Lithuania Part 1#
Part 1 of the description of a trip through Lithuania June 2016#by H.Maurer
Part 1 shows only photos from Vilnius. Part 2 is showing the water castle Traika, the open air museum at Rumsiskes near Kaunas), a bit of Kaunas and Klaipeda, pictures from Nida and vicinity on the Curonian Spit ("Kurische Nehrung") and a visit to the "Mountain of crucifixes" near Siauliai, already close to the border of Latvia.
Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublika), is one of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the SE shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania has a population of about 3 million. Lithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, along with Latvian, are the only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.
As World War I neared its end, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the establishment of a sovereign State of Lithuania. 1940, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union that sent the whole elite under horrible circumstances to Siberia, where most died. On June 14, 1941 the Nazis occupied Lithuenia, and murdered some 90% of the jewish population of about 200.000 in mass executions. As World War II neared its end, in 1944 and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania with huge waves of further deportations to Siberia. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania. Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, a full member of the Schengen Agreement and NATO.Villnius, Lithuenia is the capital of Lithuania and its largest city, with a population of about 500.000. Vilnius is located in the southeast part of Lithuania and is the second largest city in the Baltic states. Vilnius is the seat of the main government institutions of Lithuania as well as of the Vilnius District Municipality. Vilnius is known for the architecture in its Old Town, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. It has, as is typical for a conservative catholic country a large number of churches some dating back over 600 years.
A good way to start a visit of Villnius is to stay near the ring road Pylimo leading around the old city, e.g. at a hotel near the "egg" pylimo 45 villnius . The egg, in this photo with part of the tower of All Saints’s church in the background was installed in the early ninenties to indicate that Lithunania is making a new start.
All Saints Church is a Baroque-style church. It was built between 1620 and 1630 and was adopted for Carmelites' needs. In the second half of the 17th century, the church was linked with a monastery and formed a single complex: A large old-regulation Carmelite monastery adjoins the church. In 1819 the Carmelites established a parochial school in the monastery. It is reported that there is a tunnel through the sewers connecting the church with the ghetto established by the Nazis in 1941. It should be noted that alhtough there were Christian Lithuanians who helped smuggle food into the ghetto there were strong anti-jewish feelings in Vilnius even before the Nazis arrived, and when it was clear that they would indeed come, many jews were forced already by locals to give up precious items to temporarily survive. In Soviet times the church housed a museum of folk art: except for a single church all where used for secular purposes including storage of farming equipment during Soviet times.
A stroll through the old town shows many shops, restaurants, glimpses into courtyards, many churches and other impressive buildings.
There is certainly more amber on dsiplay than nature ever produced. To tell amber from plastic imitations there are reportedly three techniques: (1) Knock at it hard with a hammer: if it dissolves into large splinters, it was plastic; if it dissovles into just a pile of dust it was amber. (2) Put it in fire: if it burns nicely, it was amber; if it stinks it was plastic material. (3) (The only non destructive technique): prepare a water solution with 10% salt. If the item swims, it is amber; if it sinks, it is other material.
The church of St. Casimir is not far form the city hall. It is the first Baroque church built by the Jesuits. The cornerstone, dragged by 600 people, was laid in 1604. There was much damage due to wars and fires. When the dome collapsed the church was rebuilt with a crown on top. The interior was decorated with 13 late Baroque altars, most of them destroyed by Napoleon's army. In 1868 it was adapted as Russian Orthodox church (after all, Lithuenia was part of Russia from 1721- 1918, independent only from 1918 to 1940 and since 1990). After WWII the church was turned (Lithuenia again part of Russia) into the Museum of Atheism (!) and returned to the Jesuits 1991.
The Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit shown below is a distinctive example of Orthodox architecture. The church was built on the site of a former wooden one from the 16 th century. The present Baroque building was constructed in 1638. It was rebuilt after fires in the 18 th century by the architect J. K. Glaubitz who created the impressive Late Baroque Iconostasis with paintings, columns and stucco mouldings.
Next to the church are the only active Orthodox convent and monastery in Lithuenia.
In front of the other big Russian Orthodox church St. Paraskeva there is a small market. Here also local artists are trying to sell their paintings or some pieces of ceramics. There is also an interesting "lane of poets": the walls of a long street are decorated with small stuff to remind the population of famous Lithuanian poets. One exception is Günter Grass, who is also shown in one spot.
The Church of St. Anne is one of the most famous structures in Vilnius. It is a prominent example of both Flamboyant Gothic and Brick Gothic styles. St. Anne's is a prominent landmark in the Old Town of Vilnius that enabled the district to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is one of the most interesting examples of Gothic architecture in Lithuania.
It was designed in 1459-1500 by Benedikt Rejt, an architect who also designed Ladislaus Hall in Prague. Bricks of 33 varieties were used for its intricate construction. As an interesting detail, notice the door opener: two snakes are swallowing the earth, the devil is watching from above, just demonstrating how much in danger our world is if we don't believe strongly enough.
Directly next to St. Anne is the Bernardine Church (St. Francis of Assisi), one of the largest Gothic sacral buildings in Vilnius. The building was started by Bernardine monks around 1460 and hence shows a variety of styles.
Inside, there are more than forty works of art dating from the 16th through 19th centuries, including frescoes and paintings of various sizes. During the restoration of the Cathedral, the altars of a presumed pagan temple and the original floor, laid during the reign of King Mindaugas, were uncovered. In addition, the remains of the cathedral built in 1387 were also located. A fresco dating from the end of the 14th century, the oldest known fresco in Lithuania, was found on the wall of one of the cathedral's underground chapels.
During the Soviet regime the cathedral was converted into a warehouse. Masses were celebrated again starting in 1985, although the cathedral was still officially called "The Gallery of Images" at that time. In 1989, its status as a cathedral was restored.
St. Nicholas Church is not the oldest surviving church in Lithuania, but one of the oldest examples of Gothic architecture in Lithuania. It was oroginally built in the 14th century. The church is mentioned in writing for the first time in 1387. In 1901-39 the Church of St. Nicholas was the only church in Vilnius where the mass was held in Lithuanian. Thus it was a centre of Lithuanian culture. During the Soviet occupation a statue of the patron of Vilnius, St. Christopher, was erected in the church orchard as an obvious act of resistance, as the city's coat-of-arms with St. Christopher's figure was banned at that time.
The university was founded in 1579 as the Jesuit Academy (College) of Vilnius by Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, Stephen Báthory. It was the third oldest university (after the Cracow Academy and the Albertina) in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the aftermath of the Third Partition of Poland (1795) and the November Uprising (1830–1831), the university was closed down and suspended its operation until 1919.
After World War I a restart of the the university by Lithuania failed due to invading Soviet forces (March 1919). It finally resumed operations as Stefan Batory University in Poland (August 1919), a period followed by another Soviet occupation in 1920, and then less than two years as part of the Republic of Central Lithuania, until incorporation into Poland (of Vilnius, not all of Lithuenia!) in 1922.
Following Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, the university was briefly administered by the Lithuanian authorities but suffered because of Soviet annexation of Lithuania (June 1940), followed by a period of German occupation after German invasion of the Soviet Union (1941–1944), administrated as Vilnius State University by the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1945 the Polish community of students and scholars of Stefan Batory University was transferred to Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.
After Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it resumed its status as one of the prominent universities in Lithuania.
On the main university campus (open for fee for visitors) there is a look-out tower. The following pictures were taken from this tower.