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Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania. It is situated 300 km East of the Baltic seashore at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnele rivers surrounded by beautiful forested hills. The Total area of Vilnius is 394 sq. km. The highest point of Vilnius is about 230,7 m situated in the eastern part of town, nearby Rokantiskiu settlement. The geographical centre of continental Europe lays in Lithuania, approx. 24 km north of Vilnius. It was calculated by the National Geographical Institute of France in 1989.

Vilnius was first mentioned as the capital of Lithuania in 1323, in the letters of the Grand Duke Gediminas to the Roman Pope. An old legend tells us that Grand Duke Gediminas got tired after hunting fell asleep and had a dream. The Iron Wolf was standing on the hilland howling loudly. In the morning Gediminas asked the senior pagan priest what the dream meant. The priest said: "You will build a city at the place where the wolf was howling and the fame of the city will spread as the howling of the wolf. So this was the beginning of Vilnius. But archaeologists say that people were living here as early as the 5th century. Gediminas, the first famous Vilnius ruler, invited craftsmen and educated people from all over Europe to come and enjoy the city and to stay here. Vilnius became one of the largest trade, industrial and cultural centres of Europe in the 16th century. Throughout the ages it used to be one of the major Polish townships.

In 1579, Vilnius witnessed the foundation of its university which became the first higher school of thought in the Grand Principality of Lithuania and the whole region. Vilnius developed into a centre of European culture and opened itself to the nations of the East and West. Initially, it was the home of Polish, Jewish and Karaime communities. The houses, squares and churches of Vilnius sustain the spirit of a once-powerful state and its rulers. Though invaded, destroyed and burnt down many times, the town would always recover. Before World War II, over 90% of the population was Polish and Jewish. Today it is about 25% only, but the remains of the old Vilnius culture are still visible thoughout the town. The historical centre of Vilnius, its 360-hectare old city, is among the largest in Eastern Europe. In 1994, the old city, one of the largest ones in Europe, was included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Cities. The city is definitely worth a longer visit.


The Old Town

The Old Town, historical centre of Vilnius, is one of the largest in Eastern Europe (360 ha). The most valuable historic and cultural heritage is concentrated here. The buildings in the old town - there are about 1.5 thousand of them - were built in a number of different centuries, therefore, it is a mixture of all European architectural styles. Although Vilnius is often called a baroque city, here you will find some buildings of gothic, renaissance and other styles. The main sights of the city are the Gediminas Castle and the Cathedral Square, symbols of the capital. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Because of its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

City Hall

History of the Town Hall reflects the shifting, dramatic history of the city. The misfortunes of the city and the state did not leave the Town Hall unscathed. By Jonas Jonynas.

The Town Hall Square in Vilnius was not laid out "according to a rope", as in many European cities or, for example, the second-largest Lithuanian city, Kaunas. Instead, it developed naturally at the intersection of several of the most important roads. In its irregular form it is very similar to the market squares of small towns in Lithuania, only incomparably larger. Buildings surrounding the square experienced an endless series of misfortunes and reconstruction, but even the Second World War and the post-war period (during which the southwestern part of the square, at the beginning of the wide Vokieciu Street, suffered most) did not destroy this unique urban space. In its center stands the one-of-a-kind classical Town Hall of Vilnius, which lacks the usual features one might expect in a Town Hall.

The building was designed at the end of the 18th century by the famous architect, Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevicius (1753-1798). The square, two-story structure, with its six Doric columns supporting its portico, faces a triangular square, looking out on the beginning of Pilies (Castle) Street. At the other end of Pilies Street stands another of the architect's creations, his masterpiece, the Cathedral. The buildings he designed connect the most important parts of Old Town: the Castle, seat of the Grand Duke, and the Town Hall, symbolizing the city's self-governance.

Frank Zappa Monument

In 1995, a monument devoted to the famous American composer, guitarist and singer Frank Zappa was erected. To date, this has been the only monument in the world to this distinguished musician of the 20th century.

Funicular Railway

In 2003, a funicular railway started operating in Vilnius, which takes people from the foot of Gediminas Hill to the top. It takes 35 seconds for the funicular railway to cover a 71-meter long distance, and the entire ascending process, including getting on and off the funicular, takes about one minute. The train accommodates as many as 16 people at any one time. While going up you can see beautiful vistas of the city along with the River Neris. The railway is a great help to elderly people and parents with small children. It starts its journey up from the only closed yard of the National Museum, which you can access from the River Neris side.

The Magic Quarry Tile

One of the quarry tiles in the Cathedral Square (look for it between the Cathedral and the Bell Tower) has the word Miracle written on it, in coloured letters. In 1989 a live chain of people (known as the Baltic Road) that stretched 650 kilometres from Tallinn to Vilnius, ended there. The chain was made up of Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians, who expressed their protest against the Soviet occupation. The miracle really did happen the Baltic States regained their Independence.

If you want a miracle to happen to you, stand on the tile, think of a wish and turn 360 degrees. Your wish is sure to come true!

