In my childhood when the Soviet Union still consisted of 15 republics, my parents took me to the Baltic states. Oh, it was such a colorful experience since these 3 republics were always more European than any other ones. It was almost like going behind the Iron Curtain at that time. I remember the cities with old brick buildings, beautiful narrow streets, and friendly people.
This time around the destiny brought me back to Lithuania after many years during which the big almighty Soviet Union collapsed, all of the republics gained independence, and some even became parts of the European Union. They started their own journey in search of democracy or dictatorship, reclaiming their own and sometimes almost forgotten national languages and culture.
Talking about Lithuania in particular, this country was the first one to declare independence in 1990, entered EU in 2004, and is the largest most populous of 3 Baltic countries. This is a country with a colorful history that once was much bigger and stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. This was once the largest nation in Europe.
Its raw pagan roots mix happily with Catholic (the Polish inheritance) and Orthodox. For me this is the country of forests filled with mushrooms and wild berries, with plenty of storks on almost every pole, and endless green spaces and mineral water sources.
Orthodox church in Vilnus
Chapel of the Gates of Dawn, Church of the St. Teresa
Its capital, Vilnius, is an unbelievably small place to be a capital with astonishing contrasts: spooky shadowy courtyards, eccentric artist community, cool arts, and beautiful mixture of gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical buildings.
Old Town (Senamiestis) is a city area which began to develop extensively since the Middle Ages and eventually has been surrounded by a defensive wall.
Grand Duke Gediminas
Uzupis District is a largely unrestored area primarily occupied by artists, squatters, and drunks. In 1998, the residents unofficially declared the area to be an independent republic, with its own president, anthem, flag, and constitution.
Užupis Constitution in many languages - quite a funny document
St. Peter's and Paul's Church is another amazingly beautiful church, which is considered a Lithuanian Baroque masterpiece. The church is a basilica built on a traditional cross plan with a lantern dome allowing extra light into its white interior. Not so special from the outside but extremely beautiful inside.
The Trakai Island Castle in Trakai is sometimes called "Little Mariënburg". It's located on an island and was one of the main strongholds in the prime days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. While it was severely damaged in the 17th century wars, the castle was restored in the 20th century and is now a popular tourist sight.
On the other side of the country is a very popular and classy spa resort town of Druskininkai, surrounded by largest pine forest in the country.
Lithuania’s most famous culinary wonder is probably cold beet soup. Potatoes also are regulars on the menu. Popular dishes include potato pancakes and Cepelinai – potato dumplings stuffed with meat, curd cheese, or mushrooms.
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Labels: Cepelinai, Chapel of the Gates of Dawn, Church of the St. Teresa, Druskininkai, Grand Duke Gediminas, Lithuania, Mariënburg, Senamiestis, St. Peter's and Paul's, Trakai Castle, Uzupis District, Vilnius