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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Travel Lithuania! - Page 8

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Looking for a safe place to explore with friendly and beautiful people, ancient castles, magnificent churches, cobblestone streets, quiet forests, thousands of lakes, huge sand dunes, and sparkling beaches lining the sea?

lithuaniaWhen in Vilnius you should see as many of the churches as possible. There are so many that you can just wander the streets and go into any that you see, almost all are special. That being said, the ones that you mustn’t miss are St. Anne’s Church (Sv Onos Baznycia), a Gothic brick masterpiece built with 33 types of bricks which also has interesting stained glass inside, not quite geometric patterns and not quite flowing art, but definitely not the typical pictures of Jesus on the cross. Once when I was inside a small group of women were chanting the most mesmerizing prayers – it actually reminded me of being in India and listening to the mantras in temples there. Perhaps I wasn’t that far off because I later learned that Lithuanian and Latvian are the oldest languages in Europe and are actually derived from Sanskrit.

 

lithuaniaThe gorgeous St. John’s Church at Vilnius University is another, set inside one of their many picturesque courtyards, and the Gates of Dawn which is a pilgrimage site for the Poles where you can pray for miracles to Mary dressed in gold with walls of silver hearts surrounding her. A little out of the way, but worth the walk, is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul with its incredible Baroque sculpted ceiling, walls, and columns and its brass chandelier that resembles a Viking ship hanging at its center. You can combine this with a visit to the Hill of Three Crosses which is a symbol of the fight against the Soviet Union for religious freedom and, ultimately, independence.

 

lithuaniaYou’ll also want to stop into the beautiful Cathedral which is at the center of everything. There are always public events outside of it; I remember on my first trip to Vilnius seeing the Lithuanian basketball team playing the Americans at the Olympics televised on a huge screen (with the whole crowd cheering wildly throughout until the end when the game turned around and crying replaced the lively shouting of Lietuva!). Also visit at least one of the Russian Orthodox churches – the Church of St. Michael and St. Konstantine if you can – especially if you’ve not seen one before with their golden alters, icons, and smoky incense.

 

Behind the Cathedral is a path and funicular that leads up to the Castle. The castle tower has a museum inside and great views over the rooftops and church spires of the city. The 6pm flag ceremony in front of Parliament is another attraction to catch and you could combine this with a tour of the University directly across the street. There is also the Synagogue, the National Museum, the KGB Museum (where you can see how life was under Soviet occupation with access to all the torture chambers), several art galleries, and numerous shops to keep you busy. At night, there is opera, theatre, music, and an abundance of pubs and clubs as well as a number of restaurants offering live music.lithuania

 

Vilnius has a lot of outdoor cafes and quite a variety of restaurants, so if you’ve been traveling around Lithuania a while and are tired of meat and potatoes, this is a good place to satisfy your palate with whatever flavors you are craving. If you’re looking for traditional food you could try Lokys which has high quality meals at corresponding prices, but at lunchtime they have a tasty, affordable daily special which is a good value. Along Pilles St. is Forto Dvaras for less expensive meals, and there is always Cili Kaimas, part of the Cili restaurant chain that is so popular here – its specialty is pizza, but they also have some Lithuanian foods on the menu, I had the chicken with chanterelles which was good and the beet, carrot, and apple juice. If you are looking for pizza a better option is the Uzupio Picerija with its more traditional crusts in a nice outdoor setting.

(Page 8 of 9)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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