The editor reminisces on a legendary night out in Lithuania from ten years back (ah the good old days!), plus introduces all of the latest news and stories from the blog…

Maybe it’s because it is still flying underneath the radar of mainstream tourism, perhaps it’s because it is home to such offbeat treasures as a statue of Frank Zappa (who has nothing to do with Lithuania) and the Republic of Uzupis (an independent district whose constitution asserts that every “dog has the right to be a dog”), or maybe it’s simply the fact that it seems to be populated solely by girls aged 18 to 25… but I can’t help but love the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

After pootling around Poland in my friend’s 20-year-old campervan during Euro 2012 last year, I decided it was high time I revisited the Baltic States and specifically the cities of Vilnius and Tallinn, which I had first explored back in 2002. It turned out to be a fantastic decision. Apart from finding plenty of enthusiastic people to watch the remaining games of the Euros with, I was able to party in true Lithuanian fashion… which basically means overindulging in alcohol, embracing the spirit of adventure and revelling in complete randomness. And quite what happens during one blurry night in Vilnius you can read about right here in my latest post (clue: it involves toxic soup, terrible chat up lines and armwrestling)!

Another blurry night out in Vilnius

But now I have a confession. That was only my second best night out in Vilnius.

My friends decided it was high time to catch up on some Zs, but this party was so pre-hipster hipster that I decided to grab myself a few tinnies from the offie and try to make some new friends.

Because ten years ago I enjoyed such a bizarre night out that I still smile to myself now when I recall it. My travelling companions and I had arrived in the Lithuanian capital sometime in April 2002 in bad shape after five nights partying in Krakow and an excruciating nine hour wait on a cold spring night at the city’s then shelterless bus station. Exhausted and half dead we dragged ourselves out of our cosy hotel (we couldn’t find a hostel) and went to the nearest Irish pub for some comfort food after our demoralising journey. It was something like a Tuesday night and the city was stone dead, with barely a soul in sight, so on the way back from the pub we were pretty surprised when we stumbled upon a large throng of hip young things spilling out of a warmly lit doorway.

“We’re only in Vilnius for one night,” I reasoned with the others.

And so we wandered into this urbane space full of retro designer furniture and Bohemian-looking locals. After nosing around in vain looking for a drink, eventually I had to ask one of the punters: “Excuse me where is the actual bar, in this bar?”

“This isn’t a bar,” he smiled. “It’s a private party. But there’s a shop around the corner. You can buy something to drink and come back.”

Pulling up into the shadows of a Soviet high-rise estate didn’t make me feel much better, especially as a group of bored-looking skinheads were milling around glaring at us with hostile intent.

My friends decided it was high time to catch up on some Zs, but this party was so pre-hipster hipster that I decided to grab myself a few tinnies from the offie and try to make some new friends. The same guy who had pointed me in the direction of the liquor store shortly informed me that five of the six most important contemporary cultural figures of Vilnius were at this party, and I was pretty pleased with myself for having gatecrashed the best shindig in town. Indeed I was chatting to the gorgeous and debonair lady who owned the design store we were partying in, when someone grabbed me by the shoulder. It was the DJ.

“Hey Duncan, we’re going to my house to smoke a spliff. Are you coming?”

I was surprised to hear him address me by name, because I was pretty sure I hadn’t spoken to him all night. But hey when in Vilnius…

What I didn’t realise at the time of accepting the invitation was that “we” was just the two of us, and, wherever his house was, we were driving there in his beat-up car.

“I have to go the long way around,” explained Rufas (real name long forgotten), “because the police station is right over there.”

We drove easily long enough for me to feel very uncomfortable that I was in a complete stranger’s car, in a still wild Eastern European city (to my eyes at least), and that the aforementioned stranger was far from sober. Pulling up into the shadows of a Soviet high-rise estate didn’t make me feel much better, especially as a group of bored-looking skinheads were milling around glaring at us with hostile intent. Rufas however simply acted as if they weren’t there and led me to his groundfloor flat. His friend unbolted the door, revealing a disgustingly messy living room saturated in a thick haze of marijuana smoke. Well it was safe at least.

Rufas then proceeded to roll a joint the size of Duke Gediminas’ moustache and tell me, start to finish – in between protracted giggling sessions – the entire history of dance music in Lithuania.

Rufas then proceeded to roll a joint the size of Duke Gediminas‘ moustache and tell me, start to finish – in between protracted giggling sessions – the entire history of dance music in Lithuania. He finished with a sermon about the future of electronica and a new concept of club night he had started called Never 130 (ie. never music of 130 beats per minute, the standard BPM at the time).

I listened patiently for at least an hour, before I ventured: “Shouldn’t we be heading back to the party?”

“Good idea!” he said as if it had never occurred to him until now. We managed to drive back safely and Rufas took straight to the decks and laid down one of the best sets I’ve ever heard. Shame no one except me was listening by then… but I definitely appreciated it.

And whereas the cute designer I had been chatting too earlier had fallen unconscious by now, my love affair with Vilnius, at least, was consummated.

And whereas the cute designer I had been chatting too earlier had fallen unconscious by now, my love affair with Vilnius, at least, was consummated.

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Ok ok enough story telling already, but safe to say Vilnius is a place where awesome things happen. Where else would the female-deprived University Physics Departments build a motorised dinosaur to capture a fair maiden from the overstocked Philology building? Only in Vilnius folks! And if you haven’t read Thymn Chase’s excellent insider’s guide to the Lithuanian capital then you really should.

Vince has been making friends around Asia

What else has been happening on Urban Travel Blog as of my last update? Well since we launched Urban Travel Blog “On The Road”, Vince Robbins has returned from his Asian Odyssey to his native Los Angeles… but his journey is still very much alive. The last stop saw him reach Kuala Lumpur, although if you haven’t been following every step of the journey (shame on you!) then I’d recommend going back in time a bit. Some of my favourite ‘episodes’ so far have seen Vince get attacked by a monkey in the ruins of Hampi, pen his reactions to visiting India’s legendary Taj Mahal, experience an insider view of Bangkok, and recount his 200 mile trip by motorbike from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong delta. All great reading for the vicarious traveller!

We’ve also considerably bolstered our selection of City Guides, with new guides to Cairo, Cardiff, Helsinki, Timisoara and Dubai (by the way did you notice the new navigation icons at the top of each of our guides? I hope they’ll help you quickly find the info you want on each city!). The Emirati capital of bling in fact is flavour of the month on UTB and my little brother found that there was plenty of fun to be had dune-bashing in the desert (where bromance blossomed) and exploring the city’s nightlife (…and you thought Gangnam was passe!?!). Naturally there’s plenty more great stories and guides sitting on my desk right now from me and my team and I’ll be publishing them soon… Be sure to subscribe if you don’t want to miss a thing!

In my next update I’ll also share some stories of a recent visit to Holland. But for now you can check our exclusive-to-the-Urban-Travel-Blog-Facebook-page mini-story on the official Games of Thrones exhibition which fortuitously happened to be passing through Amsterdam during my visit. Perfect if, like me, you’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms after this week’s gap in the GOT airing schedule.

Imps and pimps in Amsterdam. Click here for more GOT photos.

Until next time Urban Travellers!

Feature photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbera.

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