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Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania.

Quirky Capital City.

Beautiful St John's Church in Vilnius university - Vilnius

Beautiful St John's Church in Vilnius university - Vilnius

Vilnius.

We visited Vilnius in summer 2009 and loved it. It is a small city and you can certainly do the centre on foot. Vilnius was City of Culture 2009. There are several different aspects to the place. It is a city of churches, mainly in the Baroque style and has a beautiful old town. Some of the churches have been beautifully restored; some are in a sorry state of repair after misuse during Soviet times. Perhaps the most insulting misuse carried out by the Soviets was making the Church of St Casimir into the museum of atheism. The churches are not just museums. The Lithuanian people still appreciate their new found freedom of religious practice and you'll see lots of worshipers in the churches as well as tourists.

Vilnius - a troubled history.

Lithuania has been occupied by the Germans, the Russians, the Poles, the Latvians and the French. Its cemeteries provide an interesting insight into its past. Likewise so do its museums such as the Museum of the Holocaust, The KGB Museum, the TV tower. Vilnius also has its eccentric side, for example, its independent Republic of Uzupio and its Frank Zappa Monument.

My husband outside Holocaust Museum - Vilnius

My husband outside Holocaust Museum - Vilnius

Places to Stay:

Hotel Rinno: Good Location for Visit to Vilnius.

We stayed at the Rinno for two nights. It was within easy walking distance of the train and bus stations. The hotel is family run and the staff were helpful and friendly and spoke good English. Rooms were comfortable and clean but with no added frills. Leave valuables at the front desk. Breakfasts were good. You can eat inside or out. Help yourself at the cold food buffet and order extra hot food such as delicious homemade pancakes or egg dishes. It is very easy to walk to the city centre from this hotel. There are supermarkets and restaurants nearby. It is close to tram/bus stops.The only downside was the hotel was a bit noisy at night due to late night revelers on the street. Address: Vingriu 25.

Places to Eat.

Restaurant Gabi: "A filling meal in pleasant surroundings"

This restaurant is located half way between St Anne's Church and the main street of the old town. You will pass it if you follow the sign for St Anne's Church in the old town. It is near the Amber Museum. The restaurant has a pleasant old-fashioned interior and a lovely beer garden out the back. It has an English menu with clearly marked prices. Service was quick, pleasant, efficient and honest. Food comes in large hearty extremely filling proportions. We had garlic bread with cheese as a bar snack with our local Utenos and Svytyrus beers. Lithuanian beer is very good. I had mushroom filled ravioli for my main and my husband had zeppalini a local specialty of minced meat covered with potato and shaped like a zeppelin. We could hardly stand up by the end we were so full or maybe that was the beer. The bill was accurate and extremely good value. I'd happily eat here again.

My husband in Gabi restaurant - Vilnius

My husband in Gabi restaurant - Vilnius

Things to do:

Antakalnis Cemetery.

I found this cemetery fascinating because Lithuania has had such a varied and troubled history and this cemetery contains reminders from nearly every part of it. Antakalnis is sometimes called The Soldiers Cemetery. There is a monument to the Napoleonic soldiers who once occupied Lithuania, rows of small wooden crosses commemorating the Polish soldiers who died here, rows of Tartar graves, and an extinguished eternal flame and row of red army guards protecting the Soviet Army graves. A beautiful pieta statue stands next to the graves of the border guards and civilians killed in Lithuania's 1991 struggle for independence. We just happened to visit on the anniversary of one of these massacres and found that every one of the graves was adorned with beautiful fresh flowers showing that the Lithuanian people have not forgotten those who died to ensure their freedom. A visit here is a fascinating and moving experience. Some of the grave stones are incredibly ornate. Directions: Take a bus or tram heading towards Antakalnis from the centre of town. This cemetery is about 10 to 15 minutes walk from the Church of St Peter and St Paul.

Antakalnis Cemetery

Antakalnis Cemetery

Antakalnis Cemetery

Antakalnis Cemetery

Antakalnis Cemetery

Antakalnis Cemetery

The Church Of Sts Peter And Paul.

