My walks for the day started at the impressive university buildings with 13 different courtyards mainly baroque and leading off each other. There was also a huge church at the centre with 10 altars forming a theatrical group. I went up the bell tower and had views of the city in the rain. Vilnius is just heaving with churches Catholic, Russian and vast baroque edifices. It is surprising that they are in such good nick after 40 years of neglect during the soviet era.
I walked up through the old town to the holocaust centre pausing for lunch in a very trendy bar, with modish decor but I ate traditional beetroot soup and the potato stuffed pancakes.
The holocaust museum was incredibly moving, housed in a small green wooden house one walked through a series of rooms each illustrating different aspects of tense wish extermination in Vilnius. 63% of the 1937 population was Jewish and 100 000 were killed during the war. The Nazis were horrifyingly efficient and in Aug 1941 were killing and recording 1000 s killed each day. Then those remaining were rounded up into the ghetto where they made their own organisation and hoped by being useful to the Nazis to save their lives, but they were nearly all killed. There were mass killings of Jews all across Lithuania. The displays also showed the richness of the pre-war life in Vilnius with active professions and religious life. The exhibit brought home the richness of life in Vilnius and the huge cultural loss which made it even more painful. I also wondered what it feels like to lose a third of the population. Of course there were Lithuanian collaborators otherwise the killings could not have occurred. I then went to the Centre for Tolerance which had displays about Jewish life in avionics and Jewish life across the centuries. I only just managed to take in the richness of the life and Jewish history; I was maxed out on Jewish history and culture.
I also enjoyed seeing the designer shops in Vilnius and this also was a counterweight to the heaviness of the genocide. Went into an interesting art gallery (Terra Incognito) with a young Lithuanian artist selling the work of an older sculptor who made interesting pieces from stones and flints he had collected from the Baltic over 40 yrs. There was a small necklace made of many of stones in different shades of brown and one made of back flints with silver pieces. As I talked about them the girl in the shop who asked me what I did because I talked so artistically about the art works. She was disappointed when I said I was a doctor!
Then walked back down to the main square and sheltered from the rain. Vilnius is the wettest city I've been in, every type of rain occurs every day, gentle rain, heavy rain, short bursts, prolonged showers.
Made my way over to the modern hotel where our tour starts. We are a middle aged group, quite a few couples, a sizeable number of Germans and an Aussie couple. Our leader is a slim Latvian who does not look as though he has much experience of leading groups. It also feels a lot less structured than Exodus groups. Had supper with David and Maureen, the Aussie couple. They have just come from biking in Finland which sounds great fun.