Lietuvos (Lithuania) - Vilnius
Travel pictures from Lithuania
by Dr. Günther Eichhorn
In June 2002 I visited Vilnius in Lithuania during a trip through Central Europe. Since the rental car company wouldn't allow me to drive to Lithuania, I had to fly to Vilnius from Warsaw, Poland. Because of that I was only able to see Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, nothing else. I stayed there two nights. The city is actually quite modern, with modern shops and parking meters, just like in any large city in western Europe. There is a bit of renovation construction going on, but not as much as in other central European countries. In one excavation for utility lines you could see old ruins in the ditch. They were performing archaeological investigations on these ruins. The Vilnius Historical Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
As everywhere in central Europe, churches dominate the city. The large cathedral in the center of the city dominates the cathedral square. The first cathedral there was built in 1387. The current version was built in 1783 - 1801. On one side of the cathedral is a statue of Gediminas, the founder of Vilnius, with his horse. Looking over Vilnius is Gedimino Kalnas (Gediminas Hill), with an octagonal tower, part of the 14th century fortification of Vilnius. As far as churches go, for me the most impressive one was St. Anne's Church, a large 16th century Gothic red brick church.
The university of Vilnius was founded in 1579. I got a tour through the university, including a visit to the observatory, which is from the 18th century. The university library was very impressive. The door into the library has beautiful bronze panels. The interior is just what you expect from a really old library. The observatory was interesting to visit. They had quite a few old telescopes and other astronomical instruments on display, in particular the old transit instrument and the meridian circle.
The central part of Vilnius has some nice old houses, but once you are outside the old center, it becomes less interesting. One noteworthy monument is a statue of Frank Zappa, a famous US musician.
Lithuania definitely has more catching up to do than the other countries that I visited in that area, except România. From what I was told, the rest of Lithuania lags a lot further behind than the capital.