Man patinka Lietuva

I like Lithuania – a visitor's point of view

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St George and the Dragon in Vilnius?

DSC01344Walking along Gedimino pr. I looked up (always a good thing when you’re out taking photographs) and there was a statue of our Patron Saint St George slaying the dragon. It’s on the roof of Gedimino 20 where Marks and Spencer is now situated but that hardly seemed a reason for having this statue.

When I researched it the answer was straightforward. It’s the site of the former George Hotel built by architect Tadeušas Rostvorovskis between 1893 and 1895. In 1893 Gedimino pr. was called St George’s Avenue.

DSC01021The hotel was renamed the Vilnius Hotel during the soviet period. I’m not sure when the avenue was named Gedimino pr. but it was reconstructed in 2003 to celebrate the 750th jubilee of King Mindaugas.

I remember that they were still completing the far end near the parliament buildings when I first visited in 2005.

First posted in July 2013


A trip to the castle in Vilnius

Last time I went looking for a castle (in Germany) I ended up at the zoo. But that’s a different story.

In Vilnius you can’t really miss the castle, whether you are on Piles g. (Castle street), in the cathedral square, or across the river. On high ground surrounded by rivers you can see why this had been a defensible location since the bronze age. The wooden original was replaced by brick and rebuilt several times. In reality the part visitors refer to as the castle is the Gediminas Tower or Upper Castle as there were three castles making up the defensive complex originally (the lower castle included the cathedral and the Royal Palace of the Grand Dukes).

There are two ways to get into it. DSC00937You can either walk up the path which starts behind the newly reconstructed, but as yet not open to visitors, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. You can just see where it starts at the bottom of the first picture and where you arrive in the next picture.

P1000373Or you can walk round the front of the cathedral, past the statues of the Three Kings, If you look up you can see that they are re-turfing the slope after taking out trees . You can see (RH Picture) how wooded it was last year and some locals liked it that way although it’s probably more historically correct now (it probably wasn’t a good idea to have trees too close to your castle providing cover and ammunition for you enemies).DSC00948 P1010276

Then walk past the statue of King Mindaugas outside the NationalMuseum, follow the road round  parallel to the river along Arsenalo g. and go in through the museum gates.

DSC01293P1000490There just past the mysterious stone (pagan?) figure in the grass you can take the funicular for 3 litas.

Once there you can have a wander round the battlements of Gedimas’ tower and take in a panoramic view of the city.

You can see the Hill of 3 Crosses and look over cathedral square or watch the River Neris wending it’s way through the city.

To get inside the castle costs another 5 litas (just over £1) and is good value for money.

DSC01262From the ground floor you have two options. You can walk up into a large room where there are a number of museum pieces, weapons and suits of armour – not all original although there is an interesting sword with the words “Free Polonia” engraved on it in Latin.

P1000499But for me the interesting things are the scale model dioramas showing how Vilnius and the castle complex used to look.

DSC01269DSC_0686The next floor is dedicated to the Baltic Way. There are photographs, a map and texts in different languages as well as a video running on a screen. There is also a large vertical Lithuanian flag (photo with kind permission of Kindadukish).

DSC01246From here you can also look out through the windows across the city.

To get on top of the tower you have to go back down and then negotiate your way up a narrow spiral staircase to the top. They’ve improved the exit in recent years so it’s weatherproof but on a busy day it’s a bit tricky squeezing past people.. No disabled access here.

And on a fine day the views are wonderful. Make the most of it and don’t forget your camera.

DSC01396DSC01397Finally on the way out we spotted something new. For 7 Litas you can buy a commemorative medallion. There are two designs, One is of the Grand Duke and one of the Tower. The obverse is the same on both, a map of Lithuania.

So no tacky souvenirs shop or coffee/tea shop, not even a vending machine. And long may it stay that way,

For 15 Litas – that’s less than £4 – it’s a value-for-money way to spend a couple of hours.

The castle is part of the National Museum of Lithuania and you can find more information on their website.

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We Three Kings?

CNV00006_3I was intrigued when I saw these statues on my first  visit to Vilnius in 2005. They looked almost polynesian and I couldn’t see any engraving to say what they were.

If you walk round the front of the cathedral, away from the square along T Vrublevskio g. heading towards the National Museum you will bump into them on your right. If you look closely you can see the building work on the Palace of The Grand Dukes behind them.

The second photograph (taken this Summer) shows a different view with the museum in the background and the statue of King Mindaugas.

There are three of them and Lithuania’s a predominantly catholic country so I’m guessing they are the three Kings celebrated on Epiphany in January.

I was once in Vienna on Three Kings Day and discovered that all the shops were closed and there were hordes of children dressed up as the kings or wise men.