Posts Tagged ‘Anastasia Chernykh’

Exploring Portugal: Vibrant Lisbon

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Famous 28th tram in Lisbon

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh (the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip) just came back from Lisbon  with rave reviews. I asked her to do this post for the blog. Her images have me craving a trip to Portugal. – Jen Pollack Bianco 

The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal has exceeded 10 million for the first time in 2016. Portugal has been named the destination of the year (Travel+Leisure), most popular place to visit in 2017 (Huffington Post), and on top of that the city has won Best European Destination World Travel Award. Everyone seems to be going to Portugal now, and I can see why!

I flew to Lisbon after a short trip to Paris, and it was such a great difference. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love Paris, but Lisbon felt so welcoming, cozy and warm after a big rainy city. Like a visit to an old friend.

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Lisbon fashion tip: blend into city colors!

You know a city is tourist friendly when you don’t need to spend  hours to get from an airport to its center. Lisbon airport is just 6 miles away, and has several transportation options including metro, bus, and taxi. The weather is pleasant here all year round. The climate strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream, it is one of the mildest climates in Europe (imagine 6-month long summer!).

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Azulejo tiles on Lisbon buildings are part of the city’s bright creative look

We stayed in an old city part called Alfama. I would say it’s one of the most interesting and iconic parts of Lisbon, but it’s not everything. You may not want to take famous 28 Eléctrico as it’s usually notoriously overcrowded, but use it’s route as a map for your own tour since it covers almost all main landmarks.

Walking seems to be the best way to explore old center of Lisbon, or the most convenient at least. It’s not a good idea to use a car in the city unless you are prepared to spend hours in traffic jams and looking for parking space. Cycling also doesn’t seem like a good idea, since Lisbon is located on seven hills, some of its streets have tram lines, potholes and an absence of designated bicycle lanes.

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Narrow streets of Lisbon

For me, Lisbon is not that much about sightseeing as about experiences. So try to live like a local in Lisbon instead of visiting:

Start your morning with pastéis de nata (an egg tart), this is the most famous local pastry and it’s delicious. Cafe culture is a very important in Portugal (fun fact–Portuguese colonists initiated the first coffee plantings in Brazil). The local coffee lingo is a bit different, for example espresso is often called bica, and for locals it’s normal to have at least 3 bicas a day. You won’t be able to stroll down a street in Lisbon without passing at least several of cafes.

After that, try to climb up to one of the several main Miradouro (viewpoints). The one near Santa Luzia church, for a breathtaking view of the city with its old terra cotta roofs.

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View of Alfama quarter and river Tagus

Lisbon doesn’t really have any ocean access or beaches, but it has long avenidas in front of river Tagus – Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and  Avenida Ribeira das Naus. Walk down the first to get to Praça do Comércio, one of the main city’s squares that was completely remodeled after the horrible Lisbon 1755 earthquake.

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Praça do Comércio with Statue of King José I 

The square is connected with the other traditional square Rossio, paved with typical Portuguese mosaic, this square is filled with cafes and restaurants, with a train station of the same name nearby.

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Praça do Comércio as seen through Arco da Rua Augusta

Keep walking along Avenida Ribeira for great sunset views of the 25 de Abril Bridge. There are several spots where people seat along the waterfront and enjoy the beautiful sunset views with another local specialty, porto wine.

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25 de Abril Bridge sometimes is compared to Golden Gate in San Francisco

Port is a world famous fortified wine from Portugal, produced exclusively in the Douro Valley (that’s where the city of Porto is located, hence the name of the wine). There are several styles of Port, including red, white, rosé and an aged style called Tawny Port.

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Vibrant sunset colors kept changing every 5 minutes

Looking for day trip options from Lisbon? Try visiting a small town Sintra. It is located only 20 miles away from Lisbon and packed with attractions.

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Entrance to Rossio train station, trains to Sintra run every 30 min

With its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, Sintra is now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Royal retreats, estates, castles and other buildings, including the mediaeval Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace, are giving the town almost fairytale look.

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Sunset in Sintra

From Sintra it’s easy to go to the Westernmost point of the Europe, Cabo da Roca. The cliffs of Cabo de Roca were believed to be the edge of the world up until the late 14th century. Sunset is the best time to visit this dramatic landscape.

