Valiant Vilnius

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Vilnius might not be the most obvious choice for a girlfriend getaway, but we choose it anyway. My friends, because neither of them has ever been, and I, because I want to see if the city has changed much.

I first visited Vilnius in 1992, as part of a curiosity-fueled train-hopping holiday in the Baltics, shortly after the three countries’ independence from the Soviet Union. Back then, tourism was practically non-existent in Lithuania – and the rouble was still the currency.

20 years later, I withdraw litas from an ATM belonging to DNB, Norway’s largest bank – almost like being at home. Scandinavian banks seem to dominate the financial sector here. (The litas is pegged to the euro – about 3.5 to 1 – and euros are expected to be adopted as the official currency in 2015).

Historic Vilnius

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Grand Duke Gediminas had no patience with intruding Teutonic Knights. Surrounded by woods and wetlands, Vilnius afforded better natural protection, and so the capital was moved from Trakai. Vilnius is first mentioned in writing in 1323 as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Vilnius

The heart of Vilnius is the beautiful medieval Old Town, filled with monuments, museums and churches of various religions. Catholics, Protestants, Russian-Orthodox and Jews seem to live together comfortably in Vilnius.

Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Modernist architecture live comfortably together as well; all pastel pinks, yellows, blues and greens, in an aesthetically pleasing combination.

I’m surprised so many religious buildings survived Stalin and the Soviet years. It’s partly due to Lithuanian ingenuity, apparently. Locals were quick to convert churches to museums; one of them, St. Casimir’s Church, even served as the Museum of Atheism. The irony…

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Cathedrals and monuments are interesting enough. Yet, it’s the cobbled courtyards, the ordinary houses, the little shops, cafes, the public art, and the lively everyday street scenes that hold my attention.

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Vilnius has all kinds of quirky and interesting public art – in the self-declared Republic of Užupis, and outside. Whether it’s the touching sculpture of paediatrician and political activist Zemach Shabad…

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…or a gallery of cheery tea pots embedded into walls.

 

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Vilnius Historic Centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.

 

20 Responses to “Valiant Vilnius”

  1. Chris 14 August 2013 1933 #

    I loved my visit to Vilnius a couple of years back and still have the passport stamp from entering Uzupis that they were offering. It took me 2 days to find the modern part of the city after wandering all of the old part.

    The quirkiest thing I found was a statue to Frank Zappa hidden off in a car park… Good times :)
    Chris recently posted..Cheapest Ways To Travel Europe

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 August 2013 1612 #

      Loved that unexpected Zappa statue :)

  2. Lisa Goodmurphy 14 August 2013 2135 #

    Most definitely would not have thought of Vilnius for a getaway. I had no idea that there was so much colour and beauty in the city. Lovely photos – it’s the everyday street scenes that I like best as well!
    Lisa Goodmurphy recently posted..Fancy Footwear at Bata Shoe Museum: Instagram Travel Thursday

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 August 2013 1613 #

      Vilnius is a colourful city indeed.

  3. Muza-chan 16 August 2013 0738 #

    Beautiful city… so colorful :)
    Muza-chan recently posted..Summer tourist attractions in Osaka Bay, Tempozan Harbor Village

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 August 2013 1613 #

      It really is :)

  4. Leigh 16 August 2013 1459 #

    Sounds like a very interesting – and exotic choice – at least from North America, for a girlfriend’s getaway. I love the idea of wandering the streets, sitting in a cafe or just walking with a camera in hand. One day I would love an epic trip on bike through this part of the world – starting in Norway.
    Leigh recently posted..A Two Day Kayaking Trip on the Saguenay Fjord in Quebec

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 August 2013 1615 #

      Denmark seems to be the chosen country for biking holidays, since it’s so flat. A Nordic/Baltic trip would be great.

  5. Marcia 19 August 2013 1730 #

    It’s interesting how we look at our ability to access money as a barometer of progress. Being able to do that makes life less hassle free, especially for visitors.
    Ingenious how the Lithuanians preserved their churches. We’ve lost too much cultural and artistic landmarks through wars and upheavals.
    Marcia recently posted..Jamaica Board Signs, I

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 August 2013 2144 #

      It is interesting, your point about easily accessible money. Easy, convenient, and a yet it feels like something has been lost… I think convenience is overrated.

  6. Marcia 19 August 2013 1731 #

    Sorry that should have been *many* cultural and artistic….
    Marcia recently posted..Jamaica Board Signs, I

  7. Mary {The World Is A Book} 20 August 2013 0718 #

    Love those teapots embedded into the walls. I haven’t heard many things about Vilnius but what a beautiful and charming town. What a wonderful choice for a getaway – off the beaten path with a lot of history and art.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Cruising Prague’s Vltava River

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 August 2013 2146 #

      Even here in Scandinavia, Vilnius has been the lesser known of the Baltic capitals. Although with all the Lithuanians coming here, that is changing.

  8. Cathy Sweeney 21 August 2013 2033 #

    Very compelling pics of Vilnius.I love the streets scenes, buildings and public art. Haven’t traveled in the Baltics yet, but hope to!
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..A Taste of Ostuni at Masseria Il Frantoio

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 28 August 2013 1515 #

      The Baltic countries are very accessible, so hope you do soon :)

  9. Andrea 26 August 2013 1722 #

    We really wanted to visit Lithuania when we did Estonia but didn’t have time. A relative told me just the other day that her genealogy research traced to some ancestors who were Lithuanian so now I’m even more interested in going some day. Looks beautiful!
    Andrea recently posted..Pretty Rockland, Maine

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 28 August 2013 1518 #

      You’ll get new opportunities, I’m sure :)

  10. Agness 14 September 2013 0940 #

    Lovely snapshot Anne. I really enjoyed watching them. Although I have never been to Lithuania, it seems like a lovely and interesting country to explore. I really hope to make it there soon :)
    Agness recently posted..5 Things I Could Not Get Used To In Holland As A Pole

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 January 2014 2057 #

      Very close to Poland :)

  11. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs 2 January 2014 1804 #

    Agness who would think we both have never been in Vilnius. We are Polish, it is so close! Ha ha ha I have never been there but would really love to just never enough time over summer :)
    Marysia @ My Travel Affairs recently posted..Good Karma Affair: Integral Heart Foundation

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