I'm in no state to be blogging, but I'm doing it anyway. For the last four days I've been attending an inspiring, if a bit intense, conference in Vilnius, Lithuania and it has left me pretty zonked. (Though I was kept very alert during the conference by two delicious coffee breaks and delicious lunchtime coffee service.) I'm already headed back to Moscow tomorrow morning.
I can't say that I'm incredibly excited about this.
Vilnius -- besides being a fantastic and adorable historic town -- also knows what food and coffee should taste like (something I'd have trouble saying about Moscow). I was actually a bit surprised I like it here so much, because two years ago when I visited as part of my Baltic Backpacking Bonanza, I wasn't such a fan. I don't know what I was thinking back then. The only reason I can come up with is that I was tired and cranky and took it out on poor Vilnius. I mean, how could one not like a town where achoo means 'thank you'?? (Actually spelled: ačiū in Lithuanian but pronounced sort of like achoo, just with the stress on the first syllable.)
Well, at least I won't be arriving back in Moscow quickly. My travel itinerary has me on buses and trains (well, a bus and a train) for almost 24 hours. This was also how long it took me to get to Vilnius from Moscow.
What?!?!?!? (You might be thinking.) Well, I decided not to fly because the prices shot up at the last minute, but secretly I wanted to take the train anyway. However, I couldn't take the train directly from Moscow to Vilnius because that train goes through Belarus and Belarus hates Americans and would have charged me $177 for a transit visa. Soooo... I took a train from Moscow to Riga, Latvia (transit time: 16 hours), then waited a few hours in Riga, then got on a bus from Riga to Vilnius (transit time: 4.5 hours). On the map the green letters are the train stops and the red arrow is the bus part.
I quite enjoyed the traveling. And I'm looking forward to the return trip tomorrow (aside from the "leaving Vilnius" part). I thought this was because I'd developed a romantic perspective on Russian train travel having to do with more closely aligning the the passage of space and time and staying connected to the land. Then today I realized that I was fooling myself with all of this. The real reason I wanted to take the train (+bus) was to get out of Moscow for as long as possible.
But on Tuesday morning I'll arrive back in Moscow. And that's where I'll remain for six straight months.
Well, so long Vilnius, and thanks for all the coffee!