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Exploring Ukraine: The Pearl of the Black Sea, Odessa

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Sunrise fishing 

Ukraine isn’t a particularly popular tourist destination, although it has a plenty of wonderful sights- like the Black Sea coast with sandy beaches and great local wineries, and the Carpathian Mountains with their striking natural scenery and beautiful small villages.

Odessa, a beautiful city in the south west part of Ukraine, is a longtime favorite spot for a getaway. It has very distinct culture and its inhabitants even have a region specific accent. It is very different from any other Ukrainian city, yet as welcoming as the others.

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Passing Vorontsov Lighthouse on a boat

Port

First and foremost, Odessa is a seaport. It started as a port and it still holds it’s privilege of a free port and free economic zone. During the 19th century, it was the fourth largest city in Imperial Russia, after Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw.

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Port of Odessa

It’s port (locally known as Morskoy Vokzal) is a great place to get oriented with the city. From impressive hotel buildings reaching towards the skies to fast and elegant motor boats in Yacht Club, it offers quite a few photo ops.

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Yacht Club

Once you are at the port, don’t miss a chance to go further – by a scheduled or private boat tour. The prices start as lows as $4 for a group option, and from $30 for a private hire. It is also the only way to see the 27 meter (88 foot) red-and-white Vorontsov Lighthouse, one of port’s famous landmarks.

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Selfie on Board

The Port is also a good point to start a nice city walk. Go climb (or use funicular!)  the recently renovated Potemkin Stairs considered a formal entrance into the city from the direction of the sea. This giant staircase 142 meters long is the best known symbol of Odessa. As a bonus you get the greatest view of the harbor.

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Viewing machine at the top of Potemkin Stairs

Architecture

Odessa’s historical architecture has a style more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. Some buildings are built in a mixture of different styles, including Art Nouveau, Renaissance and Classicist.

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Inside the museum of Western and Eastern Art

If you’re dreaming to get away from the crowd, try going to museum instead of a beach, try Museum of Western and Eastern Art (entry fee $2). Not only it is located in a beautiful 19th century building, it also has a magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures, porcelain, furniture and more. The exhibitions include ancient, western European and eastern arts, and western European collection of exhibits.

 

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Keep walking towards second most famous symbol of Odessa it’s Opera Theater. Its neo-baroque building was constructed in 1887 by two Viennese architects, Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. It was also the first building in Odessa to use electric illumination.

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Fountains Near Opera Theater

Beach

Although Odessa has a few public beaches, they become overcrowded in the summer. For a more pleasant experience I would advise to pick one of the numerous beach clubs. The entry is usually free, but you have to pay for a beach chair ($5-10/a day), towels or umbrellas, if you’re using any.

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Early morning at Bright On Beach

My choice was Bright On Beach club, for bright girlish design, reasonable prices and perfect peach sangria at the bar!

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Peach Sangria at Bright On Beach

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Oh, and don’t forget flamingos!

Food

Summer is the season of open terraces and cold coffee in Odessa, my all time favourite it a White Whale, where you can find the best cappuccino in city and  a variety of alternative brews. For a fancy cup with vegan options try order Coconut Latte at Moloko Bar. Their specialty is actually a trifle yogurt with a broad list of add-ons, so it’s a perfect place to indulge yourself with healthy and yummy breakfast before heading off to the beach.

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Trifle yogurt with blueberries and coconut latte at Moloko Bar

Eating local is a must at Odessa. And here it means you should try the seafood. I woulds advise you skip Forshmak (a combination of pickled herring and apples is not for everyone, or at least not for me), but local mussels are a dish of choice. While you can find mussels at almost every cafe in the city, I advise visiting the place that specializes in bivalve molluscs, like Kotelok Mussels Bar.

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Grilled mussels with cheese and tomato sauce at Kotelok

For a good dinner with live music head to Odessa City Food Market. The newly established local food hall is the one and only in Ukraine. With an open floor plan; fresh food prepared in front of your eyes; a post-industrial space, and good-looking people sharing communal tables or sitting on stools around countertops this place is a perfect pick for a night out.

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Oysters and Wine

Welcome the Sun

There is something special about sunset and sunrises at the seaside. Odessa is facing the East, so sunsets are quite boring here, yet seeing the sun rising from the water is very special experience.

