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Épater la Bourgeoisie
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There's a river, not unlike this one, near Vilnius, where my grandfather taught me to fish

Marko Ramius, The Hunt For Red October


Vilnius is a city with a complex and unique identity. It is not Eastern European, Polish, Scandinavian, or Russian. It is uniquely Lithuanian. City with a flare and character of its own which is found nowhere else on Earth - not even the rest of the country itself. Nobody quite knows when and how the city was founded - there are only legends, it's name too is a mystery. The ambiguity is fitting. Throughout its history it was fought over, claimed and contested by many nations. All of who left their mark. This was where Adam Mickiewicz studied and where Vilna Gaon (Elijah ben Solomon Zalman) was born. It was third largest city in the Tsarist Empire and playground of Italian architects invited over by Lithuanian nobility. At times a thriving multicultural centre and at others a provincial backwater and a crucible of Holocaust. Vilnius is a crossroads of lost empires and vanished civilisations where mass graves from centuries past are still being unearthed (latest being the remains of the fallen soldiers of Napoleon's Grande Armee in 2002). But it is also a geographical centre of Europe and an exciting capital of "New" Europe. With ever cooler, bars, restaurants and galleries opening almost daily. If some people are in search of some sleepy town stuck in a time warp - they will be disappointed. The city has all the modern conveniences and holds its own against other European capitals pretty well - there's free wifi everywhere you go and the streets are spotless, the cafe culture has taken root and multiculturalism is returning...

Soundtrack

1. Symbol of Vilnius? Seen in many a tourist picture the building is widely known and for good reason - it is a simply amazing example of Neoclassicism. Built in 1783 by Laurynas Gucevičius. However do not be deceived by those clean classical lines - the history of the cathedral goes back a long, long time - the first incarnation was built in 13th century - when Lithuania finally adpoted Christianity, making it the last nation in Europe to do so (that's right even them Vikings didn't last this long).



2. During the recent restoration the remains of pagan altars and even the floor have been found! In addition the restoration team also uncovered a 14th century frescoe in one of the underground chapels - the oldest frescoe in Lithuania. You can see the pictures of it on Wikipedia. It is curious but it is in an unmistakably Eastern style and even reminds me of some of the frescoes one finds in the catacombs of Rome. During the Soviet era the Cathedral was turned into a warehouse. Warehouse? A building like that? U mad, bro?



3. Gediminas Avenue - the main and the fanciest street in Vilnius. Stately buildings and spotless streets combine to create a pleasant and aesthetic environment. We were staying in a hotel on this street too.



4. Novotel on the left - where we were staying. 10 out of 10 one of the best hotel experiences I ever had. My last trip to Lithuania was back in 2009. Then it looked great already but it has improved even more since then.



5. Vilnius Little Theatre. Self explanatory really. But I liked the building. Also on Gediminas Avenue.



6. The former St George Hotel.



7. The Vilnius Cathedral from our hotels gym. Vilnius is incredibly beautiful. I don't think it is an exaggeration to suggest that it is easily one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and quite probably the world.



8. St John's Church, my favourite church in the city and one that dominates the city skyline. It is a beautiful baroque creation built in 16-17th centuries but totally reconstructed in the 18th. It is the church of Vilnius University. During the war the Reverend Alfonsas Lipniūnas delivered anti-Nazi sermons for which he was sent to Stutthof Concentration Camp, where he died.



9. It was May. The weather was a typical Lithuanian spring - sunshine, showers and clouds, but temperatures were rather pleasant.



10. The view over the rooftops of Vilnius. This view reminds me a lot of St Petersburg.



11. View from our window.



12. Again.



13. Gediminas Tower and the skyline of new Vilnius behind. At its height the Vilnius Castle complex was a sprawling collection of buildings. After Battle of Vilnius of 1665 it gradually lost its importance and structure after structure were demolished during the following centuries.



14. A beautiful view.



15. View towards the Old Town with the already seen church of St John's.



16. Zoom in zoom out.



17. Zoom in zoom out! :D



18. I love this church. Truly amazing.



19. General view over the red rooftops of the old town.



20. More.



21. The Cathedral.



22. Closer view.



23. Vilnius is surrounded by forests. Just climb get to a vantage point of your choosing, look around and all you will see is the endless, endless forest. The dome in the background belongs to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul which is considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture.



24. Three Crosses, once again, what you see is the forest. There's an interesting legend behind the monument of Three Crosses - "According to the Bychowiec Chronicle, fourteen Franciscan friars were invited to Vilnius from Podolia by Petras Goštautas. The friars publicly preached the gospel and badmouthed Lithuanian gods. Angered city residents burned the monastery and killed all fourteen friars. Seven of them were beheaded on the Bleak Hill; the other seven were crucified and thrown into the Neris or Vilnia River". It does, however, share many similarities with other Christian martyr legends. In any case it done the job and the site soon became a pilgrimage and worship centre with first three crosses being erected in 17th century, surviving all the way into the 1869 when they finally collapsed. The present monument dates from 1989.



