This weekend I went to Vilnius with Xi. Coming out of the airport I saw lots of shacks and sheds and some very soviet-looking buildings. But that was just the bus ride that took us into town; the center of Vilnius is beautiful and wonderful and nothing like its surroundings. There's little squares and plazas everywhere, not to mention tons of churches. The river divides up the old town and the business district and the nearby hills form a great viewpoint and are easy to walk up to. All in all it gave me quite a Southern European vibe.
The remnants of Sovietness still remain in places. One example of such is the clothing. Lots of women seem to wear coats you only see in Soviet spy movies, and even the flight attendants at WizzAir (seriously? what a name...) were wearing the pink KGB coats. For that matter, despite the warm weather all the locals were walking around in heavy dark coats. It's hard to pinpoint a particular feeling to the local population. After all, we were only there for three days. During my brief stay there I'd say the children all seem very properly (religiously) dressed, as are the middle-aged and elderly people. But the middle generation in their 20s/30s all dress like a supercharged version of the classic British chav. One wonders about the future of Lithuania when confronted with such personalities.
It's not all bad though, and the chavvies are just the most noticeable of their generation. Vilnius was apparently the European capital of culture in 2009. It's an incredibly green city, with nature everywhere, and air that's very pleasant to breathe. Internet speeds are the highest in the world according to an unverified claim on wikipedia, but I'd believe it. There's free wifi almost everywhere and it is indeed really fast.
In three days we ended up walking through every bit of the old town at least twice, and most of it we did 3-4 times. It's really not a very big city, and the old town is walkable from end to end in about 30 minutes (if even). There's plenty of people watching to do, and the main street has tons of things to see during the weekend. It's also relatively unspoilt by annoying Western chain stores.
There's bicycles everywhere! There's dedicated cycling lanes all through the city but bikes of various types will zigzag around you in a nonthreatening fashion all the time. Most people seem to drive mountain bikes, which surely has something to do with the cobbly streets. I'd love to have a cycle around there if I had the chance. Maybe next time.
Vilnius. Nice place. Go visit.