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Sunrise colors of Odessa Port

My favorite sunrise spot is Langeron beach. It is the closest beach to the city center, and has unobstructed views of the sun. On weekend mornings, you’ll always find here late party goers, fishermen, tourists, local park workers, all of them gathered with a single purpose: to witness the first light of the day. So why not join?:)

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Chasing the sun

Odessa International Airport (ODS) has daily direct connections from and to Kiev, Vienna, Istanbul, Ankara, Warsaw, Budapest, Minsk, Prague,Tel-Aviv. Several days a week there are also scheduled flights to Athens, Dubai, Milan, Sharm-El-Sheikh and Saloniki.

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Exploring Turkey: Lycian, Greek and Roman cities of Anatolia

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Sundown on the main street of Phaselis

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh is the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip. She recently traveled to Anatolia, Turkey and agreed to do this guest post for the blog. I learned a lot about the fascinating history of Turkey’s southern coast and now I’m really curious to visit Anatolia. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. – Jen Pollack Bianco

I used to think of Turkey as a larger version of Istanbul. With its wonderful mix of European and Asian cultures, an overwhelming Grand Bazaar, high minarets, strong coffee and wonderful Turkish delights being sold at every corner. But there are some places in this huge country that were inhabited long before Ottoman, Byzantine, or even Roman Empire existed.

The south coast of Turkey was once a home to Lycia, an ancient federation of city-states that existed at the same time as ancient Egypt.

Sunken City 

The best part of visiting was getting there is by the sea. Many boats run trips from Kas and Cayagzi, the harbor of Demre.

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Sailing to Kekova

The sea-trading city of Simena located on Kekova Island was once a part of Lycia. Simena was destroyed by an earthquake during the 2nd century and partially sank beneath the waves.

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Clear waters in Protected area near Sunken city

It is still possible to see the city ruins above the shoreline and below the clear waters of the Mediterranean. The island, where the ruins are located, is now uninhabited. In 1990 the Turkish government declared it to be a Protected Area, and all kinds of water activities (diving, swimming, snorkeling) are now forbidden without a special permit in the area around the sunken city.

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The ruins of Simena with staircase leading underwater

Limyra

From Antalya take the main road 400 in the direction of Kumluca and further to Demre/Kale. Near Finike the ruins can be easily spotted on both sides of the road.

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Lycian Cliff Tombs

Limyra was one of the oldest cities in Lycia and even once was proclaimed a capital of the lycian league. The city was conquered by Cyrus the Great and would stay under Persian control until the very end of its days, when it was conquered by Alexander the Great, in the second century BC it eventually became a part of Roman Empire.

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A theatre from the Roman age, with seating capacity for 8,000 spectators

Among the ruins of Limyra the most impressive are those of Roman amphitheatre and distinctive rock-cut Lycian tombs Lycia in the sides of cliffs. Lycians believed that their dead will be transported to the afterworld by a siren-like creature, so often placed their tombs along the coast or in the cliffs for an easier access from the air.

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A part of bath system built near theatre

Phaselis

About 12 km from Kemer, north of town Tekirova. The site is located within National Park, entrance fee is $6(20TRY).

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The small Baths

One of the most impressive archeological sites we visited was the remains of ancient Phaselis. The city was founded by Greek colonists, that most likely came from Rhodes. The unique location of the city, with it’s tree natural harbours, made it a prosperous port and important trading center. One of the harbours (called “Sun Harbour”) if still being used today, mostly for tourist boats.

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The Roman aqueduct is the first and most obvious landmark of the site.

In the 6th century BC, Phaselis was captured by the Persians, then it fell to Alexander The Great. It is said sometimes that he’s golden sarcophagus could be buried somewhere in the city, after it was brought from Alexandria to avoid its demolition.

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The ruins of Hadrianus Arch

The years of Roman rule were the year of constant growth and prosperity for the city. The city was even visited by an Emperor Hadrianus. A monumental arch at the beginning of the main street was built i his name. It’s remains can still be seen near South Harbour of the city.

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Ancient walls

Once again the city was great during Byzantine period, but then pirates and Arab invasions, along with earthquakes and growth of port activity in Alanya and Antalya, Phaselis ceased to exist.

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The Roman theater dates from the second century and could hold around 3000 people.

The most of the ruins are from Roman and Byzantine times. The Aqueduct and the theatre are well preserved. There were two temples in the area, one dedicated to Afina and the other one to Hermes and Hestia, but they are basically non-existant. A colonnaded paved ancient street is still leading from the central harbor to the remains of Hadrian Gate. You can see the ruins of bathhouse and some other public building along it. The necropolis is located to the north of the site.