25. Uzupis district.

 

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the neoclassical cathedral has more than just meets the eyes. I'm just curious to see some pics of its interiors and the frescoes and as per your description,yes, it's a gem and a center piece of the city. Likewise, the old city is nice specially with those old roofs and I can see several churches around. I wish you can upload more specially ground levels shots and of the people too. thanks though .
 

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Amazing photos, keep up the good work. :)

the neoclassical cathedral has more than just meets the eyes. I'm just curious to see some pics of its interiors and the frescoes and as per your description,yes, it's a gem and a center piece of the city. Likewise, the old city is nice specially with those old roofs and I can see several churches around. I wish you can upload more specially ground levels shots and of the people too. thanks though .
Here's the interior of the cathedral:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Diliff/Lithuania_Trip#/media/File:Vilnius_Cathedral_Interior_1,_Vilnius,_Lithuania_-_Diliff.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Diliff/Lithuania_Trip#/media/File:Vilnius_Cathedral_Interior_2,_Vilnius,_Lithuania_-_Diliff.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Diliff/Lithuania_Trip#/media/File:Vilnius_Cathedral_Chapel_of_Saint_Casimir,_Vilnius,_Lithuania_-_Diliff.jpg

And here you can see some interiors from the other churches:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Diliff/Lithuania_Trip

This one's my fave:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Diliff/Lithuania_Trip#/media/File:St._Peter_and_St._Paul's_Church_1,_Vilnius,_Lithuania_-_Diliff.jpg

I hope i didn't ruin your plans. Sorry if i did. :)
 

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Épater la Bourgeoisie
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Discussion Starter #9
the neoclassical cathedral has more than just meets the eyes. I'm just curious to see some pics of its interiors and the frescoes and as per your description,yes, it's a gem and a center piece of the city. Likewise, the old city is nice specially with those old roofs and I can see several churches around. I wish you can upload more specially ground levels shots and of the people too. thanks though .
Stick around there will be more pictures to come!

Thanks for the comments all! :cheers1:
 

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Épater la Bourgeoisie
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Discussion Starter #11
26. The Gate of Dawn - the only surviving city gate in Vilnius, it was built in 1522 and is most known for the the chapel of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, which is housed inside the structure. In it hangs the famous painting of the Virgin Mary which is said to have miraculous powers. It is an object of veneration for both Catholics and Orthodox and to this day thousands of people come to pray before it just as they did throughout the centuries. It is an absolute miracle that this painting has survived the Soviet era and thank goodness it did. We went inside (if you're in the city visit it, it is free) and saw a Baptism (during our stay we saw two Baptisms and one wedding, thankfully no funerals) which was an interesting experience. However the chapel is very, very crowded at most times, so I didn't take any shots out of respect and because, in the words of Sean O'Connell from The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty - "Sometimes I don't. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it."



27. The Gate of Dawn from the other side. The building on the left is Church of St. Teresa.



28. A wider view. A typical Baroque church...



29. ...then you go inside and leave with a mind blown....



30. Looking down from the Gate of Dawn...



31. A white building in the mid-background is a typical Tsarist building, there's quite a few similar ones in Moscow. The gate on the right is the Orthodow Church of St. Nicholas.



32. Inside is stunning. And quite unusual for an Orthodox church.

 

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Épater la Bourgeoisie
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33. Kudirka Square on Gediminas Avenue. Apparently it was Military Day. So there was an army band and a bunch of soldiers in fancy uniforms. Quite unexpected but interesting and diginified.



34. A close up.



35. And behind the band the were soldiers. My wife commented that they all were so tall, but Baltic and Scandinavia region is known for its tall people.



36. Another close-up.



37. Note the officers belt - Lithuanian folk patterns. Lithuanians are re-discovering their culture and history which for the recent two centuries or so were suppressed by the Tsarist and then Soviet authorities. And why not, Lithuania is a fascinating place with a fascinating past.



38.



39. Marines?



40. Old decorated fellas.



41. Marching. Spotless and clean.



42. Love these uniforms.



43. And then I noticed this guy - Professor Vytautas Landsbergis. If there is a man in Lithuania that can be called the father of the nation then Landsbergis would be that man. He fought for Lithuanias freedom and contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union. He was also the man who tried to ban Soviet and Nazi symbols in the EU. He was stopped by the Italians *sigh*...who were outraged...except for one - Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini. Not surprisingly for a man of his stature he has just as many people who hate him as those that love him. But from what I observed he seemed a modest man and a man of integrity. Respect.



44. Note his tie - folk motifs again.



45. Cobblestones.

 

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Épater la Bourgeoisie
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Discussion Starter #20
46. A random wall in the old town.



47. An ancient door...



48. Why on earth did they put these massive unshaped stones in the wall?



49. Behind this gate is a luxury residential development. It was curious but I found many such developments and often they were standing right next to either abandoned/social housing.



50. A few steps from the above we found this. Ripe for a restoration!

 
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