Written by Owen Lipsett on 10 Jan, 2005
You may want to exercise caution in making your way to the Hill Park, a wooded recreation area that is Vilnius’s second-finest vantage point after Gediminas Hill, whose 91 meter summit is crowned with three gigantic white crosses. It’s not because these monuments, erected…Read More
You may want to exercise caution in making your way to the Hill Park, a wooded recreation area that is Vilnius’s second-finest vantage point after Gediminas Hill, whose 91 meter summit is crowned with three gigantic white crosses. It’s not because these monuments, erected in 1989 under perestroika to commemorate Lithuanians deported to Siberia and to replace the originals, which the Soviets tore down in 1950, are guarded, though they once were. Nor does it have to do with the considerable difficulty you’re likely to encounter in finding the road leading to the crosses, which have stood on the site in some form or other since the 17th century, when their wooden predecessors were erected in honor of Franciscan martyrs. Rather, it’s that you may have to cross an international boundary to do so.
Granted, you won’t be entering another country in the conventional or even the Frank Zappa sense of the word (he claimed that any true country required a beer and an airline), but you’d be wise to bring your passport anyway. Unless, of course, there happens to be a basketball game going on--in which case the border guards will prefer to watch it instead, as was my experience. The Uzupis Republic, which constitutes the bohemian district of the same name, which simply means "beyond the river" in Lithuanian, is a rather unusual "country." Something between Copenhagen’s free town of Christiania and Paris’ Montmartre, aspiring rather more to the latter, the area unilaterally declared its independence on April Fool’s Day 1998, which is celebrated annually at the somewhat ramshackle Angel of Uzupis Statue.
While it’s difficult to know what to do with a place whose Constitution ends: "Don’t conquer. Don’t defend. Don’t surrender." Vilnius’ authorities seem largely to have taken its declaration of independence with good humor and now seek to market the run-down area, home to several art galleries and youth hostels, as an alternative tourist destination to the Old Town. This might have something to do with the fact that the city’s maverick 35-year-old mayor, Arturas Zuokas, makes his home there. Completely ignoring Article 9 of Uzupis’ Constitution ("People have the right to be lazy and do nothing at all"), Zuokas had a webcam installed in his office to demonstrate to the people of Vilnius how hard he was working.
Zuokas governs from Vilnius’ neoclassical town hall, built in the last years of the 18th century (and thus the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) according to plans by Laurynas Gucevicius, who simultaneously oversaw the construction of the city’s cathedral, which he also designed. The town hall doubles as a "Palace of Art," displaying exhibitions by Lithuanian and international artists. In recognition of this roll, a large plaster angel appears to have alighted just to the right of the entrance, sat down, and struck a pensive pose. Whether it will bless his grandest of Zuokas’ many ambitious projects, the 129-meter Europa Tower, a $250 million skyscraper erected on the far bank of the Neris in May 2004 to coincide with Lithuania’s entry into the European Union, remains to be seen. In any case, it’s Vilnius’s first non-Soviet high-rise!
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 dangaroo on 13 Jan, 2009
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
Lithuania's National Day which falls on the 6th July commemorates the coronation of Lithuania's former ruler Mindaugas. This period of history which reached its climax in 1253 is considered to be the time when the state of Lithuania was born.
In the last two decades of…Read More
Lithuania's National Day which falls on the 6th July commemorates the coronation of Lithuania's former ruler Mindaugas. This period of history which reached its climax in 1253 is considered to be the time when the state of Lithuania was born.
In the last two decades of the 13th century when the Teutonic knights ruled vast stretches of land from Germany to Poland's eastern territory, the Lithuanians succeeded by diplomatic efforts and otherwise in stopping the advance of the knights into their country. In the first half of the 14th century, united under Grand Duke Gediminas, the people of Lithuania not only protected their land but extended Lithuania's border south and east towards modern-day Belarus. It was in 1323 under Duke Gediminas that Vilnius was established as Lithuania's royal capital when he invited foreign merchants and craftsmen to settle there and so opened the city to foreign business through eastern and western settlers.
