little did i know when i booked my Airbnb that the neighborhood it was in, Užupis, was so…vibrant! it’s just east of Old Town, surrounded on three sides by the Vilnia River, and has a completely different vibe than the rest of the city, more akin to Christiania of Copenhagen but less hippie and more law-abiding (as far as i can tell). despite that, in 1997, the residents of this neighborhood declared themselves an independent republic with a constitution, army, flag, and so on. their independence day is April 1, so take it how you will. 🙂
in the 1990s, Užupis started gentrifying. what was as a long-neglected, abandoned neighborhood has seen its population go from prostitutes and homeless squatters to bohemians and artist squatters to hipsters and coffee shops and even the current mayor of Vilnius. despite these changes (and the influx of tourists taking a peek), i hope the residents can continue its indie spirit.
the art scene (besides lots of street art, to my pleasant surprise) is getting legitimized with the opening of some galleries near the river. most works on public display — especially those down by the river — are humorous and light-hearted, fitting very well with the free spirit of the community. definitely take a walk along the river — there are some cool pieces literally hanging around.
its constitution is printed on mirrored plaques in multiple languages along a wall on Paupio Street — my favorite articles are:
- 4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
- 5. Everyone has the right to individuality.
- 6. Everyone has the right to love.
- 33. Everyone has the right to cry.
- 35. No-one has the right to make another person guilty.
before the rest of the pictures, a word about food: there’s a small Iki grocery store (it takes mag stripe credit cards, like most places here, btw) at the square, along with several restaurants. i was unimpressed with the pizzeria on Paupio (despite high ratings on Foursquare, though i only tried it once, to be fair) and the cafe that’s at the river, but up the hill on the main street (Užupio g.) on the right is a French cafe and bakery, Thierry Kepykla. right across the street from my Airbnb, it ended up being my neighborhood haunt. the lattes are pretty good but go for the almond croissants. they came highly recommended on Foursquare, and for good reason. i could eat the filling by the spoonful!
and now, the Instawalk:
today’s my last day in Vilnius, so i must say goodbye, Užupis! stay quirky!