8/29/10

Senamiestis: Vilnius

Lead us to the right path

There are two things that Lithuanians are passionate about - team sport and religion. In a predominantly soccer-crazed continent, Lithuanians go wild for basketball. And when it comes to spirituality, a vast majority of them are Roman Catholics. So it comes natural that both sport and religion co-exist happily in this tiny Baltic country with . . . major, major followers.


Taking a break from selling tourist souvenir art
while enjoying a national favorite - cold beetroot soup

Like most parts of Europe, Lithuania has an ongoing love affair with Old Town. Called Senamiestis, this historic center of Vilnius has seen the ups and downs of the city since its founding in 1323. Today, it retains much of the splendor of its architecture, be it baroque, gothic, renaissance and neoclassical. In recognition of its universal importance, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Gate of Dawn

With a city map given by our hotel, we walked towards the Old Town. Our hotel happens to be at the far edge of Old Town and it took us some time to get our bearings right even if from our hotel window, it looked deceptively near. But have no fear, as we soon found out, the locals were actually helpful in guiding us to the right direction. From outside, the Gate of Dawn doesn't look much like any other gate except that this is the only one surviving among the original defensive fortifications around Vilnius built between 1502 and 1522.

Chapel of the Gate of Dawn
Holy Mother of Mercy

Passing through the gate, we find elderly men and women pausing and making a sign of the cross before continuing on their way. From the Old Town side of the gate, we found out that there's actually a chapel perched on top, aptly called the Chapel of the Gate of Dawn. Painted sometime around the 15th century, the icon of the Holy Mother of Mercy is venerated here by thousands of pilgrims coming from different parts of the globe. Even the late Pope John Paul II came to pray here.


We barely walked far from the Gate of Dawn and we were immediately dwarfed by St. Theresa's Church, a fine example of early baroque architecture. This church was built around 1650.



Moving on, we soon found ourselves standing in front of a Jesuit contribution to the old city - the St. Casimir's Church. Constructed in 1604, this church was dedicated to Lithuania's patron saint, Prince Casimir Jagiellon. Its glorious crown up top signifies the saint's royal bloodline.


Of all the churches in Vilnius, these two are the most iconic: the St. Anne's Church and the Bernardine Church, posing like a perennial movie love team dressed in gothic, baroque and renaissance style. They're a favorite with tourists and rightly so. Even a visiting Napoleon  in the summer of 1812 wanted to carry St. Annes' Church - if only he could - back to Paris in the palm of his hand.


Just as we reached the area in front of the sprawling Vilnius University, we got hungry and at the same time, got tired from all that walking. There was another nearby church beckoning us for a visit but we got distracted instead by this crowd of Lithuanians watching a live TV quiz show. We wondered if the questions have anything to do with Old Town - the whole thing was in Lithuanian but it was interesting to watch their reaction to participants answering questions.

Cold Beetroot Soup
Roasted Pancakes with Minced Meat

Finally, there's nothing like ending the day eating what Lithuanians eat. As traditional as we want it to be, we ordered Roasted Pancakes with Minced Meat and one that really piqued my curiosity, Cold Beetroot Soup. The pancake had this delightful hint of a pasta dish while the soup was a great revelation - so rich and creamy I finished the whole bowl, never mind that it was, well, cold.

13 comments:

  1. first, yummy to the tummy goodness are your choices.

    second, i am so impressed by the churches you have seen and how fascinating are their architectures. that peach colored facade reminds me of mexico - idk why.

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  2. I beamed with the post's title alone, parang scientific name. Heehee.

    LOL on "major, major followers".

    The architecture is impressive. :)

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  3. Basketball and religion... looks like the Philippines :-)

    Wow... beautiful city... beautiful girls ;-)

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  4. Malunggay Sacramento6:17:00 AM

    i wanna go there! Denz, when are u gonna take me to ur world tour? im waiting for ur signal!hehehe!

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  5. Senamiestis> first to read about it. sounds like a very interesting place and i might include it on my bucket list. as i was dragging down reading, i make a wow on every church but the last one is the most beautiful.

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  6. a cold soup that tasted good? now im curious.. walang hot version? Ü

    St.Anne church is really a scene stealer. im sure every woman wants to walk down that specific aisle.

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  7. Love the place, craving for the food...Argghhh! I'm Wishing someday i can go travel there

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  8. beetroot soup??? i wanna try!!!

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  9. parang ang sarap mg roasted pancake with minced meat!!! nagutom ako!

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  10. Lithuania - that's one place that seems less explored. yess many churches indeed it appears!

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  11. im clueless how beetroot soup tastes like.
    well, its color is enticing, must be delicious.

    ...people making sign of the cross as they pass by churches is a common sight even in manila or in most catholic countries of course.

    ..LOL at ". . . major, major followers."

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  12. Basketball and Catholicism? Just like the Philippines! Who knew?! And by the way, that roasted pancakes look yummy, and I have to say, the idea is ingenious!

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  13. I'm going to be in Vilnius this week -- you have made it so much easier for me to plan the trip! Too bad I won't be able to meet you... by the time I get to Lithuania, you'll have probably gone off somewhere else in Europe.

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