Myth and Mystery
Vilnius in Lithuania has increasingly been attracting tourists to its pleasant surroundings, it is a city that is full of interest, vitality and history. The town is full of stylish Baroque architecture along its narrow streets, each full of secret alleyways and peaceful hidden courtyards.
Vilnius is not swamped by masses of high-rise tower blocks or gigantic megalithic buildings but retains a compact and cosy village like atmosphere. Dotted all around Vilnius are many sculptures, statues and monuments, some are classical legends, others are of historical figures and events. Walking around the city you will come across many erected, sometimes more than once, to celebrate Vilnius’s history and founders.
Statues and Sculpture of Vilnius
The Monument to the Barricades, further down Gedimino, at the Parliament Buildings are the remains of the obstructions erected during the 1991 uprising against Soviet oppression. They have been protected in a glass case and are the subject to political comment and graffiti.
The Holocaust Remembered
Chiune Sigihara’s statue in front of the Holocaust Museum celebrates the life of this Japanese consulate worker who between 1939 and 1940, being disgusted with the treatment of Lituania Jews, issued passes for them to escape. His actions managed to save some 6,000 lives in a city where many were sent to their deaths. There is also another monument complete with cherry trees, dedicated to Sigihara opposite the Reval Hotel Lietuva.
This museum along with the KGB Museum documents mans inhumanity against each other, which took place over the 50 plus years of repression that the people of Vilnius suffered.
Reformers, Authors and Founders
The statue of Dr Tsemach Shabad, who was a member of the Jewish Peoples Party and social reformer, stands on the edge of the former ghetto.
Romain Gary, the prizewinning French author who at the age of 14 moved to Vilnius with his mother. He served as a distinguished pilot in the Free French Air Force during WWII and went on to write the screenplay for the epic war movie “The Longest Day”. Gary’s statue is of a little boy with a Wellington boot, representative of an event in his Vilnius childhood when he attempted to eat his footwear to impress the girl next door.
The statue of Grand Duke Gediminias in Cathedral Square was unveiled in 1996 and is a modern interpretation of the city’s medieval founder. After a dream about an iron wolf whilst he was hunting one day, Gediminias decided to build an impregnable castle, around which the town of Vilnius and Lithuania eventually grew.
Myth and Mystery
Statue of the Three Muses, situated outside the National Theatre in Gedimino Street are quite disturbing statues. Fabricated in black steel with golden, eyeless faces they stare out across the street.
Statue of Elektra stood on the shores of the river Neris until in the 1950’s when its was smashed. In 1994 the government in Vilnius unveiled a new replica.
Tree Crosses on the Hill, standing stoically on top of Germinias Hill they represent three Franciscan monks who where martyred and thrown into the river here. The statues were first created in the 18th century, these fell down in 1869 and the Tzarist authorities refused permission to replace them. In 1916 they were once again standing over Vilnius and lasted through two world wars. However, in 1951 during the Cold War, Soviet troops pulled these down. After independence the present copies were made to commemorate the city’s newfound freedoms. You reach this loft position on Germinias Hill by taking a nice, if somewhat steep walk, through a wooded landscape and where there is a wonderful view looking down on the bright red, rooftops of the old city.
Where to Stay
Radisson Blu continue to open more hotels in Lithuania and have two presitigious hotels in Vilnius. Housed in a 22-storey high rise, the Radisson Blu Hotel Lietuva, Vilnius is the city’s tallest accommodation. Centrally located in the Lithuanian capital’s bustling business district, the lively upscale hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the famed Old Town and is an ample location for exploring all that Vilnius has to offer on the artistic side.