Lithuania - Geographical center of Europe
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania. In 1323 the Grand Duke Gediminas invited artisans from different European countries to Vilnius to develop local building and handicrafts. This year is considered to be the year of Vilnius fundation. Vilnius’ Old Town is among the most extensive in the Eastern Europe, occupying total 359 hectares. It contains about 1500 buildings. UNESCO included Vilnius Old Town on the World Culture Heritage List because of its unique mixture of the different architecture styles represented. Such churches as St. Anne’s, St. Peter’s-and-Paul’s, the Cathedral are real masterpieces of architecture. Be sure to visit the courtyards of the oldest University in Eastern Europe, founded in 1579, Gediminas Castle which offers a spectacular view of the entire city, the Gates of Dawn, the Amber Gallery etc.
The former capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 27 km to the west of Vilnius, is a favourite place for an outing. The Trakai Castle situated on an island in the midst of Lake Galve is the most famous and most photographed castle in Lithuania. The five-storey, redbrick fortifications were constructed by the Grand Duke Vytautas in the second half of 14th century. In the 14th century Vytautas invited his bodyguard of Tatars from Crimea to Trakai where they settled around the castle. Their descendants, the Karaites – a Turkish ethnic group – still give the royal town its distinctive touch.
Park Of Europe
Open-Air Sculpture Exposition devoted to the centre of Europe is located 19 km north of the centre of Vilnius. The collection of 30 sculptures of various shapes, sizes and origins displayed over an area of five hectares of wooden parkland. Exhibits sculptures are created by artist from Japan, USA, Mexico, Ireland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Peru, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Cyprus, Finland, Armenia and Lithuania.
Rumsiskes Open Air Museum
Situated 80 km to the northwest of Vilnius and 20 km from Kaunas Rumsiskes Open-Air Ethnic Museum is a mosaic of ancient Lithuanian villages. Old farmstead buildings have been moved from all the ethnographic regions to the shore to the Kaunas Sea – dwelling houses, granaries, threshing bars, cattle-sheds etc. – all in harmony with the breathtaking natural scenery. Folk ensemble concerts and holiday festivals are held in the grounds of the Museum.
Lying on the confluence of the rivers Nemunas and Neris, Kaunas with its population of 430 000 inhabitants is the second largest city in Lithuania. The Old Town of Kaunas is a concentration of the most important, ancient city architectural monuments: the 13th century Castle, the Old Town Hall, nicknamed the “White Swan”, the Archicathedral Basilica, the Church of St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuit monastery, Perkunas House and Vytautas Church. The most outstanding monument of the Baroque epoch is the architectural complex of Pazaislis Monastery. The green and flowering pedestrian street Laisves Aleja is the main business and leisure area of Kaunas. One of the strangest museums in the world must be the Devil’s Museum with its bizarre collection of Devil’s figures. The Art Gallery of M. K. Ciurlionis keeps the heritage of this great painter and composer.
The port city of Klaipeda on the Baltic Sea founded in 1252 by the vice-master of Livonian Order Eberhardt von Sein has many Germanic influences. He built a wooden castle at the mouth of the Dane River. These fortifications became known as “Memelburg”, since the Order mistook the Curonian lagoon for the mouth of the Memel River. The centre of the Old Town of Klaipeda is the Theatre Square with the statue of Ännchen von Tharau dedicated to the poet Simon Dach, the neogothic Post office, the former Louise Gymnasium. the Museum of old clocks and watches. In Kopgalis a restored fortress houses the Marine Museum and Aquarium, with the dolphinarium.
The fourth largest city of Lithuania, Siauliai, was founded in 1236 after famous victory over the Theutonic knights at Saule. Its history remained violent. And much of the town was destroyed by wars and fire over the centuries. Though much of the Old Town has vanished, the bustling and fascinating pedestrianised Vilnius Street can still be seen, as well the St. Peter’s and Paul’s Church. The 750th anniversary of the battle of Saule was commemorated by the erection of a 21 metre high sundial, capped by an archer in gilded bronze. 7 km to the north is the Jurgaiciai mound and the unforgettable Hill of Crosses. The first of the hundreds of crosses which honour the dead were planted after the tragic peasant rebellion of 1863.
Grutas Open Air Sculpture Park
In 1999, demonstrated soviet time sculptures from Lithuanian cities were brouht to Grutas. The number of ideological sculptures in one exposition is very rare and unique in world context. It is heritage of several decades of Lithuanian monumental art, despite it’s ideological content. These symbols of Lithuanian nation tragical time period enclose truth about soviet occupation times.
Palanga is 25 km north from Klaipeda. It is a modern summer resort with a number of holiday hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Palanga is famous for the Amber Museum and the Botanical Garden.
The Curonian Spit
The town covers the whole Lithuanian part of Curonian Spit is a peculiar unique patch of land preserved people and fate in the very center of Europe. It was destined to remain unique despite changes in political systems, architectural styles and way of life. Nowhere else you will see so many colourfully decorated houses and weather-cocks, proudly spinning in the wind. On the other hand, the Curonian Spit is not only the land of fishermen, primitive nature and sand dunes, it is place where you can have a perfect rest. This area is a nature preserve made up of dunes, pine forests, seashore and native animals. New hotels built in the last decade as well as reconstructed old ones, attract more and more vacationers each year. Nida is the oldest settlement in Neringa. The present Nida was established after people left the Old Nida, a settlement near Grand Dune covered up with drifting sand in the beginning of the 18th century. The other villages of the Spit are Pervalka, Preila and Juodkrante. The climb up Juodkrante’ Hill of Witches, under the eyes of the comic folk sculptures which line the path, shouldn’t be missed.
The national parks have been established in various regions of Lithuania for the protection and study of the nation’s diverse natural, cultural and historical heritage.
Dzukija national park is the largest-the kingdom of ancient legends, stories, songs, pinewoods and mushrooms. It is situated in a pine forest of Dainava sandy plain. This southern part of Lithuania is know for its poor soil, but there are many clear rivers, streams and springs in Dzukija.
Aukstaitija national park-the land called the kingdom of forests and lakes. It can boast of more than a thousand of lakes and lakelets. It was established in 1974 and covers an area of 30 thousand hectares in the region of Ignalina, Utena and Svencionys. Scattered among the woods and hills are some 100 smaller and larger lakes, often interconnected by rivulets and streams. Paluse is the center of tourism and leisure that receives tourists all the year round. The Old Bee-keeping Museum is of interest.
Zemaitija national park can boast of its picturesque and clean nature, unique ethnic culture, mythological and sacral antiquity, fir and oak woods, the Museum of Woodwork and Stones. It is the heart of Lithuanian fights for statehood and freedom. Pine forests surround the lakes and rivers that flow into he Baltic Sea. The famous Rambynas Hill, the Hill of Witches, the Boulder Museum, the bizarre Orvydai Museum, the botanical-zoological and hydrogeological reserves-all this you will find there.