Written by Owen Lipsett on 10 Jan, 2005
While it’s hard to find an uninteresting building in Vilnius’ sprawling Baroque Old Town, if you only have limited time in the city, your visit will be incomparably richer if you visit these three churches. All are open to the public on Mondays, when…Read More
While it’s hard to find an uninteresting building in Vilnius’ sprawling Baroque Old Town, if you only have limited time in the city, your visit will be incomparably richer if you visit these three churches. All are open to the public on Mondays, when the city’s museums are closed.
St. Anne’s Church
According to legend, when the Emperor Napoleon stopped in Vilnius at the beginning of his ill-fated attempt to invade Russia, he was so enamored of this magnificent brick Gothic church that he expressed the desire to bring it back with him to France in the palm of his hand. Another, perhaps more credible version of the same story holds that he considered ordering it dismantled brick by brick so that it could be reassembled on French soil, not unreasonable given the Emperor’s fondness for spiriting away artistic (if not architectural) treasures from lands he conquered.
Fittingly, the history of the church’s construction itself is shrouded in mystery, although this has only served to enhance its status as the most celebrated work of architecture in the entire country. Twice as high as it is broad and perfectly symmetrical, it utilizes thirty-three different shapes of brick. Historians have been unable to agree when its spectacular brick Gothic façade was constructed, let alone by whom. It certainly served some purpose as a part of a larger brick Bernardine Friary, and thus must have been built no earlier than 1469 when the order (an offshoot of the Franciscans) arrived in Vilnius, although it was dwarfed in size (and probably importance) by the adjacent Church of SS Francis and Bernardino. Consequently, its interior is relatively modest.
Church of St. Casimir
By contrast, the Jesuit church dedicated to St. Casimir, Lithuania’s patron saint, is modest neither inside nor outside. Its dome, topped by a lantern which is in turn topped by a crown added in 1942 to commemorate St. Casimir’s royal lineage, is visible from every point along the Old Town’s main throughfare, on which it is located. Lithuania’s Soviet occupiers duly noted its prominent position and sought to strike at Lithuanian nationalism and Catholicism alike by converting it into a "Museum of Atheism" between 1966 and 1988. By contrast, Vilnius’ Cathedral was pressed into service as a secular art gallery!
Prior to Soviet rule, the church projected the power of the Jesuit order, which dominated Vilnius’ spiritual and intellectual life during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Construction began in 1604, a mere two years after St. Casimir’s canonization, under the auspices of the local architect Jan Prochowicz. It was most likely designed, however, by the Italian Giovanni Maria Bernardoni, who designed several other Jesuit churches in Eastern Europe that were modeled on the order’s mother church of Il Gesu in Rome. The twin towers, however, which differ from the originals, are clearly Prochowicz’ touch. In any case, it was the first baroque building of any kind to be constructed in Vilnius, and while the Jesuits’ intellectual imprimatur may have waned, their architectural influence remains evident, as this is the Old Town’s dominant architectural style.
Church of the Holy Spirit
Before stepping inside, the only hint a visitor has that the baroque Church of the Holy Spirit, designed in 1749 by Jan Kryzysztof Glaubitz, is consecrated as an Orthodox place of worship is the Cyrillic inscription on the archway that leads to its courtyard. This has much to do with the identity of its architect, the acknowledged master of the so-called "Vilnius Baroque" style who is best known for the Jesuit St. John’s Church (inside Vilnius University), which was completed in the same year. Glaubitz, who spent nearly three decades designing churches for the Jesuit order, wasn’t overly consumed by sectarian matters, as he was an Evangelical Lutheran himself!
The presence of the church in the heart of Vilnius’ Old Town is a commendation to the spirit of tolerance under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which allowed all three faiths (and Glaubitz himself) to prosper. It owes its position as Lithuania’s most important Orthodox church, however, to the presence of the preserved remains of a trio of victims of intolerance: SS Anthony, Ivan, and Estachius. The three men, servants at the court of the pagan Grade Duke Algirdas, were martyred in 1347 when the latter suddenly reversed his policy of tolerating Christians. The gigantic green iconostasis, which is only marginally more tasteful than the martyrs’ shriveled feet poking out from the shroud below it, is thought to have been designed by Glaubitz himself. Its incorporation of Baroque paintings alongside traditional Orthodox icons is offered as support for this supposition.
