Vilnius Travel Guide

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the church of st George (Vilnius)

the church of st George (Vilnius)

Egle Obcarskaite

Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania. It is situated 300 km East of the Baltic seashore at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnele rivers surrounded by beautiful forested hills. The Total area of Vilnius is 394 sq. km. The highest point of Vilnius is about 230,7 m situated in the eastern part of town, nearby Rokantiskiu settlement. The geographical centre of continental Europe lays in Lithuania, approx. 24 km north of Vilnius. It was calculated by the National Geographical Institute of France in 1989.

Vilnius was first mentioned as the capital of Lithuania in 1323, in the letters of the Grand Duke Gediminas to the Roman Pope. An old legend tells us that Grand Duke Gediminas got tired after hunting fell asleep and had a dream. The Iron Wolf was standing on the hilland howling loudly. In the morning Gediminas asked the senior pagan priest what the dream meant. The priest said: "You will build a city at the place where the wolf was howling and the fame of the city will spread as the howling of the wolf. So this was the beginning of Vilnius. But archaeologists say that people were living here as early as the 5th century. Gediminas, the first famous Vilnius ruler, invited craftsmen and educated people from all over Europe to come and enjoy the city and to stay here. Vilnius became one of the largest trade, industrial and cultural centres of Europe in the 16th century. Throughout the ages it used to be one of the major Polish townships.

In 1579, Vilnius witnessed the foundation of its university which became the first higher school of thought in the Grand Principality of Lithuania and the whole region. Vilnius developed into a centre of European culture and opened itself to the nations of the East and West. Initially, it was the home of Polish, Jewish and Karaime communities. The houses, squares and churches of Vilnius sustain the spirit of a once-powerful state and its rulers. Though invaded, destroyed and burnt down many times, the town would always recover. Before World War II, over 90% of the population was Polish and Jewish. Today it is about 25% only, but the remains of the old Vilnius culture are still visible thoughout the town. The historical centre of Vilnius, its 360-hectare old city, is among the largest in Eastern Europe. In 1994, the old city, one of the largest ones in Europe, was included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Cities. The city is definitely worth a longer visit.


March 24, 2005 change by wojsyl

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