Gediminas' son, Algirdas continued extending the border further towards today's Ukraine. To make matters better for Lithuania, Algirdas' son Jogaila married Jadwiga, the Queen of Poland and thus started a political and commercial alliance between the two countries. This Polish-Lithuanian integration which lasted for 4 centuries soon started giving good results, giving the country an opportunity to gain further territory and more stretches of land from the Baltic to the Black sea. Many buildings, churches and the former defensive walls which surrounded the Old Town of Vilnius were all built during this time of prosperity and well-being. However as time went by, the ever-increasing number of Polish gentry dominated the Lithuanians forcing them to adopt to a Polish way of life. In the mid-17th century, after Russia won back most of its lost territory and after much political maneouvring which shattered and weakened the Polish-Lithuanian alliance, Lithuania ceased to exist and vanished from the map of Europe as Russia, Austria and Prussia agreed to assign most of Lithuania to the Russian Empire during the Third Partition of Poland in 1795.
In the 19th century, the political atmosphere in Eastern Europe was quickly changing. During this agitated period of history, Lithuanian nationalists were organised to fight for independence. In a matter of 50 years, Lithuania was in a position to declare independence on the 16th February 1918, establishing Kaunas as the country's capital instead of Vilnius which was still a hotbed with much Polish influence. Lithuania's independence didn't last long because in 1940, soon after the beginning of World War II, Lithuania was for a second time annexed to the Soviet Union. During the 1941-1944 Nazi Occupation, a large number of local Lithuanians and Jews were tortured, killed and deported to concentration camps or gas chambers. After the war, when the Soviets were again at the helm after the Allied forces defeated the Nazis, more people were killed and deported. These Russian atrocities are depicted with astonishing clarity in 'The Museum of the Genocide Victims' in Vilnius.
During the 1980s, Lithuania was pushing again for independence, making the first step by allowing non-communist parties to take part in general elections. On 11th May 1990, Lithuania's new parliament declared independence which was immediately rejected by the Soviet Union. Troops and tanks were sent from Moscow towards Vilnius. Independence was suspended for 3 months and in the meantime, talks started with the Soviets but on the 13th January 1991, Soviet tanks attacked the television tower in Vilnius killing 14 people and injuring many while trying to pave the way for a dictatorial Communist Government. Condemned heavily by the west, the Soviets retreated. Lithuanian political independence was finally recognised by the Soviets on the 6th September 1991 but it was not until 31st August 1993 that real independence was established when the Russian military left Lithuania's soil for good.
Written by raycarstairs on 22 Jan, 2003
Although the distance from Riga to Vilnius is, by European standards, a stones throw, the reality is that it is a fairly major undertaking. After much deliberation we decided that the overnight train was the best option and would allow us to catch some Zzz's.....or…Read More
Although the distance from Riga to Vilnius is, by European standards, a stones throw, the reality is that it is a fairly major undertaking. After much deliberation we decided that the overnight train was the best option and would allow us to catch some Zzz's.....or so we thought!
We departed Riga at 0022 and the guard assured us that he would waken us on time. Most of the other travellers appeared to be used to the journey and very quickly the train resembled a refugee camp.
The border crossing was fairly traumatic for many of the local travellers who turned out to be Ukranians - one or two did not have transit visas for Belarus and were ejected from the train by some very bureaucratic uniforms in the early hours of the morning in the middle of nowhere in the pitch dark. Even if you don't plan to stop in Belarus, make sure that you organize adequate visas.
At around 0430 we got organized to disembark, but had to forego a tirade of shouting from the guard. We assumed that we had disturbed his beauty sleep! He assured us that we were far too early.
We wakened a few hours later in a panic thinking that we had missed our stop - the next stop is Minsk in Belarus - but fortunately had forgotten to take in to account the time change. Estonia and Lithuania run on European time, but Latvia runs on Eastern European time!!
Best advice - take the bus!
Written by Jasminee on 06 Jan, 2011
I can honestly say - Vilnius is one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe. And it was so beautiful to fly over it. Old Town from above is wonderful. I was enchanted by its beauty. My flight was incredible! I was flying with this…Read More
I can honestly say - Vilnius is one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe. And it was so beautiful to fly over it. Old Town from above is wonderful. I was enchanted by its beauty. My flight was incredible! I was flying with this ballooning centre: http://www.ballooning.lt Everyone was very friendly and our pilot had a very good sense of humour. We flew for about an hour and after the flight there was an interesting ceremony. Pilot told the passengers about the history of ballooning and he gave us certificates. There were some surprises too :) I enjoyed this a lot and this is a great way to spend an evening :) I very highly recommend it to you! Close