Although the Lithuanian State Jewish Museum and National Museum of Lithuania hint at elements Vilnius’ multiethnic past, I have yet to encounter a guidebook or a museum that presented it in an a straightforward or narrative manner. Consequently, I hope this humble contribution may…Read More
Although the Lithuanian State Jewish Museum and National Museum of Lithuania hint at elements Vilnius’ multiethnic past, I have yet to encounter a guidebook or a museum that presented it in an a straightforward or narrative manner. Consequently, I hope this humble contribution may be of some use to you in appreciating the multiple influences that have shaped what is now a predominantly Lithuanian city.
"Lithuania! My fatherland!" Every Polish schoolchild knows though words because the constitute (in Polish) the first line of Poland’s national epic, Pan Tadeusz. Yes, you did read that correctly. The explanation for this paradox is that their author, Adam Mickiewicz (or Adomas Mickevicus, as he’s known is Lithuania), hailed from the vicinity of Vilnius and attended Vilnius University until he was expelled for anti-Russian activities in 1824. That Lithuanians and Poles alike consider him among their greatest poets (the latter having a stronger claim in that their language was the mother tongue in which he wrote) hints at the fraught relationship between the two peoples.
The Polish-Lithuanian Union (1387-1795) preserved the latter’s independence. This prevented Vilnius (or Kaunas for that matter) from becoming a member of the German Hanseatic League, unlike all the major towns in modern-day Latvia and Estonia, and consequently it never developed a sizable German population. Lithuania did, however, acquire a sizable Polish population, and to this day ethnic Poles constitute 7% of the country’s population, making them the country’s second largest ethnic minority group (after Russians). Quite a few Lithuanians emigrated to Poland, among them some of the ancestors of Karol Wojtyla (better known to the world as Pope John Paul II) who honored them in 1993 by planting a cross on the Hill of the Crosses outside Siauliai in northern Lithuania.
In general, however, the relationship between the two countries, which today are officially NATO allies, has been highly contentious. Poles generally regard the Union as their nation’s golden age, while many Lithuanians regard it as a time during which Poland sought to politically and culturally dominate them. The second period of the Union, when it was declared a Commonwealth (Rzeczpolita) and the whole realm was ruled from Warsaw, rather than the constituent elements being governed from Vilnius and Krakow, respectively, particularly aggrieves modern Lithuanians. To put this in its proper context, however, Lithuanians much preferred this arrangement to rule by Russia (1795-1919) which sought to impose the Orthodox religion and Russian language on the country, even though Vilnius regained its status as a capital, albeit a provincial one.
The current uneasy relationship between Poland and Lithuania is rooted in the 20th century, however. Not only was Poland’s national poet born in Lithuania, so too was General Jozef Pilsudski, the founder of the modern Polish state, who was born in 1867 to a noble family in Zulow, although he regarded Vilnius as his home city. Although many of the region’s inhabitants were ethnic Poles, Pilsudski’s ancestors were Lithuanians, albeit ones who had long been Polonized. After defeating the Bolsheviks to assure Poland’s postwar independence, Pilsudski sought to retake Lithuania and Ukraine from them as well in the hope of reestablishing the Commonwealth. However Polish forces under General Lucjan Zeligowski (another ethnic Lithuanian) only succeeded in gaining control of Vilnius and southeastern Lithuania and after Lithuanian forces successfully drove out the Bolshevik invaders themselves, he was compelled to recognize the country’s independence.
Although Pilsudski’s actions and his opposition to Lithuanian independence are today generally seen as repugnant, they were typical of his time. Although he was eager to reestablish the Commonwealth for historical reasons, he did not believe that Lithuania was sufficiently large enough to preserve its independence as a practical matter. Both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (neither of which had previously existed as a political unit) were created at the same time based on the same assumption. Polish speakers also far outnumbered Lithuanian speakers within the city at the time, although the rulers of the new Lithuanian state regarded the city’s inclusion into Poland as such an affront that they designated Kaunas their "Provisional Capital." To this day, inhabitants of the city are wont to point out that it is the country’s most ethnically Lithuanian city, both as a proportion and an absolute number of its population.
