Expat view: Vilnius Off the beaten path

  • 2008-01-16

HIDDEN HISTORY: Sv. Dvasios, a street in Vilnius' Old Town, has deliberately been left untouched by renovation.

Julia Bojko, a Lithuanian-American from Philadelphia, has been living in Vilnius for the past year and a half and currently teaches English at a private school. In this article she shares her favorite, lesser-known Vilnius view with readers of The Baltic Times.

There are two types of travelers: those who are organized and create a detailed  itinerary, and  those who are the carefree, spontaneous type.
The organized type of traveler is easy to pick out of a crowd 's they are the ones eating in the tourist restaurants, drinking in the tourist bars and walking along the tourists trails with a travel guide book clutched in their hands. These are the people who try to see and do everything recommended by their sacred travel guides. 

The other type of traveler is harder to spot because they are mainly wanderers. They have no itinerary, do not know where the tourist bars and restaurants are, and I can guarantee that they have never read a travel guide from cover to cover. These are the people who seem to be more interested in what they just might happen to stumble upon. They are interested in getting the true feel of a place and learning the kind of strange tidbits that would make them a great teammate in a pub quiz.
Having experienced both ends of the spectrum, I recommend finding a balance between the two.  When I first arrived in Vilnius, I found myself wandering aimlessly up and down a maze of streets that Old Town possesses and came across an interesting street of some importance. 

Walk through the Gates of Dawn, turn left and walk through the parking lot. Here you will come to Sv. Dvasios, a street that looks dark and dreary, riddled with potholes and lined with dilapidated buildings.
It makes you think you just walked onto the set of a World War II movie. I later learned that, in fact, Lithuania keeps Sv. Dvasios that way precisely so it can be used in such films.
In recent years, Lithuania has become a popular destination for crews producing movies, documentaries and TV programs. The last "Highlander" movie, the latest Daniel Craig film and "War and Peace" are examples of movies that have been filmed here. Also, the History Channel has been known to use Lithuania for reenactments, and this street has an impressive resume with them. 
At the end of the street is the Artilerijos Basteja, a section of medieval Vilnius' former fortifications. On a clear day you can get a spectacular view of Old Town from here.

So whether you are an organized traveler who is a strict follower of the religion of the travel guide, or a wanderer who just happens to stumble upon things, you will be delightfully surprised to be able to travel back in time, even if only for a minute, with a visit to Sv. Dvasios. With the majority of tourists and even Lithuanians not knowing about this little gem, the street is truly off the beaten path.