What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is the most common question we encountered when we were young.
Written by: Erika Grace R. Lapitan
Our lives are shaped by the decisions we make. At the end of the day, it’s all about fulfilling your dreams no matter how bizarre these may seem.
Take charge of your life and learn to seize the day. Traveling is always the best option. Why not go to Lithuania and find a place that is incomparable beyond anything?
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
The way to truly appreciate a place is by unearthing its history. Situated in Northern Europe, Lithuania is bordered by Poland to the south, Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east, and the Baltic Sea to the west. Many historians believe that Baltic tribes were the first inhabitants of the country. The country’s first king, Mindaugas, then united them when he established the Kingdom of Lithuania in 1253.
Like any other country, Lithuania also suffered from territorial disputes causing great damage to the nation. There were events like the Northern Wars, the Russian conquest, the Klaipeda Revolt of 1923, and the Soviet and Nazi invasion. The country witnessed World Wars I and II.
Fast forward to 1990, Lithuania flourished by declaring its independence and regaining its title as a sovereign state.
Years later, the country’s name “Lithuania” has celebrated its 1000th year of usage in 2009. Klaipeda County marked the said year with an equestrian monument of Grand Duke Vytautas Didysis atop a sphere. Made out of granite and bronze, the statue strategically faces the Dane River, Birzos Bridge, and the Tiltu street.
INSIDE THE CAPITAL CITY
The capital and largest city, Vilnius is affectionately named as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” and “Jerusalem of the North”. The name “Vilnius” originated from the Vilnia River, one of the rivers that flows through the city. First mentioned in 1323, through the written words of Grand Duke Gediminas to the Germans, the city is filled with modern and historical landmarks worth visiting.
Among the most popular attractions are the grand monument of King Mindaugas; Vingis Park, considered as the largest and the venue for different concerts and other outdoor activities; Bernardinai Garden, where children can have a great time in its amusement park; the Republic of Uzupis, a small area in Vilnius that has its own flag, government, and currency; and the Presidential Palace, built during the 14th century.
Take the time to walk the streets of Vilnius’ old town famous for its uniquely styled edifices and historical value. Listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the old town’s landmarks comprise of the Vilnius University founded in 1579 under the rule of Grand Duke Stephen Báthory. It is considered as one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. There’s the Gediminas Tower, known as the only remaining tower of Vilnius Castle’s upper part and whose name was derived from Grand Duke Gediminas; and the baroque-styled Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit well-known for its labyrinthine dungeons and the alleged place where lovers Barbara Radziwill and Sigismund II Augustus met in secret.
While in the old town, interact with the locals and observe their way of living in the Vilnius Cathedral Square. Located in front of the Vilnius Cathedral, attractions include the bronze monument of Gediminas, the Gediminas Bell Tower, and the “Magical Stone” said to grant wishes upon stepping on the stone and turning around thrice. The stone is inscribed by the word stebuklas or miracle in English. The Vilnius Cathedral, on the other hand, was completed in the year 1783 with an interior dominated by frescos and paintings dating back between the 16th to 19th century. The edifice was built in honor of Saint Stanislaus and Saint Ladislaus.
Watch exceptional performances in the National Philharmonic Society established in 1940. Also located in the old town, the edifice holds different concerts and music events depicting the country’s affluent culture. While the year 1998 marked its declaration as a national cultural institution, the edifice comprises of the Grand Concert Hall that can seat an estimated 700 individuals and the Chamber Hall with over 200 seats. Talented performers seen almost every night are the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Vilnius String Quartet, Musica Humana, Ciurlionis Quartet, and Sergej Krylov.
OF CASTLES AND OTHER TOWNS
Enjoy a royal treatment by visiting the Trakai Island Castle. Located on an island along Lake Galve, Trakai Castle was ordered to be built by Grand Duke Kęstutis. Constructed in three phases, the fortification’s initial purpose was to further strengthen the Trakai Peninsula Castle. However, after a few years, Kęstutis decided to move his treasury on the island and live there.
Built out of stone blocks and red Gothic bricks, the castle is truly a sight to behold especially if you take in its picturesque view from the Lake. Dominant features of the edifice includes the six-storey Donjon, a defensive structure which also served as a living area for the then locals and had an inside chapel; The forecastle and its three defensive towers consisting of firing galleries, prison cells, and living quarters for the soldiers; and lastly, separated by a moat, the Ducal Palace comprised of the Ducal Hall and the inner courtyard.
A combination of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance architectural styles, Trakai Island Castle has also been used as a summer residence during the rule of Sigismund Augustus. While the stronghold has undergone many reconstructions, it still gives many tourists and locals alike a picture of old royalty.
Visit the small village of Zibininkai and enjoy strolling at the beer gardens, brewery, specialty restaurants, and horseback riding complex. While the city of Marijampole offers attractions like the Monument of Vytautas the Great, Park of Poetry, holocaust memorial, and Marijampole drama theater; Kaunas City, on the other hand, has significant landmarks like the House of Perkūnas, a secular building once used by the Hanseatic merchants—the Town Hall housing the Museum of Ceramics, the artificial lake of Kaunas Reservoir, the Vytautas the Great War Museum founded in 1921, and the Kaunas State Musical Theater presenting exemplary operettas.
Further, have a picnic at Lake Plateliai located in the Zemaitija National Park. Walk around different cities and take pictures of artistic statues like that of Zemaite Statue built in memory of the Lithuanian novelist Julija Zemaite as well as the bust of musician Frank Zappa. Lastly, enter the house of famous poet Juliusz Slowacki, considered as part of Polish literature’s “Three Bards”.
OF BANKS AND INDUSTRIAL HUBS
Dubbed as one of the world’s most developed countries, a cab ride around Lithuania’s industrial hubs can never go wrong. Step inside the Swedbank head office located in Vilnius and take in its contemporary structure.
Designed by Audrius Ambrasas Architects, the bank’s distinct features compose of a terrace overlooking the Neris River, a café on the ground floor, an auditorium that can seat over 150 visitors, a reading room, and of course the office building itself.
Other high-rise edifices found in the capital city include the Prosecutors Office with its black exterior and oblique windows, the Litexpo Exhibition Pavilion made out of concrete and glass, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum which houses a wide collection of masterpieces.
LIVING THE DREAM
In a world where life often slaps us with the awful reality, our dreams will push as to pursue the greater good. Achieving it may not be easy and, yes, there’s a possibility of failure but we can always try again until we succeed. Start fulfilling your life’s dreams now by visiting the country of Lithuania.