This church is away from the centre in the Antakalnis district of town. It can easily be combined with a visit to Antakalnis Cemetery and is reachable on foot or by tram. The church dates from 1668 and is worth visiting due to its stunning Baroque interior. The walls and ceilings of the church are covered everywhere with around 2000 white stuccoed figures. The church also has a huge chandelier shaped like a ship.

The Church Of Sts Peter And Paul

The Church Of Sts Peter And Paul

KGB Museum.

This is an interesting though fairly depressing place to visit. The KGB Museum is housed in a fairly attractive looking building which was once used as gestapo headquarters during the German occupation of Lithuania, then later became the headquarters of the KGB. Part of the building once housed a KGB prison. The outer walls of the building are now inscribed with the names of victims who died inside the prison's execution room. The museum is on 3 floors. Upstairs is concerned with life during the Soviet occupation. It contains the eavesdropping room in which people once monitored phone calls and bugged rooms etc. The ground floor has exhibitions concerning the life of Lithuanian partisans. Your life expectancy once joining a partisan movement was only around 2 years. This floor also houses exhibitions connected with deportations to Siberia, including photos and examples of handicraft showing how the Lithuanians maintained their traditions in the Siberian labour camps. Downstairs is the prison building with cells, a padded cell for prisoners who cracked under strain and where beatings could take place soundlessly. There is also a very disturbing water torture cell where victims were made to stand on a tiny raised platform. If they fell asleep or moved they would fall into the cold water or ice below. There is a small exercise yard and a glass floored execution room. Under the glass some of the belongings of execution victims are displayed. As can be expected the place, especially the prison, has a disturbing atmosphere, but provides an interesting insight into Lithuania's disturbing past.

KGB Museum

KGB Museum

Green Bridge.

This bridge dates from 1952 and has a soviet style sculpture at each of its four corners. When Lithuania gained its independence almost every Soviet era statue was removed and destroyed. Somehow these four survived. The statues represent Youth, Peace, Agriculture and Industry and Construction. Peace, which is a statue of two armed Soviet soldiers, has one of the very few remaining hammer and sickle symbols to be found in Vilnius.

Green Bridge

Green Bridge

Uzupio.

After Lithuania gained its independence this breakaway republic decided to declare itself independent, too. Located in the centre of Vilnius, just across the river from St Anne's Church , Uzupio attracted a community of artists and misfits, who decided to write their own constitution and declare themselves independent. Their independence Day is on April 1st and on that day people crossing into Uzupio can have their passport stamped. The Uzupio constitution includes clauses such as granting every dog the right to be a dog. In the centre of Uzupio, at the junction of Uzupio and Malunro, there once stood a giant egg statue. It was eventually claimed that this egg was hatching and on the first of April 2002, the now covered up egg was unveiled to reveal that it had changed into a beautiful angel statue. We found the original egg statue still going strong in a square near the Great Choral Synagogue.

Uzupio is worth a visit for its sheer lunacy. There are lots of restaurants here. We had a pleasant meal in the Uzupio pizza restaurant. The Bernadine Cemetery is in this area. Although we did not have time to visit this cemetery, it is described as the most romantic cemetery in Vilnius due to its beautiful location along the river. Directions: Walk across one of the bridges near St Anne's Church and you will see the defaced signs declaring you are entering the Republic of Uzupio.

Uzupio

Uzupio

Uzupio

Uzupio

Uzupio

Uzupio

The Gates Of Dawn.

The Gates of Dawn were originally part of the city walls, but later they were converted into a chapel. The chapel dates from the 16th century and houses an image of the Virgin Mary. The image which can be seen from the street as well as from within the chapel is supposed to be able to work miracles. If you are in the street facing the image there is a door to your left, pass through and climb the stairs to enter the chapel.

The Gates Of Dawn

The Gates Of Dawn

The Cathedral Of Sts Sanislav And Vladislav.

