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I like Lithuania – a visitor's point of view

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Vilnius, a city like no other……..

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Having not had an opportunity to visit Vilnius for well over 12 months I thought I would remind myself of what the city looks like in winter, and in particular when the snow falls. It still remains my favourite city in Europe and no one will ever convince me that the White Catherdal or to give it its full title Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo
arkikatedra basilica, is not simply the most beautiful building in the world.

Having made around 30 visits to the city since 2006 (usually with my business colleague Mike) I have missed the beauty of the city, the warm friendship of friends and colleagues and equally important lack of access to “kibinais” (its a Cornish pastie but the Lithuanians claim it as one of their own).

So I hope you enjoy viewing the photographs as much as I enjoyed going through the hundreds I have taken…

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The view from the cathedral bell tower

It didn’t seem that long ago they were busy renovating the bell tower which stands opposite the cathedral – Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra basilica – on the edge of the square in the Autumn of 2013.

Twelve months later it was finished and open to the public.

We’d seen the earlier renovation of the cathedral on our early visits from 2005 and this completes the picture.

And it’s been well worth the wait. The tower has 7 levels and 140 steps to climb – so you need a head for heights and to be reasonably agile as there is no lift  as in the university bell tower. There were no guide books available but as its part of the National Museum I can’t imagine there won’t be one in future. And the two helpful members of staff were very knowledgeable.

DSC00112DSC00114As I said there is no lift and your ascent from the entrance lobby starts with a stone staircase leading up to the next level.

DSC00115Once there you can see the small bells. Further up there are six big ones, four of which ring on a regular basis. You can also see the statue of the Grand Duke at eye level here as well.DSC00132


DSC00119DSC00150From there on up it’s by well-crafted wooden steps.

DSC00130 DSC00128These take you up to the big bells and great views across the city.DSC00136

Also you are now high enough to look down on the statue of the Grand Duke, not something I thought I would do without going up in a hot-air balloon!

DSC00123 DSC00121DSC00147At the highest level the public can access you can see the workings of the bell mechanism

You are also looking across at the top of the cathedral and can see close-ups of the statues with the castle in the background.DSC00138

 Did I mention you need a head for heights? Well having gone up so high you have to come back down again which gives you a chance to admire the heavy wooden beams which are supporting the floors and the bells as you navigate the wooden steps.

DSC00148DSC00153You can also see the intricate woodwork through a viewing tube on one of the lower floors.

DSC00154Then one last set of steep stone steps and you are back at the lobby area.DSC00155



A great experience  at a reasonable price and if you are a photographer some great photo opportunities.



And did those feet …. 25 years ago

DSC00066Walking to the end of Gedimino pr towards the cathedral you cross the road and the cathedral bell tower is on your right.DSC00323_copy

Look down and you will see this pair of footprints. They weren’t there last year so I asked the helpful staff from the National Museum who look after the bell-tower visitors what they represented.

They were put there to mark the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way, the 2 million strong human chain which stretched from Vilnius to Tallinn on August 23rd 1989.

Lithuania has come a long way in those 25 years and it started here.

I’ve blogged about the Baltic way before and my colleague has also done a piece about this too here.

And without giving too much away it’s not too far from the Stebuklas MiracleTile


Cathedral Bell Tower renovation in Vilnius

CNV00030Next to the cathedral on the edge of the main square (Katedros aikštė) is the impressive 52 m high bell tower (Varpinė). Although the square was only created in the 19c when the cathedral was being refurbished, replacing old houses, some dating back to the middle ages, the bell tower was one of the original  towers forming the city walls and part of the lower castle.

There is also a story that in the base of the tower was a small pagan temple dedicated to Perkūnas which was demolished to form the base of the bell tower. Whatever the truth the lower parts of the tower are mediaeval  with the oldest underground section, built on the river bed, dating back to the 13c. Upper parts of the tower were added in the 18c and again in the 19 c. You can see the original city layout in one of the rooms in the Castle.

CNV00008_2-2P1010139When I first visited Vilnius in 2005 the bell tower was desperately in need of a lick of paint and was being renovated along with the front of the cathedral.

On subsequent visits the tower always looked impressive – in all weathers.

Now more work is being carried out. I was told by locals that they were planning to open it to the public.

DSC00945Some workmen were clearing out rubble from the inside whilst others were roped up and climbing on the roof.DSC01050

If it is to be opened to the public it will be a popular place to visit, especially if you like taking photographs!

And it would be interesting to see the 17c clock, which keeps perfect time, at close quarters – although it would be noisy when the bells are pealing.