook of the city. High Castle is on this hill, and is not so much a castle as it is an old, fortified tower with a fancy name. The walk there took me past the university. Thanks to the late-day crowds of students entering and leaving some of the eating places I noted along the way, I locked in a likely post-hike spot for a meal.
The lookout spot was really a good one, I’m glad I hoofed it up there. I can charitably say the meal afterward was cheap. But the entertainment? I spent the entire meal watching a table of students arguing passionately in a language I cannot in the slightest comprehend. It was all very good. I may not have known what they were saying, but they knew how to hold forth. The one kid broke off into a five-minute speech-type thing that I almost applauded. Their debate topic must’ve been a zinger. It reminded me of a period in my life that I think back on fondly, when people around me actually wanted to debate things. I’m not sure where that crowd went, but it has since been replaced by a muted, generally more indifferent one. But now I’m digressing –
Right. The clothes. An overwhelming impression I get of the place is that Vilnius is less concerned with a shiny appearance than with some other, more important things. It feels good to be in a place like this.
“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Desiderius Erasmus