Vilnius Journals

Vilnius I: A Historical Overview

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A June 2005 trip to Vilnius by Owen Lipsett

Vilnius Baroque Old Town Photo, Vilnius, Lithuania More Photos
Quote: Lithuania’s verdant capital contains a stunning array of ornate churches in its UNESCO-listed baroque Old Town, excellent museums, and a quirky atmosphere that is at once sophisticated and charmingly provincial. Consequently, it’s one of the nicest and most rewarding places to visit – anywhere.

Vilnius I: A Historical Overview

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Overview

Vilnius' Baroque Old Town Photo, Vilnius, Lithuania
Quote:
Vilnius begins literally, figuratively, and indeed historically at Gediminas Hill. The hill takes its name from the Grand Duke who according to legend dreamt of an iron wolf howling upon it with the voices of a hundred wolves, which he took as a signal to build a fortress city as powerful as their cries. The site was actually inhabited long before Gediminas had his dream in 1323, although the modern city of Vilnius did arise around that time. The Lower Castle (which is currently being rebuilt) guarded the base of the Hill, while the Upper Castle(which today houses a museum) stood on its summit, with the town clustered in between. Beside the ruins of the Lower Castle stands the air...Read More

Gediminas Hill (Higher and Lower Castles)

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Attraction

Gediminas Hill  (Higher and Lower Castles) Photo, Vilnius, Lithuania
Quote:
Fittingly, many artists have used Gediminas Hill, where the Grand Duke of the same name established the fortress that became Vilnius in 1323, to symbolize Vilnius. Although legend holds that he chose to fortify the site because he dreamt of an iron wolf howling on its summit with the voices of one hundred wolves, it seems more likely that its strategic location overlooking the confluence of the Vilnia and Neris Rivers led Gediminas to fortify the settlement that already existed on the site. Nevertheless, a metal statute at the Hill’s base commemorates the story, although it strangely (some might even say "iron-ically") features a wolf made of stone. Opposite the statue, at the Hill’s base, are...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 4, 2005

Gediminas Hill (Higher and Lower Castles)
Gediminas Hill
Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius Cathedral

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Attraction

Vilnius Cathedral Photo, Vilnius, Lithuania
Quote:
It’s perhaps appropriate that much of the neoclassical exterior of Vilnius’ Cathedral resembles a pagan Greek temple since it occupies a site where Lithuanians once worshipped the fire god Perkunas. When Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania converted to Christianity in 1387 as a condition of Lithuania’s Royal Union with Poland, he took the name Wladislaw (Ladislaus) and ordered the construction of a church to serve as part of the Lower Castle complex. In recognition of his conversion and the Royal Union, the church was dedicated to SS Ladislaus and Stanislaus, the latter being Poland’s patron saint. The neoclassical structure, designed by Laurynas Gucevicius between 1783 and 1801, gives no hint of ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 4, 2005

Vilnius Cathedral
Katedros 1
Vilnius, Lithuania

National Museum of Lithuania

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Attraction

National Museum of Lithuania Photo, Vilnius, Lithuania
Quote:
Main Exhibition Located in the attractive 18th-century New Arsenal, the nature of the National Museum of Lithuania evokes the peaks and valleys of Lithuania’s modern history rather more effectively than its collections themselves. Its somewhat rambling permanent collection is strongest in its repository of portraits, ecclesiastical objects, coins, and books from the Lithuania’s four centuries in union with Poland (1387-1795). The combined state was the largest and most powerful in Europe in the late 17th century, but unfortunately, the displays contain precious few descriptions in Lithuanian, let alone English, to elucidate this. The visitor is left to infer Vilnius’ role as a ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 4, 2005

National Museum of Lithuania
Arsenalo 1
Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius University

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Attraction

Vilnius University Photo, Vilnius, Lithuania
Quote:
Founded in 1570, Vilnius University dominates the northwestern portion of the Old Town, symbolizing the role it has enjoyed in the country’s intellectual life since its foundation. Although visitors are officially supposed to pay a nominal entry fee, you actually have to go quite out of your way to do so, as the entrance is open to pedestrian traffic and the ticket office, whose staff members speak little English, is difficult to find. Given the confusion I encountered when I conscientiously sought to pay for entry (which ended up being apologetically refused!), I would advise any visitor to enter unobtrusively and to contribute to the university’s well-being by making a purchase at the excellent gi...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 4, 2005

Vilnius University
Universiteto gatve
Vilnius, Lithuania