the beauty of the city
Vilnius is not much of a going out city for travellers. The main focuses of this city is the beautiful old town, the main square and the fortress on the hill. I found Vilnius to be a romantic city for couples who can stroll the gorgeous courtyards of the hundreds of pre-WWll buildings.
The many small streets of Vilnius
Vilnius from Gediminas Tower
The many beautiful courtyards in Vilnius
Vilnius has so much to offer in terms of beauty and elegance. The budget traveller will have a wonderful time taking candid photos of this alluring Baltic city. This stunning city easily tops as the country’s most visited area, drawing thousands of tourists each year.
The capital may be a bit out of the way while heading north through the Baltic countries, but it's highly recommended for the ultimate photographer or the romantic couple. Vilnius is Europe’s largest baroque old town, which made UNESCO's World Heritage list. And don't forget the exquisite cobbled stone alleys, decaying corners of buildings, grand hill top views and gorgeous courtyards on every street.
Vilnius hasn't always had bright moments in its history. There are constant reminders of terrible times, from the despicable acts by the KGB to the Jewish ghetto where the Jewish community lived before their they met their fate during WWll.
Yet, Vilnius is an up and coming city with a lot to offer. The rich history of this Baltic city will make you want to come back more than once. I found it to be quite charming to sum it all up.
the republic of uzupis
Užupis, a unique neighborhood of Vilnius, is characterized as its own country. Technically this area of Vilnius is completely separate from the Lithuanian statehood as well as Vilnius. It has similarities to Monmartre in Paris and Christiania in Copenhagen. Užupis is recognized as the “republic” of artists. Just like an other country in the world, Užupis has its own anthem, constitution (on Paupio Street), president, church, graveyard (Bernardine Cemetery) and seven bridges that connect Vilnius.
This district or "country" is one of the oldest parts of Vilnius - pre-dating to the 16th century.
In the early days of Vilnius, the land where Užupis stands today was considered the slums of the area. Only poor craftsmen set up shop in this area due to the neglect by citizens. During the Soviet Ruling, Užupis was considered the most dangerous part of town with thieves and bandits roaming the streets for pray. Once local artists starting buying up the cheap land in the mid-20th century, Užupis opened up as a gentle peace loving area for anyone who wanted to create a new culture.
There are two symbols that best summarizes Užupis. The first one is a bronze mermaid that lies near the Vilnia River, which is the starting point of the republic. It is said that the mermaid is there for vistors to renunciate their love and charm for the republic. Once that is done, the visitor's soul is forever welcomed to Užupis. The second symbol is a bronze angel that was created in 2002.
The name Užupis means “place beyond the river." The Vilnia River runs right next to the opening of the republic making the name quite suitable.
The symbol of Užupis. It is also on the Republic's flag.
This video below will explain more about the uniqueness of Užupis.
Visit the site of the video here
Overall, my time in Užupis was a learning experience. I had been to Christiania in Copenhagen prior to this visit, which made me prepared for the outlandish ways of life in The Republic of Užupis. I have the upmost respect for people who do live this way because they seem content with their lives as craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs. But the life style can get overwhelming after a while. Maybe I would fit right in with this society. I can't say much without trying!
P.S. The constitution in The Republic of Užupis states that dogs must love their owners for who they are. But, cats are allowed to "only" tolerate their owners. What an interesting motto to live by!
Trakai national park and town
I had heard great things about Trakai, a town 30 minutes outside of Vilnius, Lithuania. I took a bus from the main bus station to the town square. There, I walked around the quaint little town for the next three hours.
The old town of Trakai, which is extremely popular for foreigners and locals, sits between beautiful hills, forests and a few lakes. The town is famous for its picturesque views of the lakeside and forests surrounding the area as well as the mythical Trakai Castle. The castle has been around quite a long time dating back to the 14th century. The castle was intact while Trakai was the capital of Lithuania. The castle was also an important military and political center during the early years, and the headquarters and home of the Lithuanian Grand Dukes. Now, Trakai Castle is a museum/monument of Lithuania.
Here are a few photos of my encounter of Trakai and the Trakai Castle.
The quiet town of Trakai
The views from the opposite side of the lake near Trakai Castle
An old boat between two trees
The clouds glistening off the lake
Trakai Castle situated on its own island across from town
The front entrance to Trakai Castle
The main square of the castle
The walls protecting the castle
My time in Trakai was spent touring the castle's outer parts (for free), walking around the town and taking photos on such a gorgeous day. The budget traveller needs to see Trakai. It's a measly 3 Euros round-trip to see this incredible part of Lithuania. It's a must see in my books.