Just two weekends ago, Roomet and I were enjoying a vacation in Estonia, when we decided to make a small trip to visit vSpa in Tartu for the first time. We enjoyed an incredibly wide selection of saunas and an outdoor jacuzzi in the sun, Tui Na massage (the first massage experience that was comparable to the massage in Thai Lotus Spa in Estonia), a private jacuzzi in our romantic Deluxe room, a 3-course delicious dinner at the Joyce Restaurant, and a rich breakfast buffet. Sometimes it’s nice to tour around Estonia and treat yourself.
The trip to Minsk that was supposed to take place the following weekend was as short-lived as an old couple’s foreplay. I’ve been travelling a lot recently as I promised to myself that 2018 would be the year I travel to a new destination every month. In September I planned for that destination to be Minsk. I have been wanting to visit Minsk for the longest time. So what went wrong?
We decided to travel by Lux Express. We lett on Thursday at 6pm and were supposed to arrive by 7.30 the following morning – an excruciating 13.5 hours on travel. We spent the first few hours we spent at the back of the coach like two naughty school kids. Fooling around and giggling, dedicating our planned time to work didn’t quite go as expected. At least we were tired enough to get some sleep around 10 o’clock in the evening. Have you tried sleeping on a coach? Needless to say, it wasn’t the most restful sleep. Here’s a little piece of advice so you don’t make the same mistake – stay clear from the last row of the coach. It might seem like a good idea to hide at the back away from everyone, be as far away from the toilets as possible, not hear the coach driver coughing incessantly, lower your seat as far back as possible. Guess what you cannot do? You cannot lower the seats at the back row! All other seats can be lowered to a comfortable position and then there was us practising all kinds of yoga poses to try and get comfortable.
Needless to it didn’t work so my creative country boy decided to get comfortable on the floor in front of the back seats. That way he could at least stretch out and I managed to lay across several seats to catch up on a few hours of sleep. That’s until we were suddenly awakened by a loud noise. A noise of someone saying “Passportõ” coming closer and closer… We had clearly arrived on the border of Belarussia. Still sleepy, we were hunting around our bags for passports when Roomet starts laughing suddenly: “Merru, I forgot my passport!” He was expecting an angry outburst but lucky for him I was too busy searching for my own. “F*ck, Roomet, I can’t find my passport,” looking guilty like a pupil whose teacher was waiting to be shown their homework. And presumably, this wasn’t the place for the “My dog ate it” excuse.
Hoping for the border control to not notice we handed our ID cards over. They threw those back at us as fast as we had handed them over AND asked if we were crazy. And in all fairness, we are a little. But that’s irrelevant. Now what? You guessed it. Time to get off the coach and make our way back. Luckily the border control supervisor was a nice man and said he would try and get us on the first coach back to Vilnius. He suggested visiting Vilnius instead, with the Pope visiting and all. Not to mention the spectacular fireworks festival. We got lucky and were back on the coach in a few minutes and only ended up paying €10 for it. Having said that, my €65 Airbnb was wasted so we had to make a decision whether to find a place to stay in Vilnius or go back to Tallinn.
We arrived at the Vilnius bus station at 5.30 in the morning with no sleep, nowhere to stay and hungrier than ever. At least one thing was good – our mood! Can you believe it? The old peace himself has managed to change me so much and make me believe in the plans of the Universe that absolutely nothing in this world can make me lose it. Even I could laugh at the situation we were in and even be excited about what else we were about to experience…
The tired look on Roomet’s face disappeared in a second at the sight of McDrive next to the bus station. It didn’t open until 6.30 so he decided to catch up on some sleep and I made myself look like a human again. Quick freshening up in the toilets, teeth brushed, face washed and makeup re-applied. “Wake up honey, McDonald’s awaits!”. Roomet had two meals and I had a coffee. After our coffees, we knew there was no going back to Tallinn. We were ready to discover Vilnius which is something neither of us had done before. What about our luggage though? As I’m an expert when it comes to hunting down Airbnb’s I found a beautiful place to stay.
It was a hostel right in the centre of the old town. It was the cheapest offer we could find for the night and we only paid €35 for the two of us. Even though the check-in didn’t start until 2 pm they allowed us to leave our luggage to go and discover the city empty-handed. The rooms in the hostel were beautiful, modern, clean and spacious. Each floor had a communal toilet and shower which were also perfectly clean. We got lucky with our room being right next to the bathrooms so it was possible to dash there without having to get dressed at night! The hostel offered a breakfast buffet for €5 which seemed more than reasonable but we purposely decided against it to unleash the foodies in us and enjoy the local restaurants and cuisine!
