For those arriving in Vilnius fresh from running Riga and Tallinn, don’t expect the same flat terrain you enjoyed in those cities. This place is known as “The City of Seven Hills” for good reason. Between going up Aušros Vartu Street to see the Gates of Dawn, or trooping down Pilies Gatve to check out old Vilnius University, or heading back up into the arty backstreets of the Independent Republic of Užupis, you’ll be doing a good bit of climbing. The extra workout is well worth it, however, for throughout the city center there are numerous beautiful squares and quaint cobblestone streets to explore. And at the end of the day, the friendly and good-humored locals will ensure you have enough carbs on your plate and in your pint glass to be adequately refueled.
Vilnius is one of the most visited cities in Eastern Europe, so because of crowds and cobblestones steer clear of running in the city center. There is limited running down by the Neris River, but Kainu Park, Sereikiškiu Park, and the Hill of Three Crosses are easily accessible for an in-town jaunt. Should you wish to run further afield, Vingio Park is the place to go.
- Crosswalks: Lithuania is long past her Soviet past, but her geographic straddling of East and West is still apparent on Vilnius’ roads. In short, drivers here are sometimes cautious, sometimes crazy, and always unpredictable. Lithuania leads the European Union in rate of road fatalities, and the danger is particularly evident at crosswalks. While advances have been made in granting pedestrians the right of way, drivers still tend to speed right up to the white lines. Only at the last second do they slam on their brakes.
- Park Path Reconstruction: This warning particularly applies to Kainu Park and the Hill of Three Crosses (see Run #1). Kainu and the Hill are 85% ready to anchor a perfect downtown run, but until that last 15% is completed, running this area can be annoying. Think of it this way: the set of wood stairs leading to the hill’s summit provides a great thigh-burning challenge, but every 8.5 steps or so the necessary 1.5 steps are missing or broken. And that nifty side path that winds down the backside of the hill? It would make a perfect scenic forest loop if it were more than 85% complete, but the unfinished 15% leaves you delicately picking your way down muddy terrain.
- Unmarked Border Crossings: Believe it or not, an independent republic exists in Vilnius’ city’s limits. Proud of its reputation for being arty and insubordinate, Užupis, a neighborhood on the other side of the Vilna River, declared its independence from Lithuania in 1997. Since then it has elected its own president, drawn up its own Constitution, designed its own flag, and celebrated several Independence Days (April 1). At the time of writing relations were good between Vilnius and Užupis, and you didn’t need to show your passport to enter the area.
In the mood to rent a bike? Check in with Frankas at BaltiCCycle to find out about city rides, rentals, and bike touring opportunities. Frankas heads up an inter-Baltic network of cycle shop owners that can help you plan a journey through the region.
BalticCycle - Bernadinu g. 10-6
Did you know? In the 14th century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe. Her territory comprised much of present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and even parts of Poland and Russia.
Did you also know? In 1990 Lithuania became the first country to secede from the Soviet Union.