Vilnius is a very charismatic city. Even among the less visited European capitals, it is highly rated. The way I visited Vilnius, as the title says, was Auksė’s way. During the few days, I followed Auksė. I stayed at where she was staying as a student, I went to places she liked, I met her friends and her acquaintances on the streets, I even encountered problems she encounters in her daily life. All these made the trip very original, authentic and personal.
Auksė studies at Vilnius University for some subjects of very little use in real life (as opposed to studying “money”) unless in a particular part of the world, like me. Her dorm room was a small, cozy one that accommodates two people. It was pretty much like mine when I was a freshman, only that she had more decoration and the bed was more comfortable (I woke up late and missed our plans because it was too comfy).
Her campus was more like a giant complex for a family than a university. I specifically wanted a tote bag from the university because Auksė sent me one years ago and it has been used so extensively it’s worn out now. The stairs to the shop are wooden and on the walls there hung photos and paintings in also wooden frames. Between faculty buildings there are many small gardens I can sunbath in. The libraries are not too big, very quiet and have windows so you can get some natural sunlight. This is very much like rich families’ private libraries. There is a bell tower where it takes some guts to climb up the wooden steps (there is a lift, fortunately) but rewards you with an amazing view. I can always spend a few hours just looking at and counting the tiny houses from above. I liked the campus, it was very warm and I bet the students do develop a sense of belonging to the university.
Around the campus there are a few cafes Auksė likes to visit. One of them brought us back to Soviet times. The coffee house Chaika (seagull in Russian) is decorated in nothing but Soviet household items, furniture etc. Nostalgia at its best. And to be honest, it wasn’t even that bad. Many of the Soviet times designs are in classic colours, always practical, and would make you smile just with a slight touch of humour. I liked the place, there were toys, and the coffee was superb.
Another cafe was called Mint Vinetu but it wasn’t a name too easy for me to remember. I found the name again by googling “cafe in vilnius with books and a piano”. It was the perfect place to fantasise a romantic encounter but unfortunately I don’t speak Lithuanian enough to understand if it would really happen. Anyways the cafe is a second hand bookshop where you can also mail postcards, play a piano, attend some hipster events and sleep at the hidden room at the back of the cafe.
I realized that the modern architectures in Vilnius have quite a uniform style. It is not uncommon to see buildings with cement and glass panels assembled in geometry. This is nice because it gives a sense of harmony and order. Some modern style architecture in Hong Kong are really ugly and will never go well with the rest of the city.
Also Google image “Vilnius University Library” and “Lithuanian National Art Gallery”.
Auksė is a special kind of night owl. She doesn’t like clubbing (as far as I know) but she definitely likes to spend evening time. One time we went for a movie (Searching for Sugarman) in an independent cinema, one time we walked around the old town and had ice cream, one time she brought me with her to drinks with her friends. (That was nice because according to Auksė her friends liked me, don’t know if she lied haha). Of course we took the opportunity to visit Vilnius’ castle and enjoyed the colours of sunset.
It was not difficult to climb up but scary af to climb down because it is actually quite steep. I wouldn’t recommend blind people like me to visit the Gedimina’s Tower at night. Unless you have a walking stick. Or some ice cream.
The point of this post was not about where I visited or top things to do in Vilnius, rather it is about how I felt. If I had to describe, I was like Auksė’s ghost for the three days I was in Vilnius. I was her shadow, I was her ghost. It sounds worse than it is, but read on. Over the short period of three days, I wasn’t visiting Vilnius, I was living Vilnius.
This feeling doesn’t just arise when any young female solo visit Europe, it is not that cliche. Indeed I have to thank Vilnius, because it is a charm where I do see myself ending up in if I could survive with broken Lithuanian. However, this magical ghost feeling wouldn’t be complete and so long lasting if not because of Auksė, for she is a very charismatic lady with a strong character who has her own reflection and deep emotions on the city and her life in Vilnius. She allowed me to live Vilnius, experience the simple pleasures and feel the vibes of Vilnius, in her very own way.
Auksė led me wherever she goes and whatever she did with her powerful aura. There were countless times she bumped into her friends – on the bus, on campus, on the streets, in the train station … Sometimes she faces a problem (like the wifi) and she would try very hard to solve it. She also had dumb moments, like mistaking the shadow of the whisker bus as shelter from the sun. These accentuated my feeling as a ghost, because these are the things that will happen in real life but not so much when you are being a guest and only the best of the city is presented to you. Being a ghost means following the aura of your host, let the flow go naturally, feel whatever may come, and experience what your host experiences.
“Ghost travelling” would be like visiting Paris with Amélie Poulain, if that makes sense. It is not something you can pay a price, join a tour and get it. It takes a lot of luck, and two very sensitive souls.