Man patinka Lietuva

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.

 


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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.

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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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Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika – Vilnius (winter night)

Good results from the Nikon but it’s not all about the camera

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

I took this photograph of the white cathedral in Vilnius on my visit in February 2013. It was a freezing cold night but it was so beautifully lit up that I had to test out my new Nikon D5100 camera.  During the day the cathedral is a “thing of beauty” but at night it takes on a different persona…………incandescent and magisterial.

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