It was Jews, rather than Poles or Lithuanians, who constituted the largest ethnic group in inter-war Vilnius. The first Jews came to Lithuania before the Polish-Lithuanian Union, at the invitation of Grand Dukes Augustus II and Augustus III, who sought their expertise in trade and as craftsmen. The community flourished under the toleration afforded by the Union (although this was often more in law than in fact) and concentrated its activities in Vilnius, which was second only to Warsaw as a center of Jewish learning. The scholar Gaon of Vilna, after whom a street in the Old Town is named, was esteemed as the 18th century’s Jewish scholar. This role continued between the wars as YIVO, a worldwide organization for the preservation of Yiddish language and culture, was located in Vilna (as the city was known in Yiddish), rather than Warsaw or New York.
Over ninety percent of present-day Lithuania’s Jewish population was murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. The extent of complicity by Lithuanians in the Holocaust remains heavily debated by the country’s historians to this day. While, as elsewhere in Eastern and Central Europe, many anti-Semitic attitudes persist, it’s to the country’s great credit that in addition to offering an apology for the genocide, it has established and supported a State Jewish Museum. Not only is such recognition of this historic community (which today numbers 6,500, of whom 5,000 live in Vilnius) welcome, but the candor with which the exhibition deals with the attempts of Lithuanians to both collaborate with the Nazis and save the country’s Jews is also particularly striking.
No summary of Vilnius’ multiethnic past and present would be complete without reference to the Russian influence on the city, although it is far less noticeable than in either of the other Baltic capitals. Large-scale Russian immigration began after Lithuania’s incorporation into the Tsarist Empire in 1795, and a century later, Russians constituted approximately a fifth of the city’s population, as they do today. The main testament to the period of Russian rule (1795-1919) are the city’s many Orthodox churches, although the most famous, the Church of the Holy Spirit, predates it. While the city’s outskirts bear the unmistakeable mark of Soviet architecture, and certain churches retain the scars of atheist reappropriation, central Vilnius seems less marked by this period than any other large city in the Baltics.
Written by marif on 12 Apr, 2004
Don't expect to feel Old Town charm; neither should you expect to see historical buildings and wonderful architecture. Yet walking along Gediminio prospektas gives visitors the opportunity to taste the city's administrative and commercial centre and feel the pulse of the Lithuanian people away from…Read More
Don't expect to feel Old Town charm; neither should you expect to see historical buildings and wonderful architecture. Yet walking along Gediminio prospektas gives visitors the opportunity to taste the city's administrative and commercial centre and feel the pulse of the Lithuanian people away from touristic sights and attractions.
Before starting our long walk along Gediminio prospektas, walk a couple of metres south in the direction of the University complex to reach Daukanto aikste, the beautiful square partly occupied by the Presidential palace. This building whose current external architecture dates back to 1832 served several purposes, from headquarters of the Governor General of Vilnius to temporary residence for the French general and emperor Napoleon. You can take a guided tour to visit its interior furnished with fine Lithuanian and Russian classicist furniture.
Gediminio prospektas whose name for political reasons or otherwise was changed several times through the centuries is the wide avenue connecting Cathedral square with the Zverynas district and runs in a direction east-west for about 2kms crossing the Neris river at its westernmost end. On the right side of Gediminio prospektas, the first noteworthy building is the post office. Occupying the ground floor of a large building, it is always crowded with locals and besides the usual services, it houses a small yet excellent philatelic exhibition. The building which adjoins the post office at Gediminio prospektas 9 is occupied by the offices of the Vilnius Municipality which deals mostly with everyday city matters. Continue walking west until you reach the Vilnius County Governor's Administrative building on your left at Gediminio prospektas 14, where regional government policies are coordinated and implemented. Two government ministries, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Agriculture occupy big adjoining buildings at Gediminio prospektas 17 and 19 respectively.