The cathedral is an impressive looking white building with a separate bell tower. The statues of 3 saints stand on the roof of the building. They are St Stanislaus, St Helena and St Casimir and represent Poland, Russia and Lithuania. The originals of these statues were removed by the Soviets in the 1950s. The present statues are copies and date from 1997. The present cathedral building dates from 1419. Inside have a look at the golden altar and the chapel of Saint Casimir ­ the patron saint of Lithuania. During Soviet times this building was used as a picture gallery. There were even rumours it was to be converted into a car repair shop. The building was reconsecrated in 1989. Outside, about halfway between the cathedral and the bell tower, you will find Stebakalas or the miracle stone. This stone marked the end point of the human chain for independence which stretched from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius on August 23rd 1989. If you stand on the stone, you can turn a complete circle clockwise and make a wish. At the side of the cathedral is a statue of Grand Duke Gediminas and his horse.

The Cathedral Of Sts Sanislav And Vladislav

The Cathedral Of Sts Sanislav And Vladislav

St Anne's Church.

You can reach this church by following the sign post on the main street of the old town. This church was designed by Benedikt Rejt who also designed parts of Prague Castle. The exterior of the building is very gothic and beautiful and is apparently made up of around 33 different kinds of brick. When Napoleon saw this building he was apparently so impressed with its beauty he wanted to take it back to Paris with him in the palm of his hand.

The Church Of St Ann

The Church Of St Ann

St Anne's Church

St Anne's Church

A Few Interesting Monuments.

The monument to Chiune Sugihara.

Chiune Sigihara lived from 1900 to 1986. From 1939 to 1940 he worked in the Japanese consulate in Kaunas. He was so alarmed by the horrendous treatment of Lithuanian Jews at this time that he, together with a Dutch colleague, issued around 6000 visas directly against his government's orders. He saved thousands of lives through his actions. When he was moved to Berlin in 1940 he gave his official stamp to a Jewish man on the train station platform enabling him to continue saving Jewish lives. Around 95% of Lithuania's Jewish population was murdered in the Holocaust. There is a small monument to Chiune Sugihara outside the Holocaust Museum. We did not enter the museum as it was closed when we got there. There is another monument to him outside the Reval Hotel Lietuva. I did not visit this but it supposedly has several cherry trees.

A Few Interesting Monuments

A Few Interesting Monuments

The Monument to Frank Zappa. ­

This monument is located in a car park and consists of a brass replica of Zappa's head on top of a stainless steel pole. It was commissioned by a Lithuanian student who is a Zappa fan and was made by Konstantinas Bogdanas a sculptor in his 80s who spent much of his creative life churning out Lenin statues. There are several psychedelic murals behind the statue.

A Few Interesting Monuments

A Few Interesting Monuments

A Few Interesting Monuments

A Few Interesting Monuments

The Three Muses.

The somewhat sinister looking statue of the three muses is located outside the National Theatre on Gedimino Street.

A Few Interesting Monuments

A Few Interesting Monuments

The Monument of the Barricades.

This is located outside the seimas or parliament building on Gedimino 53. Parts of the barricades erected to defend the newly independent Lithuanian parliament from a Soviet crackdown on January 13th 1991 have been kept. They are encased in glass and covered with political graffiti.

A Few Interesting Monuments

A Few Interesting Monuments

Vilnius In Your Pocket.
Look up Vilnius in Your Pocket on line before you go. It's got great tips on accommodation, restaurants, things to do and current events. We bought a hard copy at the airport when we arrived, too. The in your pocket series covers most of eastern Europe and some of western Europe, too. It is a wonderful travel guide.

Buses And Trams.

I strongly recommend a ride on some of the slightly battered local buses or trams. You can buy your ticket from the driver. They are great fun. However, make sure you get a ticket, the little old ladies who sometimes inspect tickets are noted for taking no prisoners when it comes to fare dodgers.

Posted by irenevt 03:39 Archived in Lithuania Comments (2)

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