A district self-proclaimed "independent republic" and other oddities in Vilnius and around

Užupis, the Montmartre of Vilnius (Montmartre is a famous suburb in Paris populated by artists), is one of the first districts established outside the city walls. In 2000, the inhabitants self-declared themselves “autonomous republic”, and on the first of April, fake checkpoints appear and fake cups check passports. The joke goes pretty far; there even is a constitution of Užupis, translated in several languages on the wall of  Paupio street.  Read the text on the photo: it really is unique!!  And other curiosity in the neighborhood as well: two small bridges where tons of locks are attached; they are carved with lover’s names, pictures or citations. We even saw a newly married couple complete this ritual: once they attach the lock to the bridge, they threw the key in the river under the bridge. Speaking of wedding, we saw a lot of them those days. It seems like renting limos is in fashion. We also saw a couple releasing doves after the wedding in front of the church, in Kaunas.  

Apart from that, the visit of Vilnius took us one full day, on Friday. We saw loads of beautiful and very different churches. Saint-Casimir and Saint-Anne churches are especially stunning. The cathedral, quite sober,  which looks more like a courthouse from outside, is impressive. Same for the Gates of Dawn where the Pope Jean-Paul came for a visit. There is a chapel with an icon, mounted with gold and silver, of Virgin Mary with miraculous properties. We then went to the museum of genocide victims. In an old KGB building, the visit is very memorable, especially when we see the jail with prisonner’s cells, cells of solitary confinement, torture and execution chambers where people considered as ennemies of the Soviet Union were kept. The names of all people who died in this place are carved on the walls of the building. An impressive visit !

The next day was calmer (at least we walked far less !!) :  visit of the Trakai castle (in the old capital of Lithuania) surrounded by lakes. Then, we visited part of the  city of Kaunas, which has a castle as well. We wanted to visit a concentration camp nearby, the Ninth Fort. But because we did have clear indications, we unfortunately couldn’t find it… And then at the end of the day, we visited Europos parkas, the open-air museum of the Centre of Europe. Sculptures about Europe (well, actually more or less, it’s modern art…!) are in display. Why? Because the geographic center of Europe is situated nearby, on the A14 road, north of Vilnius, according to the French Geographical Institute (25°19’ east, 50°54’ north to be precise). Apparently, this position doesn’t have unanimous support, but we still went there so  we can say : « we stood at the centre of Europe» !!

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The Gate of Dawn in Vilnius

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Vilnius' cathedral

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National theater in Vilnius

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upis' constitution translated in several languages
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Locks on Užupis's bridges
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Angel of Užupis

Trakai centre of Europe KGB Užupis churches Lithuania Vilnius independent republic

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