About Vilnius and Lithuania



Vilnius is a distant and mysterious city, lost in the middle of Europe. It is the city of myths and poetry. The city of spaces and contrasts, where forests make their way to the city center, while a still operating UNESCO protected century-old prison is just two minutes away from the Parliament.



After the two-hundred year lasting Czarist and Soviet rule (being evidenced in the museum in the former cellars of the Vilnius KGB) the country has recently reaffirmed its vitality. It was in Vilnius that the USSR disintegration began. You can still feel the wind of change and freedom stirring the streets of Vilnius.



The largest baroque Old Town North of the Alps uncovers Central European historical memory of intertwined fates and faiths of many peoples. For centuries Vilnius has been called "The Jerusalem of the North" for its tolerance and multiculturalism. The same streets host Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, the biggest Eastern European synagogue was standing in Vilnius until the end of the WWII, and you can still spot pagan symbols on church crosses (Lithuania was the last European country to accept Christianity). Vilnius has witnessed the first literary steps of the most famous Polish poets, the birth of Belarusian literature, blooming and tragic fate of the Lithuanian Jewish (litvak) culture. European Capital of Culture 2009 Vilnius continues to be culturally open today. Its Renaissance courtyards shelter modern art exhibitions and folk art fairs, Fluxus museums and relicts of the Soviet realism, monument to Frank Zappa and basketball hoops on a centuries-old church walls.

   

Vilnius University was founded in 1579 and has stayed the cultural center of Lithuania ever since. University professors have always been the key educators and politicians, treasurers of the cultural identity of the nation. The liveliness of the University's courtyards and silence of its vaulted classrooms provide the best atmosphere to grasp the ways of life in the Middle of Europe through centuries, to understand the values and mores wandering along the Eastern borders of the European Union.