Vilnius (pop. 541.3 thousand), the capital of Lithuania, is the largest and one of the oldest cities of the country. Its name was first mentioned in 1323 in the letters of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas inviting craftsmen, merchants and monks from Western Europe to come and stay here. In 1387, after Lithuania adopted Christianity, the city was awarded the Magdeburg Rights, i.e. self-governing.
Vilnius was forming as a centre of tolerance where people of various nationalities, including Poles, Byelorussians, Russians, Germans, Jews and otthers, settled and lived in harmony. It also enjoyed prospering crafts and trade. Upon having established a university in the Lithuanian capital in 1579, Vilnius became the biggest centre of culture and education in the region.
Vilnius boasts the most wonderful architectural styles of Southern and Western Europe, Gothic and Renaissance, as well as the original “Lithuanian” Baroque, also called the last vivid flash of Baroque in Europe. During these periods the dynamic silhouettes of the majority of very elegant churches annd belfry towers emerged above the city panorama. The end of the 18th century enriched the capital with beautiful buildings in the Classicist style. The capital of Lithuania is the biggest northernmost and easternmost city of Europe with especially evident in
At the start of the 20th century, Vilnius became the centre of the Lithuanian national rebirth. On 16 February 1918 the independence of the Lithuanian state was declared here.
Contemporary Vilnius is the fastest growing and advancing capital in the Baltic States, aspiring to be the most attractive centre for business, political and cultural meetings and events in the region of the neighbouring countries. The city enjoys a well-developed infrastructure of services and entertainments–it has plenty of accommodation, catering and leisure places of various levels. Vilnius is home to the majority of national art and cultural institutions and companies as well ass artists. Eimuntas Nekrošius, Oskaras Koršunovas, Rimas Tuminas and other Lithuanian artistic directors, the best in Europe, are working here. During summertime the city hosts international and national cultural events, including Vilnius Festival (classics and of the virtuosi of the world music), Christopher’s festival of traditional and modern music, several jazz, folklore and modern dance festivals along with other inventive festivities.
Vilnius, for its activities in creating the good neighbourship and civic community, earned the 2000-2001 UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize an
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE: LITHUANIAN MASTERPIECESVILNIUS HISTORIC CENTRETHE CURONIAN SPITCROSS-MAKING IN LITHUANIA. SYMBOLISM OF CROSSESTRADITIONS AND SYMBOLISM OF SONG FESTIVALS IN ESTONIA, LATVIA AND LITHUANIAKERNAVĖ
VILNIUS HISTORIC CENTRE
In 1994, the primary motive for the inscription of Vilnius Historic Centre on the UNESCO World Heritage List said: “The political centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th through the 18th century, Vilnius had a considerable influence on the cultural and architectural development of the Eastern Europe. Despite invasions and partial destruction, it has preserved impressive complexes of gothic, renaissance, baroque, and classical buildings as well as its medieval layout and natural settings”.
Vilnius, the name of the capital of Lithuania, was first mentioned in 1323 in the letter of Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. In his letter, Gediminas was inviting European merchants and craftsmen to come and settle and offering them every support. Since then Vilnius has been famous for its tolerance towards different nations and religions. The names of the Old Town streets (German, Je
Žemaitija National Park
Žemaitija National Park is a real discovery for travellers who wish to explore wild nature and original traditions of the region. It is recommended to naturalists, cycling tourists, yachtsmen and scuba-divers since the Park offers a number of opportunities for active and interesting leisure time. The lake compound of Plateliai, vast woodlands, the architecture and traditional archaic feast of Žemaičiai Calvary as well as articles of wood craftsmen, a traditional Pancake Tuesday festival, the possibility to hear, touch and feel all that legendary character of Žemaičiai – all of that attracts visitors to Žemaitija National Park. The Lake Plateliai (1205 ha), the biggest and cleanest lake in Žemaitija, along with another 25 lakes, provides opportunities to water sport and tourism, scuba diving, fishing and bird observation fans as well as professional scientists. A good road network linking settlements and villages of the Park allows travelling by car, by bicycle or on foot. The Park is home to 2 information centres, 8 museum expositions and 12 natural sights. Those interested in all that can choose short tours or a week-long stay. Tourists are welcome at 7 holiday homes and hotels, 19 rural tourism farmsteads and 9 camping sites as well as 6 cafes, inns and Linelis. The Samogitian kastinys (sour cream butter), spirginė (flaxseed and potato dish), cibulynė (onion and herring soup) or lake fish are really specific and delicious foods of the region. The Park fosters and revives old cultural traditions and festivals of the Žemaitija region. Tourists will be welcome by the guides having preserved their old dialect, customs and peculiarities of temper. Žemaitija