So we put our luggage in the hold and went off to discover the old town. It was a glorious day – the sun was shining, the temperatures were close to what you’d expect in the summer and our mood was through the roof. As we were walking in the park we saw a beautiful green spot in the shade so we decided to take off our shoes, lie down and relax. After fooling around for a good 20 minutes which is something we both excel at we fell asleep. Yes, you read it right, this power nap was desperately needed! That’s when we felt full of energy! Our eyes weren’t stinging anymore and we felt even happier than before! We were ready to conquer the old town.
We agreed to not let the camera come between us as it happened in Italy. Therefore we felt no pressure to capture every moment. We are still sick and tired of all the museums, sights and using a map to get to all the places that HAD to be seen. We made the conscious decision to take it easy, enjoy the cafes and outdoor restaurants, just walk and be. This is what our two days consisted of. The first day was dedicated to the old town and the second to the city centre. We walked all day and experienced the local cuisine. I definitely recommend trying the potato pancakes and potato patties! Yes, they were quite literally drowned in oil but worth every bite! Not to mention you will walk it off if you are the type of tourist who likes to walk around even a little. We also tried the local dumplings, crispy cheesy breadsticks (delicious!) and other snacks.
Making our way back to the hotel from the old town we came across a group collecting money by playing national music and dancing folk dance. There we were admiring the art through the camera lens. Suddenly I noticed Roomet moving along with the music. “Damn, I know how this is going to end…” “Merru, will you dance with me?” he said reaching for my hand before I could even roll my eyes. What the heck, you only live once! There we were, dancing in front of all these people staring at us. Goes without saying – something else we’ve never done before. Shortly we were not the only ones dancing. We were joined by other happy souls one of whom was a Hungarian national dancer. Unexpectedly we were dancing the Hungarian folk dance which had me lose my ring and made me sweat like nothing ever before. I’m proud to say we earned a decent mountain of coins!
The city was wild in preparing for the Pope to visit. The streets were closed and the main square of the city was full of people. They had set up a stage where spiritual musicians (sadly lacking singing skills!) we’re singing. This was unbelievably turned into an event you could only attend with a ticket. By 11 o’clock the queues were endless and the streets were filled with people as if expecting for the Pope to drive by any minute. As we were already there we decided to join the crowd for the opportunity the see His Holiness with our own eyes. We had been to his home country after all so seeing the resident himself seemed like the logical thing to do.
The minutes passed, the crowd was gathering but no sight of the Pope. We left our sweet spot to try and find out when we could possibly see the Pope. 5 o’clock was the answer! What were those people doing queuing up so early? This was worse than masses gathering in front of the Apple shops in anticipation of the new iPhone. That’s when we decided not to waste our precious time and carry on exploring the beautiful city.
We had much more explosive plans for the evening. We had bought the €20 tickets to see the annual international fireworks festival in Vilnius. The ticket provided us with the opportunity to enjoy the music by the local artists and four different fireworks shows. We were, in one word, stunned. It is the most magical things I have ever laid my eyes on… I am a huge fan of the fireworks and have always watched the New Year’s fireworks. This, however, was something extraordinary. Yes, it was cold, windy and raining but I would not have traded those 3 hours for anything. This was the moment I realised why we ended up not going to Minsk and “had to resort” to Vilnius. It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen and without our “mishap” I would have never even known about this event. Thank you, wonderful border guard, for your recommendation.
To sum our wonderful weekend up I’d like to say that you can plan all you like but things don’t always work out that way. And that’s when it is important to remember not to let that ruin your mood. Because you can’t lose what you haven’t yet had. It’s in your own hands to adapt to the new situation and create the reality you want. Which is exactly what we did – we were able to laugh about the situation we got ourselves into and turn it into the most positive experience possible. This weekend in Vilnius was more relaxing and fun than our perfectly planned Italy trip. The charm is in spontaneity! And should you want to get involved in our adventure of being thrown off the bus, enjoying the various foods in Vilnius, the mass psychosis with the arrival of the Pope and the incredible fireworks show, come take a look at my Instastory highlights and our YouTube vlog: