Tourist Guide

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Lithuanian 
Tourist 
Guide


Vilnius:
An Introduction

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Vilnius

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Travel
What's New
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Yellow Pages

Other Lithuanian-related 
tourist articles: 
Letter from Little Lithuania
The Stalin World Theme Park 
Magical Curonion Spit

Zappamania in Lithuania
Jewish Vilnius
Ghosts and Goblins
Lithuanian Jazz
Wine: A Baltic Guide
What's in a name?
The Anyksciai Grove

Tidbits

Estonian Guide

Latvian Guide

Links

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performing Arts   Museums and Galleries  Movie Theaters  Reading   Cultural Chronology   Luminaries   

Performing Arts

Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater: (B-4) A. Vienuolio 1, tel. 262-0727. Offering performances from the pseudo-professional to the outstanding. www.opera.lt 
Lithuanian National Philharmonic: (D-5) Aušros Vartų St. 5, tel. 266-5233. Offering a range of classical music. www.filharmonija.lt 
Lithuanian National Drama Theater: (G-2) Gedimino 4, tel. 262-9771. Puts on some of the best productions in Vilnius. www.teatras.lt 
Lithuanian Music and Theater Academy: (B-4) Gedimino 42, tel. 261-2691. Holds regular performances by aspiring, often brilliant students. 
Vilnius Congress Concert Hall: Vilniaus 6/14, tel. 261-8828. A good concert hall with a wide repertoire from classical to jazz. 

Museums and Galleries

Adomas Mickevičius (Adam Mickiewicz) Memorial Apartment: (H-4) Bernardinu 11, tel. 279-1879. Open:10-17; Sat., Sun. 10-14; Mon. closed. The flat where the great 19th century poet lived in 1822. Lithuanians insist on calling him Mickevičius and claim him as their own. He only wrote in Polish, and Poland claims he is Polish to the bone. He was the author of the Polish epic poem Pan Tadeusz, which opens with, “Lithuania My Fatherland, you are health, only he who has lost you can know how much you are cherished.” Lithuanians say Mickevičius was referring to Lithuania per se; Poles say he was referring to Lithuania as a mere province of Poland. This museum takes the Lithuanian view.

Amber Museum-Gallery: (H-3) Sv. Mykolo 8, tel. 262-3092. Open:10-19. www.ambergallery.lt  

Artillery Bastion: (D-5) Bokšto 20/18, tel. 261-2149. Open:10-17; Mon. closed. In a 17th century Polish-Lithuanian fortress. If you’re a military buff, you’ll enjoy this place.

Galerija Vartai: (J-1) Vilniaus 39, tel. 212-2949. Open:12-18; Sat. 12-16; Sun., Mon. closed.  www.galerijavartai.lt 

Genocide Museum: See SIGHTS

Jewish Museum: (C-4) Pamenkalnio 12, tel. 262-0730. In Lithuania, the recent past still evokes vivid, often bitter memories. This is certainly true regarding the Nazi occupation, when the nation’s Jewish community was virtually wiped out. This museum chronicles the tragic era.

KGB Museum: See SIGHTS

Lietuvos Aidas Gallery: (H-2) Universiteto 2, tel. 212-4727. Open;11-18; Sat. 11-16; Sun., Mon. closed.  www.lagalerija.lt 

National Museum of Lithuania (Lietuvos Nacionalinis Muziejus): (F-3) Arsenalo 1, tel. 262-9426. Open:10-17; Mon. closed. Exhibits trace the history of Lithuania from pre-historic times to 1940. A good collection of crosses studded with pagan symbols. Curiously, the museum also has an Egyptian mummy, donated by a German duke in 1899. www.lnm.lt 

Pushkin Memorial Museum: (D-6) Subačiaus 124, tel. 260-0080. Open:10-17; Mon., Tue. closed. Devoted to Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, in a house where his son once lived.

Radvilai Palace: (C-4) Vilniaus 22, tel. 262-0981. Open:12-18; Sun.12-17; Mon. closed. A permanent exhibition of Western European paintings and graphics from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Vilnius Art Gallery: (I-3) Didzioji 4, tel. 212-4258. Open:12-18; Mon. closed. Lithuanian art from the 16th to 19th centuries. The collection of the Lithuanian Art Museum which recently closed will be merged with this gallery.

Vilnius Castle Museum: (F-3) Arsenalo 5, tel. 261-7453. In the 13th century Gedimino Tower. Displays artifacts from the Vilnius Castle. Great views of Vilnius.

Movie Theaters

The cinemas below mostly run their English-language films with subtitles. Many other Vilnius movie houses do voice dubbing in Lithuanian.
Coca-Cola Plaza: (D-3) Savanoriu 7, tel. 265-2525. www.forumcinemas.lt 

Forum Cinemas Akropolis: Ozo 25, tel. 248-4848. Eight new and modern theaters. www.forumcinemas.lt

Lietuva: Pylimo 17, tel. 262-3422.

Sale 88: (D-4) Pylimo 17, tel. 231-4587. Specializes in art house movies. 

Reading

The new History of the Baltic Countries, written by local historians, is comprehensive—but is a tad dull and often leaves you yearning for a clearer explanation. Lithuania Independent Again is the autobiography of controversial Lithuanian politician Vytautas Landsbergis. The Baltic Revolution by Anatol Lieven is still an entertaining read, though it’s becoming outdated in terms of recent history. Another good history is The Rebel Nation by the late Stanley Vardys and Judith Sedaitis.
More serious students of Lithuanian history should try Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918-1940. Another history of the pre-war era is The Baltic States: Years of Independence by Georg von Rauch.
In Lithuanian Wood, by Wendell Mayo, an examination of the Nazi and Soviet eras through beautifully told short stories.
Lithuania in Her Own Words is an anthology of contemporary short stories. Also look for Forest of the Gods by Balys Sruoga; Lithuanian Myths published by Vaga and compiled by Norbertas Velius.
One can also find English translations of various poetry, including Anyksciu Silesis (The Anyksciai Grove), as seen in CITY PAPER No. 35, as well as contemporary pieces by poet Sigitas Geda and others.
Good guidebooks include Bradt’s Baltic Capitals and Lonely Planet’s Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania.

Luminaries

In the cultural history of Lithuania, the name Mikalojus K. Ciurlionis (1875-1911) dominates the field. Amazingly, the composer/painter accomplished everything he did before he died at the young age of 35 in 1911. He has a remarkable ability to conjure up images of color in his music and to evoke music in his paintings. His paintings suggest a dreamy world of spirits and heroes, and far-away, fairytale places. One of his best known pieces of music is the symphony In the Forest.

Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevicius (1753-1798) is to Vilnius what Sir Christopher Wren was to London. The neo-classical architectural work by Stuoka-Gucevicius transformed Vilnius towards the end of the 18th century. He was the chief architect through the period, rebuilding much of what was destroyed earlier by fire and war. Among his best architectural works are the Town Hall, the Presidential Palace and the rebuilt Cathedral.

Known as the father of Lithuanian literature, Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714-1780) was the first Lithuanian to enter the world of literature in his native language. Previous writings in Lithuanian were religious reproductions. His poem, Metai (The Seasons), is still held up as the magnum opus in Lithuanian literature.

If Donelaitis is considered the father of Lithuanian literature, then Simonas Daukantas (1793-1864) is the father of Lithuania's national revival. The Samogitian writer had a passion for making Lithuanian the language of the learned. He produced the first history book in Lithuanian, and also published folklore collections, dictionaries and reference books. He was a pioneer of Lithuanian grammar. His work deeply influenced those who led the Lithuanian national movement in the 1800s.

One of the leading modern Lithuanian intellectuals, Sigitas Geda, 56, is best known as a poet. His poems are closely linked to Lithuanian traditions, and venture into the world of folklore, with a healthy dose of philosophy. He was also a leading figure in the Sajudis movement, which spearheaded the drive to restore Lithuanian independence. Also an essayist and translator.

Poet Antanas Baranauskas (1835-1902) is celebrated primarily for one work-The Anyksciai Grove , which he wrote as a young theology student in the mid 1850s. The poem is considered one of the most influential works of Lithuanian literature, and was inspired by a Russian government decision to fell trees in Anyksciai. Later, Baranauskas became a pioneer in the study of Lithuanian grammar. (See an English translation of The Anyksciai Grove in CITY PAPER No. 35, July/August 1998.)

Cultural Chronology

1236 Lithuania is unified and led by King Mindaugas. Later, in the 19th and 20th centuries cultural figures harken back to the glories of the monarchy.

1300s Jews invited to Lithuania by Grand Duke Gediminas. Over the coming centuries, Lithuania becomes an important center of Jewish culture and learning.

1389 Lithuania converts to Christianity.

1500s After Lithuania forms the Commonwealth with Poland, Lithuanian nobility is largely Polonized; Lithuanian culture is found mainly in the countryside.

1547 Protestant priest Martynas Mazvydas published first book in Lithuanian, a book of Catechisms. Ironically it was published in Prussia and smuggled back into Lithuania.

1579 Vilnius University is founded.

1818 Metai (The Seasons) published. The poem by Kristijonas Donelaitis, written decades earlier, is considered the first major work in Lithuanian literature.

1850s While there are major cultural awakenings in Latvia and Estonia, Czarist Russia deeply distrusts Lithuania and actively tries to throttle national movements here; Vilnius University is closed down by authorities, reopening in 1905. Earliest works of national importance, such as the Anyksciai Grove by Antanas Baranauskas, are written.

1860s Lithuania joins Poland in rising up against Russian rule, but the rebellion is crushed; consequently, Lithuanian-language publications are banned, and there are reprisals against the Catholic Church.

1880s Despite conti-nued repression, Lithuanians begin asserting their national identity more forcefully. The first Lithuanian newspaper appears. The lyric Voices of Spring is published. Written by Maironis, a priest, it expresses national aspirations in heavily romantic language.

1900 Mikalojus K. Ciurlionis, Lithuania's greatest painter and composer, begins to reach his creative peak. He dies 10 years later, aged 35.

1920-40 Independence brings greater cultural freedom, and artists revive images of the nation as a great monarchy. Echoes of Lithuania's pagan past also enter popular culture.

1940s During German occupation the Jewish community is wiped out; in Vilnius, which had become known as the Jerusalem of the North, great Jewish libraries and synagogues are destroyed, ending a centuries-old cultural link.

1988 First open protests against Moscow; the independence drive is led by Vytautas Landsbergis, a professor of music, who later becomes head of state.

Performing Arts   Museums and Galleries  Movie Theaters  Reading   Cultural Chronology   Luminaries  
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