Continue ahead further west past Hotel Neringa until on your right, you see a big square and park where you can relax and mix with the locals. Formerly called Lenin square but for political reasons changed to Lukiskiu aikste, it is mostly frequented by young mothers who bring their children here to play and by employees who come to relax after a day's work. The northeast side of the square along Vasario 16-Osios gatve is occupied by the Dominican Church of St.Jacob and St.Philip, a Baroque structure whose exterior architecture hasn't changed much since the 18th century. The adjoining monastery houses one of the oldest hospitals in Vilnius. The big building on Gediminio prospektas opposite Lukiskiu aikste is an unusual but interesting museum that reveals with remarkable clarity the Soviet atrocities during the period of Lithuanian resistance. Housed in a former KGB building and called 'The Museum of the Genocide Victims', it is an exhibition of prison cells and execution chambers combined with a live documentary by former political prisoners who narrate their personal experiences and sufferings under the Soviets. Entry to the museum is through Auku gatve 2A.
Continue further ahead for a further 100 metres until on your left you come across one of the best restaurants and coffee shops in town. Named 'Prie Parlamento' and located on Gediminio Prospektas 46, it is an upmarket restaurant which serves a great breakfast, vegetarian meals and delicious pastries worth trying. Not far away on the other side of the street, the elevated colonnaded building is the National Library. Next to it, a modern structure that houses the Parliament of Lithuania occupies the greater part of Independence square. Watch out for the adjacent reinforced concrete blocks which were used to construct defence barricades to stop Soviet tanks on the 13th January 1991. The names of the 14 victims who were killed during the onslaught near the television tower are written down on a memorial plaque.
Cross the bridge which marks the end of Gediminio prospektas and takes you over the heavily polluted Neris river. The striking church visible from the bridge and which you can visit is the Russian Orthodox Church of the Apparition, named after a miraculous icon from Kursk. After this long walk, relax in quiet surroundings away from attractions inside the pleasant Vingis parkas, located southwest of Parliament at Ciurlionio gatve. Vingis parkas is a big green area of paved pathways, benches and lawns where frequent concerts, theatrical performances and the annual Lithuanian Song Festival are held.
Written by marif on 08 Apr, 2004
The narrow streets, cobbled alleys, and walkways of the Old Town can best be discovered and explored on foot. A 1km walk starting from Ausros Vartai, the only remaining Old Town gate to the end of Pilies gatve gives you a good orientation of the…Read More
The narrow streets, cobbled alleys, and walkways of the Old Town can best be discovered and explored on foot. A 1km walk starting from Ausros Vartai, the only remaining Old Town gate to the end of Pilies gatve gives you a good orientation of the numerous places of interest and architectural monuments that await you.
Ausros Vartai, formerly part of the bastions which circled the Old Town acquired its present appearance at the beginning of the 17th century. Last restored in summer 2002 and painted in shades of grey and stone, it houses a beautiful tiny chapel accessible through a side flight of steps, always busy with visitors pushing their way to get a view of the miraculous icon of 'The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy', an original icon brought here in 1363 from Crimea. (See my entry: GDANSK: A world heritage of church architecture).
Walk down among the crowds of Catholic Poles along Ausros Vartu gatve for about 50 metres until you reach the Baroque Church of St.Theresa whose wonderful 18th-century interior decorated with elaborate stucco work has remained intact. Painted in shades of pink as many churches in Vilnius are, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, a short distance away from St.Theresa's at Ausros Vartu 10 is reached through a beautiful arched Byzantine gate. Note the magnificent iconostatis and the preserved bodies of three martyrs lying in front of the altar. Also along Ausros Vartu gatve opposite the Russian Orthodox Church, the majestic restored gate of the Basilian Monastery leads to the monastery courtyard which is ringed with a maze of unrestored chambers among neglected garden paths. Ausros Vartu gatve ends with the Baroque Church of St.Casimir, its crown topped dome seen from everywhere in Vilnius. Its simple interior has been wonderfully restored after serving as a museum of atheism under the Soviets but much restoration work has still to be done on its outside architecture.
