Saturday 29 July
We continued our journey to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius. Our accommodation, a guest house, was in the attic of a gracious old bank building now converted to a casino. Security guards manned the entrance to the casino and looked away as we entered – clearly we weren’t the clientele of the casino.
Vilnius is a lovely town. We spent our first evening explored Gedimino street and found a pleasant meal. Everyone we came in touch with spoke English.
In the morning we explored the Basilica Cathedral and bell tower where we found the inevitable weddings – it is summer in Europe, wedding season.
From there we photographed the arsenal and the statue of King Mindaugas, the founder of the Lithuanian state.
We then climbed the hill to Gediminas Castle, the symbol of Vilnius, to get some amazing views of the city and Neris River. The castle was built in the 14th century, and withstood attacks by the Crusaders, who were considered enemies in this region. It was finally destroyed in the war with Russia in 1655. The best surviving tower was restored after the end of World War II.
In summer 1989 the Baltic states made a call for independence. To demonstrate their commitment, they formed a human chain from the Gegiminas Castle in Lithuania to the Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia and then to Tall Hermann’s Tower in Tallinn, Estonia. It is estimated that 2 million people took part over the 650km ‘Baltic Way’ to freedom. The Baltic Way is now recognised by UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
Prior to World War II, Vilnius was one of the largest Jewish centres in Europe. We wandered through this area, with its tight twisting streets, which opened up to the Cathedral Square. We returned there for dinner
One of the more important sites in Vilnius is the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, the so-called chapel of the Gates of Dawn, church of St Teresa. We watched people who passed the chapel bless themselves. The chapel is situated above the only remaining gate to this old city. The painting of Mary Mother of Mercy is venerated by Roman and Orthodox Christians and is the most visited site in Lithuania.
Lithuania seemed a lot more sophisticated than the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The dress style was contemporary and the shops appeared sophisticated. Unfortunately our stay in eastern Lithuania was short. We look forward to coming back and exploring the rest of the country on our return from Finland.
There is always some housekeeping to be done when your are travelling. In Vilnius my web site was broken. I managed to fix it, however it left my photos in NGGallery disconnected. It was a frustrating loss of precious time whilst Hayden & I sorted it out.