Wonderful Vilnius - three days
11.05.2012 4 °C
====First day: City tour of Vilnius by car
I visited the city the first day on arrival in Vilnius during the afternoon. It was a scenic tour with a guide who showed me the different neighborhoods and architectural styles of the city, from the Romanesque to the little wooden houses and skyscrapers.
We started the route starting at the most famous avenue, Gediminas Avenue. It is here where the KGB Museum is located, with the names of Lithuania’s fallen patriots carved in the stone facade of the building. At the end of the mile long avenue we can see the Cathedral, a Catholic church, on one side of the street and an Orthodox Church on the other. Next, we passed the library and Lithuania’s Parliament building. Behind the Parliament we could see some remains of barricades, crosses and blocks. Fourteen people died fighting for independence against the Soviets.
Then, we went to the neighborhood of Snipiskés to see the TV Tower, which is the tallest building in Lithuania (326 m).
Another point of interest is the nineteenth century area with the little wooden houses. I hope the Lithuanians find the means to restore these beauties... Striking contrast with the XXI century city: strangely shaped skyscrapers, metal, plastic, glass, cement...
We left the "Hong Kong of the North" passing St. Peter and St. Paul’s church, whose interior is formidable according to the guide (due to lack of time, I will visit it during my next trip to Vilnius).
Then, we arrived at one of my favorite places in Vilnius – the district of Uzupis. In 1998 young artists proclaimed the Republic of Uzupis with its President, a Queen chosen every year, its ambassadors, its flag and a Constitution that can be read in several languages in Paupio street. This is a Constitution that is idealist, humanist, surreal and very amusing. It has 41 articles which are very interesting and some very funny. Two of my favorite ones are:
Everyone has the right to celebrate his birthday or not.
Everyone is responsible for his own freedom.
An angel protects Uzupis. There are angels and crosses in numerous places, sometimes hidden as if to surprise us and play with us.
The Russian quarter is interesting with the beautiful church of Saint Anne. Apparently, when Napoleon saw it, he fell in love with it and wanted to take it with him.
We passed the remains of Gedeminas Castle, the Cathedral Square, Pilies Street which is a very lively main street.
We ended our route admiring the Presidential Palace where Napoleon lived just over two weeks, the University, the Jewish quarter with its streets shaped as the sun rays (we are now in the sixteenth century), the Town Hall Square, and the Gate of Dawn.
Talking about politics, history, cuisine and traditions of these people and places, I felt at home and willing to explore the city walking around on foot.
I decide to visit the television tower, which is the pride of the Lithuanians ... (the visit costs 9LT). There is a rotating restaurant where you can have a drink or dinner enjoying a magnificent view of the city.
Second day: Visit of the Old Town on foot in the morning. Trakai in the afternoon.
The journey with Jelena, a guide working with www.yourdest.com, started on a very sunny day from the Cathedral Square (Arkikatedros Aksté), a very nice place with the Tower of Gediminas waving the Lithuanian flag and watching our visit pensively from above. The steeple of different architectural styles and separated from the Cathedral is interesting. At its foot is the "Stabuklas" which means ‘miracle’. A legend says that if you turn around three times and jump three times your wish will come true. I asked that my cousin to recovers soon. From this point, on August 23, 1989 a human chain of nearly 600 km began and reached Tallinn. There were approximately two million people holding hands, singing to demand the release of Soviet occupation. This was one of the touching moments of mi visit listening to Jelena...
After visiting the cathedral and the charming story of the many miracles that took place in Vilnius, we passed by the University and the Presidential Palace.
We were surprised to see no police protecting the president. Vilnius is truly a capital city without security problems...
The Church of Saint Francisco and Saint Bernardo allows us to read the history of the city: the fifteenth-century frescoes, the altars and the imprint of the Soviet occupation. Lithuanians prefer not to rebuild and refresh historically significant sites to keep alive the trace of history. Personally, I agree and I would like this to be left as is ... Just ahead, the church of Saint Anne a building of red bricks, in gothic style (the one Napoleon wanted).
I loved the market in front of the Orthodox Church. It reminded me of Tallinn’s markets with handicrafts and the peculiar wool caps.
After that, we walked through the Jewish quarter, the Town Hall Square, through winding medieval streets and courtyards. We also visited the Museum of Amber, a special place located in a cellar which provides with lots of information on everything concerning amber. For the first time I tried the amber liquor that apparently is great for people with stomach diseases and I learned how to tell the quality of amber...
The visit ended at my door , the door of Dawn (my name is Alba, you know), which is the only remaining of the ten that protected the city at medieval times. Passing through the door, it is customary to turn to the painting of Our Lady of Vilnius and to cross themselves, which many people do.
In the afternoon we visited Trakai which is 28 km from Vilnius. The medieval old town is a peninsula surrounded by lakes which provide a natural setting of great beauty, not to mention the beautiful wooden houses of the Karaites minority. The castle was built by Gediminas and it is interesting because it shows the times of Trakai starting from the fourteenth century in a didactic way – battles, kings, coins of the time, sculptures, paintings ... a really essential place for lovers of nature and history...
Third day: KGB Museum
The last day I could only count with morning time because my flight was leaving at two in the afternoon.
Being aware of not being able to visit all the numerous points of interest of Vilnius, I chose to visit the the KGB museum. This building is the symbol of 50 years of Soviet occupation. Over 20,000 people died fighting in the resistance after the war; over 130,000 were deported of which 28,000 died in camps. The prison is presented as it was left in 1991. In the basement two cells of 6m ², torture cells, the execution chamber, the eavesdropping room where the secret listening to people's conversations was carried out... Downstairs, the exhibition of documents and photographs relating to Lithuania in 1940 - 1941, resistance from 1944 to 1953 and the unequal struggle. The first floor shows how the deportations were organized, the living conditions of exiles, and the KGB laboratory.
This last visit to Vilnius was very sad and sorrowful, but I'm glad that I’ve seen it so I’ll be able to tell about it... This was a quick visit to Lithuania, but I will be back to see not only Vilnius, but also the coast, especially Klaipedia with its beautifully preserved natural landscapes … and to eat few zepellines ====