Further north, elegant Didzioji gatve's highlight is the Town Hall square. Newly restored, the Town Hall acquired its present classical-style structure in the early 19th century and is now used for official functions and cultural events. The elevated central part of the square is mostly occupied by a beer garden where you can relax, have a snack and enjoy the atmosphere. From here, walk further north along Didzioji gatve past numerous restaurants and shops (take note of the artistic wrought iron shop signs) until you reach the Russian Orthodox church of St.Paraskevija, in front of which local artists and craftsmen display their works. There are paintings, wooden works of art, ceramics, collectors' items and Lithuanian souvenirs for sale.
From Didzioji gatve, walk further north along Pilies gatve until you see the 68 metres high belfry of St.John's church. Entry to St.John's whose 18th-century Baroque facade and its interior works of art are outstanding is through the Skarga courtyard, one of the 12 linked courtyards inside the University Complex which occupies the whole block of buildings between Pilies gatve and Universiteto gatve. There are numerous attractions inside the complex. Discover the various architectural styles, memorial plaques, ornate niches and gateways and taste the historical atmosphere of the interior's decor, some of it dating back to the 16th century.
After visiting the University complex, continue straight ahead along pedestrianised Pilies gatve until you reach Katedros aikste, the big square on which the present massive classical Cathedral was rebuilt at the end of the 18th century. Enter the Cathedral to see among other attractions the beautiful sculptures and marble works that decorate the Chapel of St.Casimir and the silver coffin with the relics of the saint. From Cathedral's square, you can get a glimpse of Gediiminas tower constructed on a small hill behind the Cathedral and three white crosses perched on another beautiful hill further east.
Written by marif on 20 Dec, 2004
The small attractive historical heart of Kaunas bordered from the south by the Nemunas River and from the north by the Neris River is ideal for hours of sightseeing. Unlike the Old Town, the city's cultural soul centred around the Vytautas Magnas University and the…Read More
The small attractive historical heart of Kaunas bordered from the south by the Nemunas River and from the north by the Neris River is ideal for hours of sightseeing. Unlike the Old Town, the city's cultural soul centred around the Vytautas Magnas University and the adjacent Technical University is an area of modern architecture, shops, art galleries and museums.
Rotuses aikste, the Town Hall square is a good starting point. Ringed by restored 15th- and 16th-century burgher houses, this pretty square is dominated by an 18th-century Baroque Town Hall which has replaced a former 16th-century Gothic building. Nicknamed 'The White Swan', it is used nowadays as a Palace of Weddings. Be here on a Friday or a Saturday evening and you will have the opportunity to see how Lithuanians celebrate their weddings. Surrounding the square, numerous buildings that have been meticulously restored are now occupied by restaurants, bars, cafes and Lithuanian folk art souvenir shops. The twin-belfry church you see on the south side of the square is the Jesuit Church that opens daily for Mass at 6pm. The big statue along the west corner of the square is the monument to Maironis, the writer-priest whose works were censored during the Communist era but who is nowadays Lithuania's national poet. The restored building behind the statue is the house where Maironis lived for more than 20 years. Today it houses the small Lithuanian Literary Museum which displays various original scripts by Maironis himself and other Lithuanian writers. Much better is the Museum of the History of Lithuanian Medicine and Pharmacy. Housed in a restored building dating back to the 16th-century at Rotuses aikste 28, this museum contains an excellent collection of personal items, furniture, medical implements and documents donated by Lithuanian doctors and pharmacists over the years. The unusual 'officina' or prescription room contains fascinating drugs used during the Middle Ages while the 'Coctoria' houses an exposition of medical equipment collected from various drug stores scattered around Lithuania. Don't miss the laboratory where various medical preparations, balsams and drugs were manufactured.
The northeast corner of Rotuses aikste is dominated by the city's majestic cathedral, a huge red-brick structure with a single tower. What you see today is an 18th-century Baroque reconstruction that has replaced several of the original Gothic features though some still remain. From behind the cathedral, walk west on Sv.Gertrudos gatve until you reach the ruins of the city's 14th-century castle. There's little to see here but the castle's grounds offer an excellent view over the Neris River.
