Sunday, 24 June 2018

Vilnius and Trakai sightseeing fun


Greetings! Last month I made a trip to visit Tallinn in Estonia, Riga in Latvia, Vilnius in Lithuania, and Warsaw in Poland. I shared a map of my itinerary here, my Tallinn sightseeing photos here, and my Riga sightseeing photos here.

From Riga, I headed south by bus towards Vilnius, Lithuania's capital. The distance is about 280 km (175 miles). Similar to the ride from Tallinn to Riga, the road condition to Vilnius is very good. Again there is no passport control at the border since Lithuania is also in the European Union. The weather continued to be superb, sunny and warm, with clear blue skies. Lithuania has about sixty sunny days in a year and I certainly got a few of those sixty days! The countryside was picturesque with lush green forests and occasional bright yellow canola or rapeseed fields. I also saw a number of big storks' nests along the way.

Since Lithuania is not a well-known travel destination yet, I wrote a few quick facts before sharing some of my snaps of Vilnius and Trakai Castle in this post.

QUICK FACTS:
  • Lithuania is located in Northeastern Europe, on the Baltic sea, bordered by Latvia to the north, Poland to the south, Belarus to the east and south, and Kaliningrad (a Russian federal subject) to the southwest
  • Lithuania's official language is Lithuanian
  • Lithuania's official currency is the Euro
  • The population of Vilnius is about 550,000
  • Vilnius' Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site

VILNIUS' TOP SIGHTS:

Vilnius Old Town - Dated back to the 13th century, Vilnius Old Town has an impressive complex of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and classical buildings, as well as its medieval layout and natural settings. It is an easy walk from the Gate of Dawn at one end to Cathedral Square at the other end of the Old Town. I enjoyed the historic architecture, and the many shops at the main square and in the charming lanes. High quality linen and amber are abundant and at reasonable prices in Vilnius.

Old Town Vilnius, Lithuania

Old Town Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius Historic Buildings - Vilnius is a city of churches. Every block has a few huge churches, each with a distinct appearance, and elements of internal and external finishes. The majority of Lithuanians are Roman Catholics. Pope John Paul II visited Lithuania in September 1993. Pope Francis will make a state visit to Lithuania on September 22-23 this year.

Vilnius Gate of Dawn Chapel, built between 1503 and 1522, is one of the most visited shrines. The painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, was painted in the 17th century.

Gate of Dawn, Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius Madonna, Mother of Mercy

Vilnius Cathedral original temple dates back between the 13th or 15th century. In 1922, the Cathedral was granted the title of 'Basilica' by Pope Pius XI. The astonishingly beautiful Chapel of St. Casimir is at the end, in the right corner of the Cathedral Basilica.

Vilnius Cathedral Basilica

St. Casimir Chapel in Vilnius Cathedral Basilica

View from Vilnius Cathedral Basilica

Gediminas Tower is the remaining part of the Upper Castle in Vilnius. It's an important historic symbol of Vilnius and Lithuania.

Gediminas Tower, Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius University, one of the oldest universities in Central Europe, was founded in the 16th century. Its main Library was built in 1570.

Vilnius University

Vilnius Church of St. Peter and St. Paul interior has about 2,000 stucco figures in Baroque design. This is one church not to miss in Vilnius. Click to enlarge the photos to see the amazing details.

Church of St Peter & St Paul, Vilnius

Stucco figures in Church of St Peter & St Paul

Looking up inside Church of St Peter & St Paul

Pipe organ in Church of St Peter & St Paul

Stucco figures in Church of St Peter & St Paul

Vilnius Church of St. Anne is a masterpiece of the late Gothic period. Next to the church, the bell tower was built in the 19th century.

Church of St Anne, Vilnius, Lithuania

Side view of Church of St Anne, Vilnius

TRAKAI'S TOP SIGHT:

Trakai is about 28 km (18 miles) from Vilnius. Its main attraction is the red brick Trakai Castle on Galve Lake, regally standing on an island by itself completely surrounded by water. This historic palace was built by Lithuanian Dukes and once served as their residence. I took a guided tour to visit Trakai Castle and its lovely grounds.

Trakai Castle, Lithuania





LITHUANIAN CUISINE - During my stay in Lithuania, I tried a few local traditional dishes and remembered to take some photos before devouring them.
  • Zeppelins or large boiled potato dumplings with meat filling: The dumplings were big, with two of them in each order so I shared with a fellow traveler. It was something I'm glad I tried but it seemed a bit heavy for me.


  • Cold beetroot soup: The Lithuanian cold pink beetroot soup was similar to Latvian beetroot soup, refreshing on warm summer days. Its bright colour is definitely a conversation starter at any party.


  • Kibinai: I also had freshly made kibinai in Trakai. They're traditional pastries and are great snacks. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo before devouring my kibinai so you may want to see them here.

In conclusion, my visits to Vilnius and Trakai Castle were wonderful. I now have seen the three Baltic countries and their capitals. By traveling from north to south from Estonia, to Latvia, to Lithuania, I understood the historic events and cultural connections among the three countries more. I'd recommend the same approach to other travelers to the region.

Coming from Toronto, a city of about 2.5 million people, I found the three Baltic capitals easy to navigate at a relaxing pace. Walking is the best way to explore the historic centres of these cities. Be prepared to become a spontaneous wanderer because the Old Town layouts and what awaits at each corner are not to be missed.

