First mentioned in 1531, its heydays began since 1780 when Baron Wilhelm von der Ropp from Livonia married local Countess Aleksandra Miunsterytė. Baron was the initiator who financed the new extensive construction of Pakruojis Manor, which was completed in the third decade of the 19th century and remains up to date, it has Late Neoclassical style. Fully restored in 2009 it now offers guided tours in the main palace and territory price ~€3 per person, introductory and educational program “Visiting Miller – Cognition of the Bread Path” 4h 30min, price up to €20 per person for groups from 20 individuals, 5 different size and interior halls for business events and weddings, catering in tavern “Traktierius”, horse-riding; for rent: bicycle, scooter, boat, kite; accommodation in hotel “Stadala” hotel reservation email@example.com, bed and breakfast price: single ~€40, triple ~€80, extra bed ~€25.
The manor is known since 1415 when King Jagiello paid a visit during the hunt. The present appearance it gained when Samuel Goldstein, a German merchant of the 2nd Vilnius Guild, has bought the manor around 1900; the style of architecture since then is Neoclassicism. The next and last known landlord was polish duke Koscialkowsky, who was best known for his favorite activity shooting cows from the castles belvedere tower. During soviet times the manor was turned into a dorm with a cinema hall. In 2002 the manor was sold to a businessman from Vilnius, fully restored and now offers a variety of entertainment hot-air balloon flights, hunting, fishing, bicycling, horse riding, golf, paintball, photosessions, spa procedures, accommodation for up to 18 people in 8 double rooms, services of wedding planner, premises for the banquets, weddings, conferences and various business events.
According to romantic story, the castle was built in the beginning of 16th century by a wealthy Prussian merchant and warrior who fell in love with the local beauty, Countess Darata Zienovičiūtė… and her brave warrior from Marienburg decided to stay in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The castle was built in a Renaissance style, same look it has today. During the centuries the castle served a variety of purposes, including barracks and a monastery. There are known many stories about the hidden treasures silver and gold, specifically mentioned in written source of 1933, secret tunnel from the castle to Halshany a town in modern Belarus, however only a tunnel from the castle to the belfry was found. Fully restored in 2005 it now offers active relaxation services, business conference facilities and cultural tourism services, accomodation, dining facilities, rental of the premises, event organization, horse-riding, hunting, extreme off-road adventures with four-wheel drives and motor-cycles, hot-air balloon rides, paragliding and helicopter rides as well as orienteering. The castle is situated in the territory of Dieveniškės Regional Park.
Price: adult ~€2, kids ~€1, guide foreign language for group of 25: ~€15 temporary price during renovation only. The manor was first time mentioned in 1568, reconstructed in 1879 by Count Ogiński, since then the manor house has a Neo-Renaissance style and is surrounded by 58.3 ha park. Since 1994 the manor premises are used for Museum of Samogitia Fine Arts.
Castle construction works started in late 16th century. In the first half of the 19th century Prince Zubov family transformed the castle according to the design of architect Cesare Anichini, the building now has a style of Neo-Gothic architecture. During tourism season visitors are allowed to climb up the tower. The Castle is a highlight of Panemunė Regional Park.
Offers: eight luxuriously-decorated sleeping apartments, a Jacuzzi bath, luxurious living and dining rooms, sauna, soiree room, a ballroom with capacity for 400 people. The surroundings are well-suited for occasional and cultural events.
20th century military heritage
Lithuania was a part of Russian Empire and bordered Germany. Various small fortifications are sparsely scattered across the country, but most of them are concentrated in two places: around Kaunas and in Zarasai Novo-Alexandrovsk at the time - Ignalina area.
Kaunas Fortressoriginally built in 19th century. Since 1912 an expansion and reconstruction has begun, its completion was scheduled for 1917. In 1915 only one fort, the Ninth, was completed, while the Tenth was partially built and 3 others were left in the early stages of construction. In 1915 Germany began an offensive against Russia and reached Kaunas Fortress in July 1915. The fortress and Kaunas city were taken by Germans in August 18, 1915.
