Vilnius, day 2
Taste Map Coffee Roasters was my first destination this morning. They’re really close to my hostel, which helped immensely with waking up. The staff spoke fluent English and was able to answer all my questions about their coffee.
I told them that I usually like beans from Ethiopia, and I like to enjoy my coffee black because I’m a purist. With that information, they were able to recommend three bean options. Two were from Ethiopia, and one was from Rwanda. The first one from Ethiopia had a floral and berry profile. The second was a bit tamer. And the one from Rwanda was buttery. I opted for buttery coffee this morning. They recommended using the V60 for this one.
If I were spending more time in Vilnius, I would definitely have come back here. The staff were so friendly and thoughtful, the coffee was excellent, and the environment was great for whipping out my tablet and using their wifi.
On the way to the Hill of Three Crosses, I spotted a sundial clock on a building next to Cathedral Square.
The Vilnia River looked so calm today. It made walking up the wooden staircases (that were in some disrepair) a bit easier. I also pulled a Mei walking under an arch of tree branches when they knocked my hat off my head.
The view from the hill was quite nice, and it had started drizzling. So there were only a few visitors, including a family of three with a young boy. I admire those parents for getting him and a stroller up all those wooden stairs.
Enjoying this greenery kick, I strolled through Bernardine Garden, which featured many beautiful fountains and a large playground.
I had heard about Bambalyne from multiple sources, and since it sells only Lithuanian beers, I thought I’d give it a go. The entrance, and the downstairs seating area seemed charming enough.
However, the staff didn’t seem interested in answering any of my questions about the many beers they carried (all bottles), and the beer snacks ranged from mediocre (bland pig ears) to inedible (lukewarm and hard fried bread). How can you screw up fried bread? I left most of the plate untouched.
Afraid of being tricked again, I spent some time researching Foursquare to find a place that wouldn’t disappoint me. I decided to check out Mykolo 4 since they have a business lunch menu (i.e., deeply discounted lunch specials) and looked like a nice restaurant. The sign outside confirmed this: the recipes are from old bourgeoisie notebooks of Vilnius. The interior showed off their fanciness, too.
My waitress had the perfect level of attentiveness and spoke English fluently. I started with a local cider (€2.90 for 100mL), but I forgot to ask whether it was dry or sweet. It was difficult to stomach it because of how sweet it was, but luckily the mushroom soup with lamb dumplings (€5) helped offset it. Surprisingly, the soup wasn’t so salty that I felt like chugging a liter of water afterwards. And you could taste the care that went into making the dumplings.
The business lunch special I ordered was roasted pork with beets and rosemary potatoes (€3.95), and the parsnip ice cream (€5) sounded intriguing as a dessert. The pork was cooked perfectly, and the rosemary potatoes were addicting. I wish I could taste more parsnip in the ice cream, but maybe they toned it down to be more palatable to a wider audience. I really enjoyed the salty hazelnut crumble and tart raspberry sauce that came with the ice cream.
I wasn’t surprised that this was my most expensive meal so far outside of Paris, but it was still much more affordable than I thought it should be.
My next quest was to find šakotis, also known as tree cake. It’s a traditional Lithuanian spit cake that’s eaten at celebrations, including weddings, and it’s in the same family as the German baumkuchen. My hostel roommate Mina from Daegu, South Korea, studied abroad four years ago in Vilnius for six months. She told me that I should be able to find it in grocery stores, and she was totally right. Maxima X carried it, so I got one medium-sized tree to bring to the regular Couchsurfing meeting in the evening.
Additionally, I snagged something that was like the Kohuke (glazed curd snacks) that I got in Tallinn, except this one was dotted with poppy seeds. I grabbed several chocolate bars from the three Baltic countries to give as gifts to my upcoming Couchsurfing hosts, and I spotted some fresh sea buckthorns at Rimi that I could have for breakfast the next day.
The Vilnius Couchsurfing meeting was at Turgus Bar, near the train and bus stations (and the Putin/Trump mural). I was happy to see that they had several different beers from Raudonų Plytų, but I ended up trying a local dry cider (€2.90) instead.
Turgus also has food, so I went with their lamb kebab wrap (€7). It definitely resembled a burrito but, of course, wasn’t at all. There was something too crunchy in it, and I wasn’t sure if it was bones or overcooked bits. But the flavor was quite good.
I had the privilege of meeting Gina (a local and the event host), Thomas (another local who had a Soviet-era film camera), and Adam (yet another local who is a veteran hitchhiker). Michael, who’s from Los Angeles, happened to be going to Kiev the next day on the same flight as mine. Monsef was also there after arriving on a bus from Tallinn. I love how many people from all over the world Couchsurfing brings together.