From the Town Hall square, a short walk along Aleksotas gatve leads towards the House of Pekunas, an unusual Gothic brick structure built on a site which was formerly occupied by a temple dedicated to the Lithuanian god of thunder. The huge church that overlooks the Nemunas River is the Vytautas Church, an original building that dates back to 1402. There are no significant artistic works inside but the interior structure itself is a masterpiece of 15th-century Gothic architecture.
The area east of the Old Town is a city on the move. Numerous shops, restaurants, offices, banks, museums and educational institutions are ample proof that Kaunas has been transformed into a city of business and culture. It's enough to consider the university population which has been increasing steadily year by year to reach over 21 thousand students in the year 2001.
Unity Square in front of the University area adjoins a pretty park with trees and paved walkways. This garden museum is the place where you can see the Freedom Monument dated 16th February 1918, the day Lithuania declared independence. Designed by J. Zikaras and erected here for a second time on 16th February 1989 after being hidden during the Communist era, it is a monument dedicated to 'those who perished for Lithuania's freedom'. On the north side of the park at Donelaicio gatve 64, the Military Museum of Vytautas the Great is more a history museum than anything else. Nearby at Putvinskio gatve 55, the Chiurlionis Art Museum houses a vast collection of paintings by the outstanding Lithuanian composer and artist Mikalojus Konstantinas Chiurlionis. Across the street at Putvinskio gatve 64, the Devil Museum houses an unusual collection of artistic and not-so-artistic statues and paintings which depict the devil as the ugliest, the most mischievous or the most cunning creature. Don't miss it; you'll never see anything of this sort elsewhere.
Written by dangaroo on 13 Jan, 2009
Of all the music festivals that I've been to, I've always enjoyed the Lithuanian ones more than any other due to the superb atmosphere created by what I consider to be the most open, friendly and fun-loving people in Europe. The lack of stupid rules…Read More
Of all the music festivals that I've been to, I've always enjoyed the Lithuanian ones more than any other due to the superb atmosphere created by what I consider to be the most open, friendly and fun-loving people in Europe. The lack of stupid rules and security also make it like one big house party!Roko Naktys is a rock festival which takes place once a year and has taken place in the middle of nowhere in Northern Lithuania for the last 5 years. I visited in 2005 and it was in Plateilai, a tiny place within a Nature reserve, the festival was held right by the lakeside and it was warm enough (particularly if you were drunk enough) to swim in.The ticket to the festival for the whole duration including car, camping place and entry was 20LT (then 4 pounds, now 5 pounds), though many people just wandered in past security (consisting of 2 people) and others bought wrist bands from the supermarket having been told what colour they were by people already at festival. This is regular practice in Lithuania! A lot of people also go to the location a day or two early, mostly an excuse to just spend a few days by the lake getting drunk but also a cunning ploy to avoid the entrance fee!There was a shop in the village but they soon ran out of supplies and closed up, this meant you had to drive to Plunge to buy alcohol and food (60km away), there's very little in the way of public transport and most people either drive or hitchhike there.There was a first aid tent and a restaurant serving cheap Lithuanian meals, beer and vodka but most people just stocked up on lots of mammoth 1,2l or 2l bottles of beer, the top is opened and the bottle is passed around until empty. The bottle shouldn't really be re-sealed again. Homemade or simply just decanted vodka and starka (brandy) is pretty tasty and most people normally have a bottle or two.We went up as 5 people in a car and one of the girl's demanded we take some bottles of crappy pop along with us which turned out to be really popular in the morning with hungover neighbours!I'd say that the crowd wasn't particularly big, perhaps 1000-2000 people, I can't say I bothered counting them! The bands that year included Finnish glam/punk band Gang Bang Café, Poland's alternative rock band El Vehiculo, Sweden's alternative band Nervous Nellie, Latvia's Opus Pro & Aisha (who as I recall were considered a bit of a joke - they were Latvia's 2nd choice Eurovsion Song Contestants this year!) and a list of Lithuanian bands that included the metal legends that are Katedra and other well known bands like Bix, Thundertale and a group of musicians who have a project each year (that particular year was Kiss Projektas, the singer dressed up in make-up, tights etc, somehow released some live bats from his cape)A lot of car's