National Park is a real blessing for eco-tourists and scientists of wide profile. The glacier-formed waterhole of Plateliai Lake and small lakes of thermokarst origin, distinguished by exceptional relief landscape complexes of Gardai Ridge, Mikytai, Jazdauskiškiai and Šarnelė, large marshlands densely inhabited by birds, and ravines carved with springs and upper reaches of rivers – all of that you can find in a small area of 21720 ha. It should be noted that some 10% of the Park’s territory are not available for tourists; these include Plokštinė and Rukundžiai natural reserves, which also turn into telmological (marsh) reserves in spring and summer. The National Park contains 12 monuments of nature, including trees, springs, peninsulas and islands; however, not all of them are accessible easily. The most impressive in the territory of Plateliai Manor is the Ash-tree of Witch being the thickest ash-tree in Lithuania (the trunk size is 7.2 m, height–32 m). Other monuments of impressive dimensions or forms also worth while seeing include the Plateliai elm and linden growing in the same Park of the manor, a high hill of Pūkštė, the springs in the Plokštinė Forest, and a Castle island in the Lake of Plateliai. If you wish to explore the underwater world of nature, you will be assisted by the enthusiasts of Oktopusas scuba diving club. At the same time you will see piles of the castle bridge that has survived from the Medieval Ages.The Park contains more than 200 cultural heritage values, including 30 archaeological sites: traces of camps of the Stone Age, mounds, the hills of Alka (ancient sacred places) and ancient cemeteries. The ring of mounds and hills of Alka (the mounds of Žemaičių Kalvarija, Grigaičiai, Užpelkiai, Pučkoriai, Gegrėnai and Mikytai villages, the hills of Alka in Vilkai, Godeliai and Mikytai villages) stretching along the north-eastern part of the Park joins the most famous mounds of Skuodas-Kretinga District (Apuolė, Impiltis). Piles of the ancient bridge that connected Plateliai town with castles in the island have survived in the Lake Plateliai. The most valuable architectural monuments include the churches and ancient farmsteads of Beržoras, Plateliai, Žemaičių Kalvarija as well as Babrungėnai Mill. Žemaičių Kalvarija boasts many monuments of architecture, arts, archaeology and history. The most important of them is a Calvary with 19 chapels built in the 17th century. A similar Calvary was also restored in Beržoras.The National Park has preserved Samogitian crosses, chapels, and roofed crosses with statuettes of the Saints, which even nowadays are placed on roadsides or built in trees in this region. Their birth can be witnessed at the Museum of folk artists Regina and Justinas Jonušai, Kazys Striauka’s Granary, and the private art gallery-artistic workshop of Leonardas Černiauskas. The Granary of Plateliai Manor-house displays the exposition of Shrovetide masks, archaeological artefacts from Šventorkalnis and Castle island, ancient tools and household utensils. It also hosts regular exhibitions. The Museum of Writer Žemaitė represents the native farmstead of the writer with a survived house, personal belongings and a work exposition of the writer. The Museum of Vytautas Mačernis tells its visitors about the life and creative work Vytautas Mačernis, a Lithuanian poet of tragic fate. The exposition of militarism established on the underground launch site of thermonuclear missiles, surrounded by the Paplatelė Forest, built by the Soviet Army in 1962, has become the most famous sightseeing place in Žemaitija region.You will receive information about heritage objects and sightseeing places at Žemaitija National Park information centres in Plateliai and Žemaičių Kalvarija. In Plateliai you may book guided tours, receive information about accommodation and camping conditions and acquire permits.9 camping sites are equipped by Plateliai and other lakes (a fee is charged for camping). The youth can stay at Plokštinė Ecological Education Centre, a small hotel Dvaro Svetainė, 14 rural tourism farmsteads, 5 holiday homes and a recreation facility.A survey site by Plateliai Lake reveals a beautiful panorama of the lake. Šarnelė mound, Mikytai hill of Alka, and the sceneries of Jogaudai and Paplatelė open up wide horizons.Guided tours may be booked at the Žemaitija National Park Administration.Those who like hiking will enjoy sightseeing trails. Šeirė sightseeing trail (4.1 km long) introduces the relief, flora and fauna typical to this region. The hiking trail The Trip of Acorn and Conker in the Park of Plateliai Manor (1 km long) is intended for primary school pupils. It introduces plants and reminds of how one should behave in the forest. Tourists hiking or cycling along Plateliai-Beržoras trail (1.5 km long) can enjoy natural and cultural heritage values of these areas.The Lake Plateliai is perfectly suitable for sailing, boating, water cycling, surfing, yachting and using other engine-free vehicles. The supply of services here is very wide and includes scuba diving, bike rent and repair, pedal boat and boat rent. It also offers good conditions for fishing. The permits are issued at the Plateliai Information Centre of the Žemaitija National Park Administration.Žemaitija National Park boasts perfect conditions for the organization of conferences (hall rent, accommodation and catering services). Visitors may order specialized events (Samogitian songs and dances) or learn about Pagan festivals and rituals.