MY NEXT STOP: Warsaw, Poland.

How familiar are you with Vilnius or Trakai or Lithuania? Would any of the sights that I mentioned be of interest to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

36 comments:

  1. I've not heard of this town - it looks so lovely!

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    1. Thanks, Lydia, for your comment. My pleasure to share Vilnius and Trakai here.

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  2. Wow to the blue skies, but a bigger wow to the detail inside the churches. There's something about those European churches that take your breath away. I've never explored any of the Baltic countries, but it's now on my bucket list.

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    1. Thanks, Jo, for stopping by. The weather was perfect when I was in the Baltic countries. I really liked the Baltic capitals, no crowd, less expensive, clean, and with lots to see and do.

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  3. Gorgeous photo and that crisp blue sky shows you had perfect weather Natalie. I'm enjoying discovering this part of the world with you.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    1. Thank you, Sue, for stopping by. It's my pleasure to share Vilnius and Trakai photos here.

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    2. Thanks for linking up and sharing your adventures with us Natalie. It is always a pleasure! #MLSTL

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    3. Thank you, Sue, for hosting. Have a great week!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your travels. I know the names but that's about it, your photos are gorgeous and I would love to visit!

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    1. Thank you, Becky, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it. Have a nice day!

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  5. The architecture is so stunning. Beautiful pictures and beautiful place. Thanks for sharing

    stopping via openslather

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    1. Thank you, Suzy, for stopping by and for your compliment. I greatly appreciate it.

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  6. Natalie, thank you for bringing life and context to a place I learned about at high school in Social Studies. There's so much of the world I have yet to see. The places I learned about at school are these dynamic, living pieces of history. Fascinating.

    SSG xxx

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    1. Thank you, SSG, for stopping by. You're right that these places are fascinating. I'm glad to share them with you here on my blog.

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  7. I just keeping saying 'wow' as I view the pics and read your words. It is so nice of you to share with us. I will be fascinated by Poland I am sure.
    Thank you for joining in #lifethisweek Next week's optional prompt is Taking Stock. Denyse

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    1. Thank you, Denyse, for your comment. It's my pleasure to share my travels. I'll take stock and join you next week.

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  8. Oh WOW! What a location. Such an amazing place to visit.

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    1. Thanks, Melissa, for stopping by. Glad you liked my post and photos.

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  9. This is not a part of the world I have seen, but you make it very intriguing for me. I always like to visit old churches and there are plenty here! It is always fun to try to local food- I don't always like it but I am always glad I tried it!

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    1. Thank you, Michele, for your comment. Vilnius is a city of churches with lots of history to explore. I'm glad I chose to visit the three Baltic capitals and Warsaw.

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  10. Lovely photos as usual Natalie - and I think I must have a stronger constitution than you when it comes to all things potato - I reckon I could easily knock off a Zeppelin or two!

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I've shared this on my SM xx
    Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

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    1. Thank you, Leanne, for hosting and sharing this on your SM. Potatoes are very popular in this part of the world. The locals make potato-based dishes in more ways than I knew of.

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  11. I have not heard of this place but love the pictures. I love to see old churches any where I go. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Victoria, for your comment. If you love old churches, you'll enjoy Vilnius.

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  12. Beautiful photo's Natalie! Would you believe my son went to Lithuania some years ago when he was in Year 11 or 12 to participate in the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships in Druskininkai! :-) #TeamLovinLife

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    1. Thanks, Min, for sharing your son's visit to Lithuania. That's quite an accomplishment for him to participate in a World Championship event. You must be a proud Mom. Hope your kitchen reno goes well.

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  13. The Baltic countries sound exactly like what I desire in a travel destination. You had me at "uncrowded"! Last year I visited several central European countries and they were all so crowded. Now I have more places to add to my bucket list! #TeamLovinLife

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    1. Thanks, Kathy, for stopping by. I agree with you that the crowd has unfortunately made Central European cities such as Prague less desirable for seasoned travelers. The Baltic capitals have all the European charms, clean, uncrowded, no long line ups, and less expensive than other big European cities. Tallinn may get the cruise ship crowd on certain days of the week but not when I was there. I'd say go before the crowd discovers the Baltics!

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  14. I’ve only heard about these cities, because they are the capitals of the Baltic states. Of those states, I first learned in high school (in Belgium). All of a sudden, giant Russia was split up in different “states”, and, us poor students had to learn that many more countries and their locations on the map in our geography lessons. :-)

    The churches seem very old and look different from the ones in other old European countries. The chapel in Vilnius resembles the tower of Pisa. :-) And, the castle comes straight out of a fairytale. What a wonderful trip you took over there, Natalie. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Liesbet, for stopping by. I hope you have an awesome time in Belgium. I'm very pleased that I chose to visit the three Baltic capitals and discovered how wonderful they really are. All those geography and history lessons came alive and more :)

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  15. Very lovely photos. What amazing pics. Thanks for sharing. #lovinlifelinky

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    1. Thank you, Patrick, for stopping by and for your kind words. I greatly appreciate it.

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  16. Wow, the architecture is amazing. It looks well worth the visit.

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    1. It was a great visit to Vilnius and Trakai. Thanks, Alicia, for your comment.

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  17. Amazing shots of these 'off-the-beaten-track' destinations!
    Thanks for taking part in the Travel Tuesday meme.

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    1. Thank you, Nicholas, for your kind comment. I'm glad to take part in the Travel Tuesday meme.

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