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Published: August 26th 2019
Thursday started with a 4 hr train ride to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The temperature on mid afternoon arrival was a barmy 30 deg. After a quick check-in to the Corner Hotel for a 2 night stay we headed straight out for an orientation walk around the picturesque old town. Like the whole Baltic region, Vilnius has been occupied over the last 800 years variously by Sweden, Poland, France, Germany and Russia with each occupier leaving its mark on the city.
The walk mainly centered around Cathedral Square in the Old Town and its beautiful Cathedral and free standing belfry. The Cathedral has had many versions over the centuries due to fire & foreign occupation. The classic current version was completed in the early 1800’s & this time has remarkably survived a conversion into a warehouse during the Russian occupation.
Pillies St is a lovely pedestrian walk linking Cathedral Square at the top end of the once walled city with the bottom end at the 16th century Gate of Dawn. The Gate is the only surviving gate of the original city wall gates. The chapel above the gate houses a venerated icon of the Virgin Mary which is
believed to have miraculous powers.
Other sights visited were the Chapel of Saint Kazimieras with its beautiful ornate interior and the Gediminas Castle Tower, a remnant of the town’s castle.
Next day we took a more detailed tour of the town at our leisure starting with a visit to the Occupation Museum which gave a very moving account of the most recent occupation by both the Nazi’s & the Russian’s. Later we climbed the hill to the Gediminas Tower for the story of the Baltic Way resistance & then a guided tour around the self proclaimed enclave of Uzupis.
The Baltic Way was a plan to demonstrate to the world the Baltic states objection to occupation by Russia & involved around 2 million people joining hands in a human chain from Vilnius, to Riga & to Tallinn & eventually helped lead to independence 30 years ago. Vilnius has been a great stop.
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