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The closest airport for getting to know Lycian heritage is Antalya International Airport (AYT), numerous scheduled and charter flights go here from all over the Europe.

You can rent a car (from $25/day) for a self-drive trip, or book a tour to the main sites(group tours prices start at $10) in Antalya.

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Exploring Ukraine: The Ghost town of Chernobyl

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Walking along Chernobyl-2, a secret Soviet radar fed by infamous nuclear power plant

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh, the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip, recently took a trip to Chernobyl, the site of 1986 catastrophic nuclear accident. I found her images powerful and interesting and asked her to write up this guest post. I hope you find this photo essay as fascinating as I did. – Jen Pollack Bianco, Editor in Chief

We keep hearing the weird beeping from time to time. It’s dosimeter, a device in our guide’s hand showing the current amounts or radiation.

“No worries” says the guide, “our route is mostly safe, on usual tour you’ll get about the same radiation you’ll have on an hour flight at 20000 meters altitude. But you’d better not go anywhere off the road or step on the moss growing on side streets.”

Thirty one years after the explosion, and ten years after authorities allowed tourists in Exclusion zone, Chernobyl became a widely advertised attraction. Every day at least couple of buses bring in crowds of tourists to visit the ghost city of Pripyat, newly established safe confinement for Reactor #4, and, if lucky, see giant species of catfish.

The explosion that happened in Ukraine on April 26, 1986, remains the worst nuclear power plant accident in human history. It was more radioactive than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Thirty one people died during (or immediately following) the disaster.

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Reactor No 4 under New Safe Confinement

Geiger counter at 1.27 μSv/h in Chernobyl (for comparison natural background radiation at airline cruise altitude is 2.7 μSv/h) 

The first check point is 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the reactor, the beginning of the “zone of alienation”.  To get through the cordon prior registration and ID is required. This area is mostly uninhabited, except for a few residents who came back after evacuation, despite Ukrainian officials estimated the area would not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years.

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An alley in Chernobyl with plates naming every city in Exclusion Zone

But even after evacuation had begun, the world didn’t know anything about the accident. Only on 28 April, after radiation levels set off alarms at the nuclear power plant in Sweden, the Soviet Union made a public announcement about the accident.

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Abandoned buildings in Chernobyl

The residents who fled were told to take only enough belongings for 3-5 days, as the evacuation was temporary. So most people left everything behind, unaware that they would never return. Now tourists can visit the frozen Soviet reality. It’s a real life time capsule.

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People were told to leave everything behind

More than 100,000 people were forced to leave, but the evacuation has another side-effect. Without competing with humans for space and resources, local wildlife population started to grow rapidly. Wild horse crossed our path once, and the cutest highlight of this trip was fox feeding!

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Wild Horse X-ing

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Feeding the fox near Chernobyl Power Plant

In 2011 another part of Chernobyl’s mystery past was opened for visitors: Chernobyl-2, Soviet radar installation, powerful enough to detect an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile. 150 meters tall and 500 meters wide, radar is incredibly impressive structure, some say even more impressive than the rest of the tour attractions. It’s now a silent reminder that Chernobyl nuclear plant wasn’t built only for civilian purposes. A huge amount of it’s power was meant to feed the giant radar.

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Chernobyl 2 radar installation

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Nature taking it’s course over the main square in Pripyat

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Amusement park in Pripyat

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In Ukraine, we used to hear about Chernobyl disaster a lot. Mostly at school, but also on television and radio, you’d read about it in the newspapers.  To the rest of the world Chernobyl itself started to be a synonymous of something wicked and scary. But after this visit to the Exclusion zone my I feel like I changed my mind. Chernobyl is not scary anymore. It is most of all very sad.

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Chernobyl tours depart from Kyiv, Ukraine, prices start at $78 per person. Private tours available on request.

 

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Exploring the Baltics: Weekend in Vilnius, Lithuania

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh, the social media manager for this blog, recently returned from a weekend getaway to Vilnius, Lithuania. Her photographs made me curious to know more about this Baltic capital. I asked her to write this guest post about this gorgeous European city.- Jen 

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The Cathedral Square in Vilnius

Normally when people hear the words “winter getaway” they imagine some place warm, sunny, with white sand under your feet and calm ocean breeze touching your cheek in the morning. But for some of us travelers, winter is the best time to go North. You see, most of the countries here in Europe show their true character only in winter. This time I went to Vilnius, to see, to eat and to freeze 🙂

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Pilies Street

Lithuania is a young country with an old history. It regained independence in 1990, but the history of Lithuanian kings go back to the 13th century, and once was one of the largest countries in Europe. It included present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia. The best way to see and touch that history is to explore the Old Town of Vilnius, one of the largest medieval sites in Europe. Let’s start the walk!