Curonian Spit National Park
The Curonian Spit National Park (26461 ha, including 9761 ha of land, 4200 ha – Curonion Lagoon (Kuršių marios), 12500 ha – the Baltic Sea) is the most frequented protected area in Lithuania. Chains of North Europe’s highest dunes, the soughing of the sea and rustling of sand as well as old Curonian houses smelling of fish accompany a traveller all along the spit, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. The formation of a small and narrow sand strip between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon from the sand carried by water streams and drifted by the wind started around 5 thousand years ago. The current landscape of the spit is the result or human activities and natural forces. After deforestation in the 15th-17th centuries, the sand dunes started moving and buried villages. Only well-planned human activities could provide protection against natural elements. The formation of a protective dune ridge and afforestation were commenced 200 years ago. This area is distinguished by unique landscape, flora and fauna. That includes the Large Dunes ridge of the spit, the ancient parabolic dunes near Juodkrantė, the Grey Dunes between Juodkrantė and Pervalka, the drifted Parnidžio and Sklandytojų (Gliders’) dunes, soils which have been buried beneath a layer of sand, sea and lagoon plains, natural complexes of kupstynė (tops of buried old dunes), and the protective seacoast dune ridge. The spit is characterized by specific natural habitats the protection of which is Lithuania’s responsibility. The Curonian Spit National Park was added to Natura 2000, a European network of protected areas. The aim is to preserve typical and rare species of plants and animals, which are important to the biological variety of the whole Europe.Tourists are attracted by interesting and original cultural heritage, including ethnographic fishermen’s houses, old villas constructed in late 19th – early 20th centuries in Nida, Juodkrantė and Smiltynė settlements, the old cemetery of Nida, the Evangelical-Lutheran churches of Nida and Juodkrantė, and buildings of typical wooden architecture. Liudvikas G. Rėza, Konigsberg University professor, poet and folklore collector, was born here. German culture and art celebrities used to holiday, and writer Thomas Mann had its own summer house here. Nida, Juodkrantė, Preila, Pervalka and Smiltynė are old summer resorts rich in recreational resources, including sand beaches, clean sea water, sunlit pinewoods and natural and cultural values in the neighbourhood. These settlements have many hotels and holiday homes. Local residents, too, provide accommodation services. The Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea create favourable conditions for yachting and recreational fishing. Nida, Juodkrantė and Smiltynė have yacht ports, and Preila and Pervalka–boat quays.Every year, Lithuanian Sea Museum-Aquarium and Dolphinarium in Smiltynė, Weathercock Museum-Gallery in Juodkrantė, the Nature Museum of the Curonian Spit National Park, Fisherman’s Ethnographic Home, Amber Gallery-Museum, Neringa History Museum and Thomas Mann Culture Centre attract many visitors.A 26-kilometer long cycling trail has been built in the Curonian Spit. Soon it will stretch along the entire Curonian Spit. Visitors to the spit can explore the landscape of the Grey Dunes on the sightseeing trail (1,2 km long) of the Nagliai Natural Reservation. A sightseeing hiking trail (1,6 km long) is built in Juodkrantė old grove, and Parnidžio sightseeing trail (1,8 km long) – in the environs of Nida. Close to Juodkrantė, bird lovers can observe the life of the grey herons and large cormorants. Lithuania’s largest brooding place of these birds is here. Viewing grounds opening up scenic views of the Curonian Spit and the Baltic Sea or the Curonian Lagoon are built on Avikalnis, the Grey Dunes in Nagliai reservation and Parnidžio Dune.