Lithuania, my fatherland! You are like health;
How much you must be valued, will only discover
The one who has lost you.
The history of the country of Lithuania could be traced back to the XIIIth century or even earlier. In the XIVth century Lithuania united
with Poland. Thanks to fruitful cooperation both countries developed rapidly and achieved spectacular military successes. Together,
Lithuania and Poland defeated the Teutonic Order armies in 1410 in the Battle of Grunwald that was one of the largest battles in the
history of world. The union between both countries was tightened in the XVI century, when the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has been
created. Stormy history of the XVIIIth century resulted in an abrupt partition of the Commonwealth by the Russian Empire, Prussia and
Habsburg Austria. The largest area of Lithuanian territory became a part of the Russian Empire. Lithuania regained its sovereignty
briefly in the early period of the XXth century only to be annexed again during the World War II. After the WWII, Soviets re-established
the annexation of Lithuania. Even though the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the last Soviet troops left Lithuania in 1993. In this perspective
we may say that, at present, Lithuania is a young state, but its impressive and eventful history remains clearly visible. Its rich history
results in very unique and diverse traces. It is a multi-lingual, multi-confessional and multi-cultural state.
There are four very diverse regions: Auksztota (lit. Aukštaitija), Samogitia (lit. Žemaitija), Dzukia (lit. Dzūkija), Sudovia (lit. Suvalkija) and Lithuania Minor (lit. Mažoji Lietuva). The largest region Auksztota is the land of brewing as well as the beautiful songs sung outloud. Samogitia is famous for carpentering and bricklaying, as well as wayside shrines in every possible place. Sudovia is well-known for its agriculture and perfect fertile grounds. Lithuania Minor is known for its wooden folk architecture and beautiful nature.
Vilnius is the only European capital situated on the borderland of two old civilizations - Latin and Byzantine. This centuries-old and multicultural city cultivates the spirit of ethnic and religious tolerance until today. The city has one of the largest Old Towns in Europe and many historical remains which have been put on the World Heritage List.
The Old Town is the visiting-card of the capital. The oldest part of city situated on left riverside of Vilia shows the vibrant history of the capital of Lithuania. In 1994, the largest (360 h, 1487 buildings, 70 streets) and the most beautiful Old Town in Middle-East Europe has been put on UNESCO World Heritage List due to its unique cultural value for mankind and a perfect example of city forming. The most important symbols of the city are the Giedymina’s Tower on Castle Mountain and the Archicathedral. Another special place is the Mountain of Three Crosses (lit. Trijý Kryžiý Kalnas), being the best vantage point to view the panorama of the city.
Situated in the city centre on Castle Mountain the Giedymina’s Tower is one of the most recognisable symbols of Lithuania and Vilnius. Tower which can be seen from many points of the city, looks lonely and is a living testimony to many memorable historical events. Since 1960 the tower is the house for the Upper Castle Museum, a place where we can see and admire models of mediaeval Vilnius, armours, the antique flags of the Teutonic Order and installations connected with the Baltic Route.
The Gate of Dawn together with the famous icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, well-known for its miracles and favours
is the most valuable treasure of Vilnius. This icon in particular attracts tourists and pilgrims from all around the world. The
history of The Gate of Dawn begins along with the extension of Vilnius. In XV - XVI centuries the city was enclosed by defensive wall.
Nine municipal gates were built at that time, but only The Gate of Dawn survived until today.
The gate was first mentioned in 1514. At first the Gates of Dawn were called the Medininkai Gate, as it is on the road to Medininkai, in Polish “Ostra Brama”, the “Sharp Gate” because it was in the southern end of the city, which was called the Sharp. Later, due to the cult of the Virgin Mary they could be related to the sunrise, dawn.
Church of St. Anne is a valuable, late Gothic monument of Vilnius and a visiting-card of Vilnius. According to a legend, Napoleon himself wanted to move it to Paris “in a palm of his hand”. Built out of 33 kinds of bricks, it is a small one-aisle church. It still has its original facade, and the elements of ornamentation which resemble flames.
This temple has a special place in history of art with its unique interior composed of amazing decorations. The interior of the temple is adorned with over 2 thousands biblical, mythological and historical sculptures. One of more interesting elements of interior decorations is a beautiful crystal chandelier in a shape of a boat.
At the end of the 16th century a masonry church was built to replace the wooden one. In 1611 the church devolved to the Uniates — Orthodox recognising the supremacy of the Pope. Unfortunately they did not take care of the buildings. Historical sources inform us that the church was transformed into a tavern. The restored sanctuary was given a special honour in the 18th century by Czar Peter I. A legend spread that it was here the Czar himself christened an ancestor of the poet Alexander Pushkin. In 1864 the decrepit church was rebuilt in the Neobyzantine style.
Grand Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Konstanty Ostrogski built this sanctuary in 1514. In the 18th century the Gothic Orhtodox Church was damaged by fire, and thus, restored in the late Baroque style. Later, by order of General Governor Muravyov, the Orthodox Church was remodelled in the Russian Byzantine style. Notwithstanding the changes, a number of Gothic elements remained in the facade and interior.
Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius is one of the most beautiful cemetery complexes in this part of Europe, with many antique monuments and tombstones. This cemetery was established in 1769 and closed in 1967. It was put on a list of historic monuments in 1969.
Established in 1992, the Museum of Genocide Victims called Museum of Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security), tells stories about the arrests victims, deportations, inhuman executions and resistance movement during 50 - years occupation of Lithuania by USSR. The building of today's museum was the headquarters of Gestapo, Soviet Secret Police and Committee for State Security.
It is one of the most charming districts of this city, often called the Vilnius Montmartre. Its divided with the confluent of Vilia - Vilenka. Neglected in the past, today Užupis is becoming one of the popular places for many artistic events. It is a place of huge contrasts where we can find abandoned buildings as well as wineries and restaurants with beautiful interiors.
The shores of the peninsula on which it is located are washed by the waters of Lakes Galvė, Totoriškių and Bernardinų (Lukos).
This town, famous for its picturesque landscape and the legendary Trakai Castle, was a cradle of the Lithuanian statehood, an
important military and political centre, headquarters of the Lithuanian Grand Dukes, and the capital of Lithuania. Today, Trakai
attracts visitors to a wonderful place offering refuge from a hectic city life, with walks around the beautiful area or yacht trips
on one of the numerous lakes.
Trakai is also known for the Karaimes (a people speaking the Turkic language), who have lived there since the 14th century and have preserved their traditions. The kenesa – a Karaime sanctuary – and houses of Karaimes have survived in Trakai, and the national dishes (the most popular is kybyn – a small pasty stuffed with minced meat) of this ethnic group can be tasted at the Karaime Restaurant.