signalization systems were messed up by the loud music, the car we had (a crappy Ford Focus) also had this problem, initially the alarm just went off numerous times but one time we switched it off and the car failed to start. This was perhaps the highlight of the festival, as we had about 30 people convinced they knew what was wrong and working on the car whilst drinking beer. Nothing quite got it working, even a neighbouring metalhead trying to jumpstart the car with leads, eventually we were towed by a vintage fire engine to a local mechanic who was also blind drunk (it was a Sunday to be fair), eventually his son found the code on the internet to restart the system and all was well. We were only charged about 5 pounds for what took about 2 hours.I really enjoyed that particular year and am considering going this year, I checked the website out and was surprised to find that they're moving location this year to the self-proclaimed cultural capital of Lithuania - Zarasai, this is somewhat of a surprise as it's the opposite end of the country from the previous festival. Zarasai is by the Latvian border and just a few kilometers from the predominantly Russian (people and language) city of Daugavpils in Latvia. The town is by a lake and the festival takes place on an island which looks quite intriguing, it's a place I've never been to so I may go along.Ticket prices have also more than doubled though to 50lt (22 pounds), because Zarasai is on the main road between Vilnius and Utena and Daugavpils which in turn is also used to go up to Russia, there is a lot more transport on this road, both public and private which will make it easier to get a bus, train or hitchhike.This year's line-up is:Paradise Lost (UK)Volbeat (Denmark)Bloodpit (Finland)Division of Laura Lee (Sweden)Hybrid Children (Finland)Violent Divine (Sweden)G-Point (Latvia)Rojaus Tuzai (Lithuania)Katedra (Lithuania)SBS (Lithuania)Zalvarinis (Lithuania)AC/DC projectWebsite: www.rocknights.lt (English and Lithuanian) Close
Vilnius is my favourite city in Europe, I absolutely love the place. I lived there for a few months, 4 years ago and still regularly go back. In fact, I'm returning this weekend. What is it I like about Vilnius? Everything! The city itself is…Read More
Vilnius is my favourite city in Europe, I absolutely love the place. I lived there for a few months, 4 years ago and still regularly go back. In fact, I'm returning this weekend. What is it I like about Vilnius? Everything! The city itself is beautiful, there is a nice mix of Lithuanians, Russians, Poles, Belarussians and Ukrainians and you can here at least 2 or 3 of those languages being heard in a queue in the supermarket.Vilnius is currently the cheapest capital city in the EU in regard to eating and drinking out and although it has changed recently with the incoming flights of stag do's, it's no way near as bad as Riga in that aspect. Italian men have been tiresomely trying to get the girls for several years now and are finally trying new destinations. Bars and Restaurants change by the minute but Cili Kaimas, Cili Pica, Forto Dvaras will always be there I bet!Transylvania is also a good pub to spend the evening or if you like metal.. go to Apuokas, the friendliest people in town go there!Vilnius town centre is small (yet perfect) and everything can be seen on foot, Uzopis (the people's republic) is a chilled out area where poets sip beer by the river and you can get a passport stamp in April! The Cathedral of Theotokas is impressive and just behind it sits the Gediminas Tower on the hill, proudly watching over the town. Pilies Street which links the beautiful townhall to the Royal Palace is another must see as is the bronze cast of Frank Zappa which can be found close to Pylimo.The people of Lithuania are so open to happiness and having fun and really typify the Baltic behaviour for me.St. Anne's Church is a magnificient gothic structure and as the legend goes.. Napoleon wanted to bring the church back to France after seeing it in the Franco-Russian war.There are plenty of other narrow, curvy streets which will satisfy the curious. Close
On arrival in Klaipeda (the largest city in Western Lithuania), I had some issues with the luggage lockers at the station which at that time still required the use of Kopeks which weren't in use but could be bought from an old lady standing at…Read More