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A view from the steps of Town Hall

Cathedral square is the heart of the city, and also a good point to start a walk through the Old City. It looked completely white on a cold winter day, and I loved minimalistic neoclassical architecture of  Cathedral. Don’t miss checking it out inside – the place looks  like a museum with more than forty frescoes and paintings from the 16th through 19th centuries on it’s walls. Here’s an interesting factoid-  it is believed the pagan temple was located at the same place long before the white walls and liturgies.

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Statue of St. Mark on Vilnius Cathedral

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Facade of the Vilnius Cathedral

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Inside the cathedral

Gediminas’ Hill and the Tower located right near the cathedral. The way on top looks harder that it is (tip, you can use a funicular!), and the tower itself despite looking very old was actually rebuilt in 1930. The origin legend of the tower (and the city) is rather fascinating.

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Gediminas’ Tower

The story goes that Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas was hunting in the woods, and spent the night on the hill. He dreamt about a large iron wolf howling loudly. He went to magician for explanation of his dream, and was told that this was an omen telling the Duke to build a city in this place, which would become the capital of Lithuania. So Gediminas built the city named Vilnius after the nearby river Vilnia, and a castle in the center of it.

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A walk through the Old City

The second you get to an old city you also notice another thing – Vilnius is a city of churches. There are 28 churches in Vilnius Old Town (21 are Roman Catholic and 4 are Russian Orthodox) with their spikes and crosses popping up all around.

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Facades of the St Ann and the St Francis of Assisi churches

Aside from Cathedral, one of the most exquisite and elegant catholic churches is a red-brick St Anne’s Church (paired with the larger St Bernardine’s Church) to the east of Pilies gatvė.

To get up close with Orthodox Christianity, you can visit St. Nicolas church (one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox churches in Vilnius) built in Neo-Byzantine style.

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Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church

South of the Pilies street is the quirky Užupis neighbourhood, also called Republic. The name Užupis means “the other side of the river”, it is separated from the Old Town by the Vilnia River, and on the second side there are steep hills. The place was a home to an artistic crowd for quite a long time (as the rent was much cheaper) and on April Fool’s Day in 1997, the city’s bohemian quarter declared itself an independent Republic. Užupis holds feasts, fireworks shows and open-air art exhibitions.

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Funky inhabitant of The Republic of Užupis

It even has it’s own constitution, which includes such rights as:

Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.

Everyone has the right to cry.

A dog has the right to be a dog.

The constitution is written in 23 languages and can be found on a wall on Paupio street in the area.

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Street bookshelf in Uzupis

Vilnius is small, so the best way to explore it is on your foot. Unfortunately, winter wasn’t the best time for walking,  so I didn’t get to see it all. But I promise to go back in summer, everybody says the city is completely green and the weather is very lovely.

Sightseeing is a good thing, but may require some additional calories, so here is the list of some useful places to stop by and fuel up:

To kick-start the long day of walking, go for a coffee and quick bite to Taste Map Coffee Roasters or Kavos Era. The coffee is simply great!

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Very straightforward sugar sachet at Taste Map Coffee Roasters

For a nice modern European lunch stop by Comfort Hotel LT, and check out the best hotel restaurant in Lithuania – Time Restaurant. It was started by Egidijus Lapinskas, rated as one of the best chefs in Lithuania, and sommelier Arminas Darasevcicius. They serve new seasonal lunch and dinner menus every day and the food is delicious. Make sure to score reservation ahead, the place is always busy.

Seafood and Salmon Salad at Time restaurant

To check out the local specialty visit Forto Dvaras, located in the heart of an Old City(zeppelins are weird and interesting, but don’t try to order more than one per person, too fulfilling!), and for late night dinner Bukowski Baras is the place to be. Hip interior, mixed crowd of locals and tourist plus tastiest hot-dogs in town and craft beer!

How to get there:

The most convenient way to get to Vilnius is by plane. Vilnius International Airport is only 4 miles away from the city center, and has flights from New York, London, and major European cities including Paris, Rome, Moscow, Vienna, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Oslo, Stockholm, Barcelona, Riga, Tallinn, Minsk, and Brussels.

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