Man patinka Lietuva

I like Lithuania – a visitor's point of view


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I’m just singing in the rain……………..in Vilnius (or six days of virtual non stop inclement weather)

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

At the beginning of October I returned to Vilnius with my friend and colleague Mike (who had not visited for a couple of years because of illness) and we were both looking forward to visiting some of our old haunts, including Bistro 18, the Kitchen and the finest steak house in the city Markus ir Ko. In the latters case I have to report that although the food is still as good the, customer service still leaves a lot to be desired. I think it is something to do with it being a “pub” atmosphere and all male staff (an occasional smile wouldn’t go amiss). There is however, on selected night an excellent jazz pianist who is extremely talented and on the last visit did a magnificent improvisation on Billy Strayhorns “Take the A Train”

IMGP2157.jpg The Hill of Three Crosses in autumn

Anyway, we spent six days in the city…

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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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One last time: goodbye Lita; I’m going to miss you

SCAN0120Lithuania has finally met the convergence criteria and will adopt the euro as its official currency on January 1 2015. Lithuania has been the only country to have been refused entry to the euro because inflation was 2.7% i.e. above the 2.6% maximum allowed in 2006. (FYI only the UK and Denmark are allowed to keep their own currency although EU members).

This will make it the last of the three Baltic States to adopt it, after Estonia (2011) and Latvia (2014) although its currency has been pegged to the euro at 3.4528 litas to 1 euro since 2002.

This is a sad day for travellers like me who enjoy the varied currencies across the world. At home I have some Swiss, Danish and Swedish currency among others. Moving around Europe is not a problem if you don’t have euros as most countries accept sterling or dollars (as long as it’s in notes and they give you the change in local currency).

It seems whenever a country adopts the euro prices rise. I remember talking to a German taxi driver in Hanover in 2002, the year Germany switched over to the euro, and he was complaining that everything had gone up in price, even getting his hair cut. No doubt there are similar worries in Lithuania.

The first litas were introduced on 2 October 1922, replacing the ostmark and ostruble, both of which had been issued by the occupying German forces during World War I. The ostmark was known as the auksinas in Lithuania. In 1939 Nazi Germany demanded the return of the Klaipeda region (which the Germans called Memel) which they’d lost after WWI  and the German reichsmark was used in the Klaipdea region. However after the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in April 1941 the lita was replaced by the ruble.

After independence in 1991, Lithuania used a temporary currency called talonas which was only issued in note form, It was used between 1991 and 1993 until the new currency could be produced.

The lita now comes in several different denominations of bank note with 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 notes. When the 10, 20 and 50 litų notes were released in 1993 it was only for a very short time because they had no security features and were hastily withdrawn.

The 50 lita note is interesting. The front (obverse) bears a portrait of the national patriarch, scholar, statesman and signatory of Lithuania’s Declaration of Independence of February 16, 1918, Dr. Jonas Basanavičius (1851–1927).

The back of the banknote (below) depicts Vilnius Cathedral and its belfry, the monument to Grand Duke Gediminas, Gediminas Castle and the Hill of Three Crosses. All these objects are considered as the heart of Vilnius and are strong national symbols.SCAN0117

NB This banknote is the only one that closely represents a banknote released in the interwar Lithuania.

The 1993 release was designed by Ray Bartkus. At first the reverse depicted only Vilnius Cathedral and indistinctive houses of Vilnius Old Town. In a later 1998 release, however, the view of the cathedral changed to include the other monuments.

This 2003 issue is the newest banknote but the view featured appears outdated as it fails to display the newly built Royal Palace and Museum.

My favourite however is the 10 lita note. The reverse of the 10 litų banknote features Lithuanian heroes, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas. In 1933 they flew from New York over the Atlantic Ocean with a small plane called Lituanica which had been modified to carry extra fuel. Their planned destination was Kaunas but they never made it as the plane mysteriously crashed in Germany (now Poland). The duo did not survive. The most recent release clearly shows Darius wearing a cap with insignia from the Palwaukee Municipal Airport in Wheeling, Illinois.

SCAN0118

The obverse depicts Lituanica flying over the Atlantic Ocean with visible shores of the North America and Europe. SCAN0119

So with the adoption of the euro we lose some of that sense of history. The only positive aspect of the new euro coins is that on the national side of the coin it features Vytis, the national symbol of Lithuania. I’m not sure what will be on the banknotes.528px-Coat_of_arms_of_Lithuania.svg

Background: Lithuania’s parliament approved a euro changeover law in April 2014, and in their biennial reports released on 4 June the European Commission and European Central Bank found that the country satisfied the convergence criteria.

On 16 July the European Parliament voted in favour of Lithuania adopting the euro and on 23 July the EU Council of Ministers approved the decision, clearing the way for Lithuania to adopt the euro.

DSC00027DSC00018And the transition has already started with dual pricing on restaurant menus and on street advertising and booklets and posters in banks throughout the city.DSC00161

Next time I go it will all be in euros but I’ve saved a couple of the old notes for sentimental reasons.

Originally posted October 2014


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A Chair Just for Me in Vilnius……………..

I couldn’t be there to see it myself …

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

As anyone who has followed my blog will know that I consider the “White Cathedral” in Vilnius, Lithuania to be the most beautiful building in the world (or to give it its official name, Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo Arkikatedra Bazilika).

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Anyway, today I walked from my hotel to the cathedral, crossed the road and then saw a giant chair on the opposite side of the road to the cathedral which provided a splendid view of the front of the cathedral and the tower.

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I then noticed an envelope attached to the chair leg so I opened it and it read “for Mr T Gregory so that he can enjoy the best possible view of his favourite building”, it was of course in Lithuanian and the above is a rough translation. And I thought how considerate the Lithuanians are to provide me with my own personal chair.

So…

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CNN: Vilnius Christmas tree is the world’s most spectacular

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

2013 Christmas tree in Vilnius | DELFI, Photo by Š. Mažeika

CNN has announced the list of top 12 world’s most spectacular Christmas trees, with Vilnius tree named as number one.

CNN writes: “The well-preserved old town in the Lithuanian capital looks like just the sort of place that needs a Christmas tree. Now it’s got one – in fact, at 25 meters, the tallest Christmas tree in the Baltics.

“Well, “tree” – it’s actually a metal skeleton covered with fir tree branches. Lithuanian fir tree branches, though – they’re not made in China,” reports CNN.

The rest of Christmas trees in the world that were named by CNN as the most spectacular are: Lego Christmas tree in Malaysia,  Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York; Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree in Paris; Floating Christmas tree in Rio de Janeiro; National Christmas tree in Washington, D.C.; Brandenburg Gate Christmas tree in Berlin; Macaroon Christmas tree, Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, North Carolina; Umbrella tree…

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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.