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  • GAY VILNIUS © Outvoyager
  • © Outvoyager © Outvoyager
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GAY VILNIUS

22-01-2013

  • Author: Outvoyager
  • Lithuania, Vilnius
Vilnius is Europe’s most quiet capital. The curfew begins at 6PM. Why go to Vilnius then? The food is tasty, healthy and cheap, all the sightseeing may be done on foot, and in the winter you can wear a warm coat and fur hat. But there are more reasons to visit this Lithuanian city.

 Overview

Vilnius is Europe’s most quiet capital. The curfew begins at 6PM. The city is neat and tidy, and the streets are clean. Visiting the churches will take at least two days. When you’re walking down the streets, take time to see the courtyards of old buildings. The city is located at the Vilnia River, which is always covered with ice in the winter.
Even though in 2009 Vilnius held the title of the European Capital of Culture, it is difficult to find abundance cultural life there, especially if you seek only LGBT events. Why go to Vilnius then? The food is tasty, healthy and cheap, all the sightseeing may be done on foot, and in the winter you can wear a warm coat and fur hat. But there are more reasons to visit this Lithuanian city.

Legal situation

Legal situation is very difficult. Homosexuality was illegal until 1993. According to Lithuanian law, homosexuality is a very dangerous pathology.

In 2009, a ban was introduced on so-called “promotion of homosexuality”, in other words – a ban on providing any information on the situation of gays and lesbians.

Homophobia is present in media and in the streets. According to research conducted by the Lithuanian Gay League, over half of the population would rather have a neighbour who is a drug dealer than one who is homosexual.

Weather and climate

It is best to visit Vilnius from May to August when the weather is warm but not scorching (temperatures reach about 20°C). Temperatures fall rather drastically in September. Springs and summers are usually very rainy. In winter temperatures drop to a few degree below zero but the city looks very pretty covered in snow.

Transport and moving about

Vilnius International Airportis the biggest airport in Lithuania and it is located only 6 km away from the city (a 15 minutes ride). Bus number 1 leaves every 10-15 minutes and it arrives at the railway station in Vilnius. You can also get to the airport by railway but trains are less frequent than buses.
If your shoes are comfortable, you’ll be able to do all of your sightseeing on foot. There are two types of transport in the city – public and private. Public trolleybuses and buses are cheaper (2 litas per ride) but they are usually in bad condition. Private transport which runs on the same routes costs 3 litas per ride.

There is no metro service in the city but the double means of transport make commuting easy. Taxis aren’t expensive but it’s best to watch out for dishonest taxi drivers that will drive you around town to earn more money.

Local tips

Lithuanian cuisine is famous first and foremost for cold borscht serves with eggs and potatoes. Another traditional dish is chicken soup with kalduny (dumplings stuffed with three types of meat). Lithuanians are also known for pierogi with various stuffing – mushroom, cottage cheese, fruit jam, meat, chicken, cabbage, etc.

You may try all of these dishes in various bars located in such principal spots as the railway station. The meals are cheap and tasty.

There are many restaurants in Pilies Street which runs from the cathedral to the Gate of Dawn. The prices are reasonable and the food is really tasty. Chilli Pica is worth recommending if you like pizza, pasta and if you want to try local specialties such as cold borscht or chicken broth with kalduny.

Things to do

You could begin your sightseeing by looking at the skyline of Vilnius from the Television Tower (22 litas per person). It is higher than the Eiffel Tower and on top of it there is a restaurant called Milky Way. The observation platform slowly rotates on its axis – in an hour it rotates by 360°. Despite the official ban on photography, all the tourists take pictures of the splendid skylines.
Gediman’s Tower of the Upper Castle offers another wonderful view. The castle is on a gentle hill so you may either stroll up the slope on foot or take a train ride (2 litas for a one way ticket; 3 litas for a return ticket). Nearby there is the hills of Three Crosses. The slope is gentle but be careful on the top as the rails are low.

Take a walk down Pilies Street which runs from the cathedral, towards the Town Hall square(where you could have a cup of coffee or a beer in one of the many cafés) and ends at the Gate of Dawn.
If you’re up for a romantic yet slightly eerie experience, you could take a stroll down the steep alleyways of the Rosos Cemetery. There, you’ll find an impressive monument of a black angel. Near the cemetery there is Užupis, a district compared to the Parisian Montmartre, where the Lithuanian bohemians had lived.

Though the district has been renovated not long ago, you may still encounter squatters and other free spirited individuals.

The district is also known as the Republic of Užupis – it has its own constitution and once a year it declares independence.

About 30 km away from Vilnius there is a small town called Trakai. One of its main attractions is a the Island Castle – the only such building in Eastern Europe. A guided tour of the town costs around 100 litas but the truth is, the tours are not necessary at all. There is a bus and railway connection to Trakai (6-7 litas for a one way ticket) and the entry to the castle costs around 14 litas. Entry to the courtyard is free of charge but if you want to see the museums you’ll have to buy a ticket. The castle is surrounded by many cafés, restaurants and souvenir stalls but the prices are higher than in Vilnius.

The LGBT scene can’t be lively in a homophobic country. There are no queer festivals and events, and you’ll only find a couple of gay-friendly bars. Men's Factory (T.Ševčenkos gatvė 16i) is the first gay bar in the city. Although the place welcomes lesbians as well, the interiors appeal mainly to the men. On Wednesdays and Thursdays women are banned from entry. Nevertheless, every single day drag queens and soldiers in uniforms may enter free of charge. Soho (Švitrigailos gatvė 7) is a recently opened place but it quickly gets more and more popular.

Events

September – the Days of Vilnius – concerts and plays in different parts of the city.

September/October – Sirenos – an international theatre festival. Theatre troupes from all over Europe come to Vilnius to present the most interesting and most current plays.

Beginning of October - Kaunas International Film Festival – the biggest film festival in Lithuania. Most movies have subtitles in English or German.

Watch out

Although traffic in Vilnius isn’t as terrible as in Moscow, Vilniusians drive with a similar mixture of spontaneity, jumpiness and bad manners so be extra careful when you cross the street. Comparable adventures are to be expected when you’re on the bus.

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