June 4th, 2018
The bus from Serock to Warsaw, rather predictably, arrived late. From there, I skipped my usual stop and hoped it would stop at the Central station; it did. Then, I spent an embarrassingly long time searching for the right tram to the hostel. I’d booked something right by the airport, so that I could get a bit more sleep. It was a nice place; clean, comfortable, and quiet. I managed to nod off by 12, after a quick shower, and woke up several times before my final wake up call at 4am. I headed to the roof terrace for a coffee and one last look at the view.
I followed Google Maps to the train station. “Platform 2”, Google persisted to insist, as my train pulled up to platform 1. A quick sprint up and over the bridge and I made it on board. Security was quick and painless and I headed to Gate 1. That’s when I noticed that both my bag and pockets were lacking a passport. Three hours sleep, combined with chasing trains, was taking its toll. I managed to retrieve the passport from a member of staff and boarded the plane, from which I write this piece.
Working on the road is an odd thing. I’m on a plane to a country I’ve never visited, yet this feels less like a holiday and more like a commute. It’s only an hour, which is probably the shortest flight I’ve ever taken. Wizz Air is much nicer than its Irish cousin though, I have to say. It feels like we’ve barely taken off and the seat belt sign is back on ready for landing. I guess I should put my tray table up and finish this piece from Vilnius.
It turned out that the flight was barely 45 minutes and there was no border control so I was out into the city within minutes of landing. I walked out of the small, but pretty airport building and wondered how to get to town. I followed the signs to the trains, which led to a tiny, isolated, single platform in a valley. The next train wasn’t for about an hour, so I headed in search of a bus stop. When I found it, it was a small pole – no shelter, no bench – and was located away from the airport, with very few people and not a ticket machine in sight. The bus arrived and I jumped on, before realising it was going the wrong way.
So I hopped of, crossed the street and jumped on the other one. There were screens, which I figured sold tickets, but they were just for scanning already bought tickets. So I sat ticketless at the back of the bus, figuring that if an inspector came on, I’d just hop off. We went a couple of stops, when I noticed three quasi-police officer looking men, blocking each exit. They stopped me and asked for my “billet”, followed by my passport and stormed off to a van. They also had the ID of a man who looked homeless. After waiting for a few minutes, I was asked to get into the van, while vast amount of paperwork was filled out.
They took down my details, photocopied my ID and asked for the address of my hostel. I felt like I was being arrested or deported, but I knew that I was just going to be fined. The question: is how much? Figures like a €1000, or maybe 200 went through my mind. I’d have been happy with anything less than 100. I’ve never been fined before, but that seems like a reasonable amount. Eventually, the man got me to sign a bit of paper (who knows what I agreed to) and said I had to pay €8. I wondered if I’d misheard and he meant 80, but nope. €8 – still less than the same journey would cost in the UK. Thank God for that.
I had to walk the rest of the way, without any food, sleep or water. I vaguely headed in the direction that I thought would lead to the city centre. I found a network of stunning architecture lining winding back roads, so empty that this hardly felt like a city at all.
I’ve found a small burger restaurant with WiFi, so I’m having my breakfast, typing this and now I’m going to look up things to do, since it’s Sunday so I don’t have to work and no banks are open for me to pay my fine. I’m very tired.
I returned to the hostel for a nap. Unfortunately, I chose the time that church bells ring and choirs sing. This wasn’t going well. Eventually, I managed an extra hour’s sleep and headed back out after a coffee and a (warm!) shower. My accommodation is called Hostelgate and, despite being one of the cheapest options available, it’s perhaps the nicest hostel I’ve stayed in. It’s huge, so you never feel cramped, there’s free tea and coffee, private bathrooms, good WiFi and towels. Laundry, a sauna and a jacuzzi are available for a couple of Euros. Most importantly, it’s located on a lovely road in the Old Town, just a short stroll from the centre.
I wandered around the town, getting my bearings, until I stumbled upon a music concert. There was singing, followed by heavy metal, then a guy with a moustache and a guitar who didn’t like the stage. He ventured into the crowd and sang a song that I can only assume is entitled “Welcome to Lithuania” due to the repetition of that line. And as the crowd circled around him and sang those words, I did feel welcome.
I went to a bar, then another one and another one. The second had young people dancing some kind of swing, to music that was also some kind of swing. It was a weird kind of nostalgic, Disneyland kind of experience. I saw just one beggar by a church, but other than that, Vilnius is a cobbled street paradise. No alcoholics, no heroin needles, just people being friendly and smiling. Weird.
The next morning, I awoke after a long sleep. I had my coffee and a shower, washed my dirty underwear, and headed back out for food and a place to work. I looked up coworking spaces Vilnius, of which there were few within walking distance. I managed to get a free day pass to a nice looking place called Workaholics. It has modern office spaces, printers, fast internet and even a shower. I crossed the river to find it, but it seems to be hidden deep within a shopping centre. Unable to locate it, I settled down in Vero Café, with a Brazilian Americano, with a view of the river and the Church of Phillip and Jacob (whoever they are) and got to work.
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