Labas! Mes nuvyko į Lietuvą! (Hi! We went to Lithuania!)

This last weekend, my husband and I went to Lithuania. I’m of Lithuanian and German descent, so experiencing a part of my ancestry was a great experience. My grandfather was born in Lithuania, and my great-grandmother was born and raised in Lithuania. Since we went for a few days, we didn’t have enough time to venture outside of the capital, Vilnius. The weather wasn’t too cooperative, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. Because of the history and the number of pictures I have, I decided to make this a two-post blog. I’ll post the continuation next Wednesday.

When I was around five or six-years old, my mother and aunt sent my brother, sister, three cousins and me to Lithuanian school to learn the language. What a disaster. At the school, Lithuanian was the other children’s first language. My cousin Ann and I just wanted to run around and play. I think after a year, my mom and aunt gave up on the language lessons. The six of us were also involved in Lithuanian dancing, and the five girls were debutantes in the Amber Ball.

Through the years, I found many people never heard of Lithuania, so I thought I’d give you some information about the country. It’s one of the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The first written mention of Lithuania was in 1009. Lithuanian is one of the oldest speaking languages, a form of Sanskrit. To get an idea of how Lithuanian is spoken, you can go to ilanguages and click on the speaker. And here, I thought German was a difficult language.

In the late seventeenth century, after a failed alliance with Poland, Lithuania fell under Russian Rule until 1918. The Russians banned the language and crushed religion. Their 1918 Independence was short lived, and toward the end of WWII, Soviet Occupation began again in Lithuania until 1990.

Tension grew in Europe, so in 1989, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia peacefully demonstrated with the Baltic Way (Chain of Freedom). Around two million people took hold of each other’s hands (all ages) to create a human chain that ran 419 miles across the Baltic States. It was a drive for freedom and unity. In 1990, Lithuania claimed Independence once more. This picture stirs my emotions. People shouldn’t have to do this in the name of Freedom.

Due to so many Soviet years, it left their economy way behind many other countries. Because of these hardships, Lithuanians emigrated, and after Lithuania joined the European Union, around twenty percent of the population moved to other countries. This has left some areas of Vilnius in deprived conditions, and lots of poverty. With all that’s going on with Russia right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lithuanians weren’t a little concerned about their future. I hope Russia doesn’t turn in their direction and leaves their Independence intact.

Instead of just giving you the history of Lithuania, I’ll begin with our ventures and pictures. When we got off the bus from the hotel, the first thing we saw was the writing on the lawn along the Neris River. After crossing the Green Bridge (built in 1536), we saw the other writing in the second picture. The first picture, “Ir aš tave” (I do too), and in the second picture, “Aš tave myliu”( I love you), means I love you and I do too.

Sculptures decorate this bridge, including this one representing the Soviets. The top part of the plaque is in Lithuanian, and the bottom part states: “31/08/1993 – The Soviet Army Withdrew from Lithuania. 1940 – 1941, 1944 – 1991 more than 300,000 residents of Lithuania were exiled, imprisoned, killed.”

At noon on the first day, we took a free walking tour, which lasted around two hours. Our guide, Alexandras (I’m sure spelled wrong) took us down cobblestone streets, showed us unique things of the city, and gave us some history. It was perfect. One of the places we stopped by to see was Užupis, one of the oldest parts of Vilnius, and a “republic” of artists. The Vilna River runs through this place. Below is a picture of a restaurant in Užupis, the locks of love bridge, and a swing.

Užupis has its own everything, including their own Constitution.

After having an idea about the town, my husband and I began to explore. We went into St. Anne’s and St. Bernardine’s Church (built in the fifteenth century). During Soviet rule, they closed and abandoned the building, because they didn’t allow Lithuanian’s to have a religion. You’ll notice in a few pictures how the church suffered from neglect.

 This is the inside of St. Anne’s Church.

This is the inside of St. Bernardine’s Church.

And that wraps up the first post about Vilnius, Lithuania. Please stop by next week for the continuation.

Where did your last travels take you?

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