Our last day in Vilnius! I’ll do a followup “Why Should I Visit Vilnius” article at some point, summarizing the reasons to come here. Safe to say, we’ve had a great time and I’d highly recommend Vilnius as a European vacation destination.
We started our day with a visit to the Tolerance Center, another Jewish cultural heritage site in the city. It’s a mixed use space which hosts talks, theater performances, community events, and contains some art installations. The primary focus is the Samuel Bak collection, which includes his work and some storytelling about his life as a child in the Vilnius ghetto during World War II. I was familiar with Bak from some of my work with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and it was very powerful to see it in person.
Today was the “We Run Vilnius” event – a series of races for adults and children. The 5k and 10k ran earlier in the morning, but we got to the cathedral square in time to watch the kids run – it was the best kind of pandemonium. We then wandered back to the Folk Festival to watch some performances and grab a traditional Lithuanian lunch from the food vendors. There was a children-focused performance of fairytales on the main stage, which was a lot of fun.
Our only other museum visit for the day was the Kazys Varnelis House Museum. Varnelis spent most of his life painting in Chicago, but dreamed of one day opening a museum in his native Lithuania featuring his work and the art he’d collected over his lifetime. After Lithuania became independent, he was able to realize that dream. Although his very abstract work isn’t really my thing, it was a fun space to explore.
We laid low for most of the afternoon, dodging rain showers in cafes. Around six, we wandered back to the town square for the folk festival parade. All of the performers from the festival paraded through town under their community banners and back to the main stage. We joined in and had a great time.
To wrap up the night, we set out for some dinner. We’d chatted with the owners of a cafe about some recommendations, and they’d planted the seed of looking for some Italian food. The place they recommended was a southern Italian place, which sounded a little too heavy after a few days of meat and (mostly) potatoes. But, a bit of googling came up with Le Travi in Užupis. It seemed to fit the bill – homemade pasta and whatnot. It turned out to dramatically exceed our expectations.
As soon as we stepped in, we knew we were in good shape. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, and it’s not clear who works there and who’s just a regular. The chef is British, his sous is Lithuanian, the manager and owner are Italian and the waiter is Omani. There are only a few things on the menu, using the few bits of produce that are in season – asparagus, rhubarb, greens. Every bite was delicious, and the constant chatter and joy of the place was infectious. We ended up moving to the bar, as they needed our table for a big reservation. We had a chance to chat with some of the regulars, who have apparently eaten there every night this week. Their tiny Pomeranian dog was happily munching stray parpadelle under the bar stools. A perfect way to cap off a trip, with good people living a joyous life. #europe