Friday, November 21, 2014

Vilnius: A City Embracing the 21st Century

Modern Buildings Dot the Vilnius Skyline
Vilnius is a city in transition. It reminds me of East Berlin as it was fifteen or twenty years ago, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Some run-down buildings, even ruins, standing side-by-side with beautifully restored buildings and new modern structures. Soviet style architecture still dominates the city and there's lots of gray; but here and there, you find bits of color as Vilnius and all of Lithuania embrace the 21st century.

Vilnius has a surprisingly good technology infrastructure, and unlike most of Western Europe and the USA getting connected to the Internet is fast and easy. Free WiFi is everywhere. Whether you're in a shopping mall, small cafe, or hotel, you're just a click away from the web. Moreover, prices aren't astronomical like London, Paris, or even Berlin, for that matter. It's an affordable city that won't bleed your pocketbook. 

Of course, visiting Lithuania during the winter has its drawbacks. Right now, the days are short (sunrise 8:00 AM and Sunset 4:00 PM), and the weather is wet and cold. Vilnius doesn't have a wide selection of restaurants either. What they have is fairly standard fare and not particularly noteworthy. However, I did find Radharane, a cozy Indian vegan/vegetarian restaurant in the heart of the city offering tasty dishes. 

Lithuanians also appear to drink a lot. I was at the supermarket, and noticed that I was the only person in the check-out line without a bottle of Vodka. Perhaps, that goes along with Lithuania's dubious distinction of having the highest suicide rate in the EU.

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