Vilnius: capital of the Baltic nation of Lithuania, the last European country to convert to Christianity and once home to the largest Jewish population in eastern Europe. Napoleon once called it ”the Jerusalem of the North”.1
Today, around 77% of residents of Lithuania are Catholic and about 4% are Eastern Orthodox2. Since most Lithuanians are Christian, small wonder that there are two Christmas markets. Because of the Eastern Orthodox adherents, both markets remain open until January 6th, the day before Orthodox Christmas. We capitalized on this fact by visiting over New Year’s, thus extending our Christmas celebration into January (just as we did with our visit to Tallinn).
Beyond the Christmas markets
The Christmas markets are best seen at night (which begins around 4 pm in Vilnius in December) so that you can enjoy the beautiful lights. Then what to do during the short daylight hours? Easy ~ that’s the perfect time to explore other parts of Vilnius.
The Republic of Uzupis
A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need.
These are but two of the 41 items of the constitution of the Republic of Uzupis.
What is the Republic of Uzupis?
Uzupis, meaning “the other side of the river,” is a small neighborhood in Vilnius. After WWII, the neighborhood was mostly abandoned and eventually became a place for the homeless, prostitutes, artists and bohemians. On April 1, 1997, the residents declared the area to be the “Republic of Uzupis,” complete with flags (one for each season), unofficial currency, president, cabinet of ministers, a constitution, an anthem, and an army of approximately 11 men (the army has since been retired).
Who was Gediminas?
I’ve mentioned Gediminas a couple of times already (Gediminas Avenue, Gediminas Tower) so you might be wondering who he was.
The short version is: Gediminas was born around 1275 and was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from about 1315 until his death in 1341. He is regarded as the “true” founder of Lithuania, the founder of Vilnius and an inspiration to the Romantic Movement of the first part of the 19th century.
With this trip to Vilnius, we’ve now visited the capital of each of the three Baltic nations. Which one was our favorite? They’re all different, so it’s impossible to choose one over the other. They were all enchanting and we hope to go back to each one ~ but only in the summer.
To read about our visits to the Christmas markets in Riga and Tallinn, the capitals of the other to Baltic Nations, please visit:
Riga’s charming Christmas Market
Tallinn: A Christmas Market in the oldest capital city in northern Europe
The Užupis Constitution terms4
1. Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnele, and the River Vilnele has the right to flow by everyone.
2. Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
3. Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
5. Everyone has the right to be unique.
6. Everyone has the right to love.
7. Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
8. Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
9. Everyone has the right to idle.
10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
11. Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
13. A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of nee.
14. Sometimes everyone has the right to be unaware of their duties.
15. Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not an obligation.
16. Everyone has the right to be happy.
17. Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
18. Everyone has the right to be silent.
19. Everyone has the right to have faith.
20. No one has the right to violence.
21. Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance.
22. No one has the right to have a design on eternity.
23. Everyone has the right to understand.
24. Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
25. Everyone has the right to be of any nationality.
26. Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday.
27. Everyone shall remember their name.
28. Everyone may share what they possess.
29. No one can share what they do not possess.
30. Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
31. Everyone may be independent.
32. Everyone is responsible for their freedom.
33. Everyone has the right to cry.
34. Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
35. No one has the right to make another person guilty.
36. Everyone has the right to be individual.
37. Everyone has the right to have no rights.
38. Everyone has the right to not to be afraid.
(39. Do not defeat.
(40. Do not fight back.
(41. Do not surrender.
Some argue that the last three are mottos, not rights.
It was written in July 1998 by Thomas Chepaitis (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzhupis) and Romas Lileikis (President of Uzhupis)
Margue Esrock says
I found this entry very interesting! Beautiful photographs! My husband’s people are from Lithuania and we have always thought about going back to research his family roots. When they left due to wartime, part of the family went to South Africa and part went to the United States.
All the best,
Hi Margue ~ you guys should definitely go for a visit. Christmas is a beautiful time but I think summer would be even better.