The Rocco style gate to the Holy Trinity Church in Vilnius
This morning we had a walking tour of old town Vilnius
tour. Starting from the hotel, we saw the Town Hall, and the renovation happening in the town square in front of it. Being a Sunday morning, the streets were free from people going to work and was relatively quiet. Then down the old glassmakers street where we saw many uniquely decorated doors and lamps, old Jewish quarters, the Vilnius University, down past the Presidential Palace to Cathedral Square. I thought the columns of the Town Hall and Cathedral were a bit out of place here. A statue of Gediminas on a horse, the Grand Duke of Lithuania and founder of Vilnius who lived in the 13th-14th century, and the howling wolf at his feet. The folk tale which tells the founding of Vilnius had him taking a nap from hunting in the hills above the Vilnia River, he dreamed of an iron wolf howling in the night.
An interesting design for a lamp!
His high priest suggested that the wolf's howling represented the fame from around the world for a great city built at this site. Gediminas then ordered the construction of his new capital here, Vilnius was born. Behind the Cathedral were the upper and lower castles, the lower castle was the court of a later Grand Duke of Lithuania, which had an orchestra, art collection and a library of more than 4000 books. Vilnius had a reputation of a culture center. The Lithuania government is supposed to be reconstructing the palace as it was. The upper castle was a 10th century fort subquently strengthened by Gediminas and his successors. The Tower has a great view of the old town from its top. Alas we did not have time to visit the castles.
Then we walked back on the main artery, looking at shops and detoured on a side street to see the Amber Museum and Gallery (worth a visit, has a good selection and the museum was interesting and free too!) and then saw St Anne's Church and Bernardine Church.
The sign describing the Holy Trinity Church
St Anne's Church is the most outstanding gothic style church in Lithuania and it had so impressed Napoleon when he was here that he wanted to take it home! There was a service going on inside so we did not go in. By this time the streets have been filled with tourists and mobs of them can be seen coming up and down the streets in front of the church! We made our way back on some unknown back streets to rejoin the tour group for our bus trip to Trakai
For lunch we went to Trakai where its castle on an island in the lake was very much one from a fairy tale. Only 25 km from Vilnius, Trakai's medieval fortress has been restored and is very beautiful. It was the warmest day we have had so far, and being a Sunday, the place was full of tourists.
Main altar of the St Casimir Church
There were many sail boats and paddle boats and row boats, having a good time. It's too bad that we couldn't spend the night here and see the place early in the morning or late at night for different moods of the castle. The whole place was in ruins after being sacked by the Russians in the war of 1654-67. In 1962, the Lithuanian government decided to restore it. The Kremlin choose to ignore this display of national pride by the Lithuanians, however, Khruschev was said to be infuriated. I am glad they let it happan anyway so we can see it today.
We had lunch at a restaurant by the lake, with great view of the castle. Then we took a tour of the castle itself. Crossing a wooden bridge, we entered the gate of the castle. The castle has a large outer courtyard within the walls and watch towers, then a moat, now dry, separates the inner castle and its own small court which was the residences of the Vytautas the Great (the grandson of Gediminas). The residence area has a lot of stories so you have to be prepared to climb up and down a lot.
Vilnius Sights & Attractions review
The Amber Museum and Gallery in old town Vilnius has an amber store on the ground floor, and the museum in the basement. The place was not big, bu… read entire review