On arrival in Klaipeda (the largest city in Western Lithuania), I had some issues with the luggage lockers at the station which at that time still required the use of Kopeks which weren't in use but could be bought from an old lady standing at a window. I imagine this is now a thing of the past but haven't been to the train station recently, Klaipeda is a sea-side city with a port atmosphere, boats go to Germany from here and more importantly to the Curonian spit.As nice as Klaipeda is, there isn't a great amount of things of real interest there. Palanga the noisy northern neigbour is the place where many a Lithuanian, Russian and Scandanavian head to party and meet girls. A Baltic Ibiza so to speak, Nida however is quite the opposite. Isolated on the spit of land that joins Kaliningrad, only reachable by boat this gem of a place is the only place in Europe you will find a Wadi. When you cross the lagoon, you may drive along the forest laden piece of land for the best part of 50km's until a few kilometers from the border with Russia, you arrive at the town of Nida. The wadi, lagoon and pine forests give an amazing feeling, this is best visited out of the summer months when you will bump into German and Lithuanian tourists.Klaipeda itself does still have some things to offer, the old buildings in the centre are nice albeit not outstanding and the remains of the Memelburg castle also attract visitors. For the geordies amongst you, it's twinned with North Tyneside! Close
About 90km north of the Polish border, 100km west of Vilnius and slightly further from the Lithuanian coast lies Kaunas in the heart of Lithuania. Kaunas is an industrial city, less artier than its capital cousin. The bigger city in the so-called triangle of hell…Read More
About 90km north of the Polish border, 100km west of Vilnius and slightly further from the Lithuanian coast lies Kaunas in the heart of Lithuania. Kaunas is an industrial city, less artier than its capital cousin. The bigger city in the so-called triangle of hell (mostly known for it's chavs/unfriendly youths consists of Panevezys, Kaunas and Siauliai) but in recent years many of those young lads have left to work in the UK or Ireland and are barely noticeable now.Kaunas is a city that I have been to no less than twenty times and in recent years, I've actually started to grow to like it. The main street is impressive, the cobbled streets of the old town are cute and it's less visited than Vilnius. Whilst I wouldn't want to live there or spend a long time there, it's certainly worth a visit if you are on your way between Vilnius and the coast or Latvia and Poland. It's also predictably cheaper than Vilnius or the coast and you will find that a beer costs you 4 or 5lt.An enormous shopping centre called Mega has popped up fairly recently, this describes itself as "The Heart of Lithuania" and has all manner of fashionable shops, restaurants, bars and an aquarium with sharks in. They then run various competitions and the lucky winner, gets to go scuba diving in the tank with the sharks (who don't look the least bit scary) Close
Written by dangaroo on 20 Jul, 2008
I've just returned from Kernave this weekend, 35km through the wooden house dotted countryside from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, lies the former capital and one of the first settlements in Lithuania - Kernave. Pretty small for a former capital, just a few houses, one shop,…Read More
I've just returned from Kernave this weekend, 35km through the wooden house dotted countryside from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, lies the former capital and one of the first settlements in Lithuania - Kernave. Pretty small for a former capital, just a few houses, one shop, one cafe, a population of around 300 and a rather standout church! If there is proof that size doesn't matter this is it! A small walk to the back of the church will lead you to a sensational breathtaking view over the piliakalnis (fortified hill mounds) to the enormous bend in the River Neris and to the valley below. Traditionally the locals lived by the river but after being attacked in 1390 by the Teutonic Knights (regular enemies for hundreds of years) who burnt down all the houses and the castle, they moved to the top of the hill and many left. A superb place for archeologists due to the amount of historical treasure that has been found completely intact, there are often digs here. The mounds themselves are incredibly impressive and the surrounding nature (which is part of a national park) is very untouched and intriguing for the visitor. You won't find many foreigners here but it is a regular picnic haunt of locals in the summer. During our stay there was a music festival (organised for geologist students) a few kilometres away in the woods, the quality of music was quite good even though the bands were just starting out and despite about 1000 people being there, police and security presence was non-existant and despite their being some rather drunk Lithuanians, everyone behaved responsibly. All in all a good night in a superb location, until it started to belt it down with rain!This is not the only festival held there, they also have lots of folk festivals, medieval crafts festivals and perhaps the most famous is on the 6th July (Coronation Day of King Mindaugas) aswell archeological expeditions. This in no way litters the surroundings though which remain in an unbelievably peaceful way.It would be tricky to get there without a car, there are a couple of buses during the day but no other form of transport. Close