The Republic of Uzupis

Uupis is one of the oldest districts of Vilnius, mentioned in the historical sources as far back as the 16th century. Once it was called the salt road to Polock. In olden times it was the suburb where the poor and mainly craftsmen, lived. There were many mills and at one time it was even the brothel district.

Today Uupis is a unique republic! A colourful and alive island, separated from the city by the Vilnia River. Uupis is a recognised district for artists and won the name of the most mysterious and romantic district of Vilnius. Uupis is the artists republic, which has its own constitution, national anthem, calendar and map. It also has its President, Prime Minister, Ambassadors from many countries of the world, military force (consisting of 12 people), a bishop, two churches, the Bernardino cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Vilnius, seven bridges and a wonderful patron saint the bronze Uupis Angel erected in its main square

Uupis has its honorary citizens. They are such famous people as his Holiness, the Dalai Lama, President of the Republic of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, artist Jonas Mekas and many others. Uupis has its own holidays the Day of Uupio Independence, the Day of the Fish, the Day of Traps, the Day of White Tablecloths, etc., as well as its own traditional way of celebrating these holidays.

If you walk along the banks of the Vilnia River, you will be sure to come across artists working there. Passers-by are invited to have a try at the various kinds of art, like photography and painting, or to take part in an evening of summer cinema or exhibitions.

Some works of art have become symbols of Uupis:

The Uupis Angel. This is a sculpture placed on an 8.5-meter high column, which was unveiled in the Uupis Square in 2001. The Angel, created by sculptor Romas Vil?iauskas and architect Algirdas Umbrasas, is made of brass and bronze.

The Uupis Mermaid. This is a bronze sculpture by Romas Vil?iauskas that can be seen on the bank of the Vilnia River at the Uupis Bridge and near the café. In 2004, the mermaid was swept away by the rising water of the river. However, the sculpture was recovered and returned to its place.

One can find many interesting places and corners in Uupis. One of them is the Uupis Bridge where lovers hang padlocks with their names engraved on them. The padlock is believed to tie and strengthen the hearts of two young people in love.

The Tymo Quarter

One of the most important tasks of developing the city was the re-establishment of the Tymo quarter. In historical Tymo, handicrafts are being re-established after falling into decay after World War II. Small handicraft shops, various galleries and artists studios are being established making it possible for traditional handicrafts and multicultural fairs to be rejuvenated again in Vilnius, especially in its Old Town and which will also attract more visitors.

From the 14th-19th centuries, the Tymo quarter was surrounded by the Vilnia River and the loop of its channel, thus creating an island. The natural conditions were conducive to leather processing and so it was in the Tymo quarter that the first handicraft shops in Vilnius appeared. And the area became known as Tymo.

Somewhat later, the Tartars settled there and also practised their traditional craft of leather processing. In the middle of the 19th century most of the houses in this quarter belonged to small Jewish tradesmen. On the ground floor of most of the houses, there were inns, bakeries and shops. In 1960, the buildings of this craftsmens quarter were demolished and the ponds belonging to the Missionaries Monastery were filled in and the garden was destroyed.

A number of events, fairs and festivals are held in the Tymo quarter. Nearby, the so-called Kudru Park with ponds has been laid out. The residents of Vilnius enjoy walking there.

The Television Tower

Karolinik?s is the site of the Television Tower, the tallest building in Lithuania. At 326.47 metres, it stands six and a half metres taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. In 1981, when the tower began transmitting, it was the sixth tallest building in the world. The diameter of the iron-concrete base measures 15 metres and on top it is 8 metres.

The Television Tower was designed by the architect Vladimir Obydov and built by engineers David Basiladz? and David Dormantas.

The Television Tower has already become a place of entertainment and of records. The following records relating to the Tower have been recorded in the Lithuanian Book of Records: the largest flag flown, the tallest illuminated Christmas tree, the longest twisted band and many others.

At the 165-metre level of the Tower, there is a café where you can have lunch and enjoy a spectacular view of the city, and the surrounding countryside. Also, you can try to bungee jump from the height of 280 metres.

Since 2000, the Television Tower has been annually decorated with lights and one of the tallest Christmas trees in Europe.

The Banks of Love ("meil?s Krantai")

On the embankment of the Neris River, between the aliasis (Green) and King Mindaugas Bridges "Meil?s krantai" (the Banks of Love) are in blossom. The originator of this project is artist Gitenis Umbrasas, who created the inscriptions A tave myliu (I love you) and Ir a tave myliu (and I love you too).

In order to make the inscriptions more distinct, they are planted with flowers in bloom. Brown and dark yellow thin-leaved marigolds were chosen because they are flowers, which do not require special care and are resistant to heat. The municipality of the City of Vilnius allocated funds to make a parterre garden and also maintains it.

The Open-air Gallery "kvadrato"

Earthenware is usually displayed indoors. However, passers-by can visit a small corner of art in the centre of Vilnius. At the intersection of Gediminas Avenue and Vilniaus Street, you can view an unexpected display of outdoor works of art.

Exhibitions at the outdoor gallery of the Kvadratas (Square) group are changed on a regular basis and you can view the art work there from all angles.

Enjoy the original earthenware.