Vilnius Entrenched Camp
– a complex of Vilnius defensive fortifications, constructed between 1923 and 1928 by Second Polish Republic. Fortifications were aimed to defend the city from increasing military power of Soviet Union, in case of conflict. However, irony of fate, only Wehrmacht used it fighting Armia Krajowa which was attacking by the end of World War II. The main tourist attraction is several objects situated in the outdoor recreation area of Sapieginė Forest, Antakalnis district, and belong to Pavilniai Regional Park . They are sparsely scattered from Šilo 5 ammunition depots and Žolyno batteries streets up to Rokantiškės 2 batteries and 2 observation points near Pūčkoriai outcrop which can be seen from Belmontas Entertainment And Recreation Centre.
Nazi German Fortifications in Memel-Klaipėda
– there are 9 remains of military constructions and 20 military hideouts in Klaipėda area total. One battery north of Klaipėda on the beach near Giruliai, called Black Fortress Juodoji tvirtovė, is a popular and well known spot among holidaymakers. There are other three in different locations which are rather easy to find.
The line of Soviet hardened field defences of World War II, its section of 328km stretches between the Lithuanian seaside near Palanga up to Polish border and marks the former border between Germany and Lithuanian SSR in 1941. Construction of the pillboxes started in 1941 April, some 100 out of 1641 objects were more or less completed until June 22, 1941 when Wehrmacht unexpectedly invaded Soviet Union, violating the non-aggression pact of 1939.
31 Aug 1993 the last Soviet soldier left the territory of Lithuania. Vast areas that have been used for military purposes, has been abandoned. Thereafter Lithuanian military took over some objects and territories, redesigned and reconstructed them to meet NATO standards, and this represents about 40% of the territories and objects previously used by Soviet military. Some 60% of enemy's military bases were left to decay. Today, all of them yet to be explored, but the ruthless effects of time and Mother Nature are already clearly visible. The sites suitable for Urban Exploration consist of 3 main groups of the former Soviet military objects and territories: 1 - KGB object in Linksmakalnis and its affiliate, 2 - properties of Soviet 58th Missile Division HQ in Karmėlava and 29th Missile Division HQ in Tauragė, later in Šiauliai of 5th Missile Army, and 3 - the large territories of the firing grounds and Kaunas Lodgement. Some of the former firing grounds were converted into the biosphere grounds and recreation zones suitable for the eco-tourism.
Concerning religion, Lithuanian rulers were very flexible. Some tended to Catholicism, others to Orthodox, and some were changing religions like clothes depending on trend. Finally, on 19 April 1389, Pope Urban VI recognized the status of Lithuania as a Roman Catholic state. A direct consequence of this was that German Orders lost any legal reasons to continue their crusades to Lithuania. Some say that Lithuania was forced to accept Christianity, some others can say that Christian Europe was forced to recognize Lithuania, but if the measure of progress is human life, then it was beneficial for all.
Virtually every town and small settlement has its own church, let alone the largest cities. there are about 800 catholic churches all over the country. other christian denominations are less represented: lithuanian evangelical lutheran church has about 35 churches, lithuanian evangelical reformed church has 6 churches, all of them are in different towns. russian orthodox church in lithuania has about 60 churches all over the country among them 13 in vilnius, 4 in kaunas, 3 in klaipėda. old believers mostly pomorian old orthodox church of lithuania since 17th century traditionally have sought refuge in grand duchy of lithuania. they used to settle mostly in the ne region with the main centre in degučiai village, zarasai district and in the central part around jonava town of the country. there are about 50 old believer churches in lithuania total.
There are about 75 monasteries in various locations of the country, some 40 of them are operating up to date. In sense of the architectural expression there are two significant monastery complexes: Pažaislis Monastery in Pažaislis suburb east of Kaunas, and Tytuvėnai Monastery in Tytuvėnai town, Kelmė district, Samogitia region. Both are examples of Italian Baroque architecture, and Pažaislis complex is the most magnificent one. It also is famous for its annual international Pažaislis Music Festival, it lasts for three summer months and offers about 30 different concerts. Between Kaunas and Tytuvėnai, almost in the middle, few km north of Kėdainiai there is a complex of Dotnuva Monastery and Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, both constructed in the end of 18th century in the style of Late Baroque. The monastery have played rather significant role during 1831 and 1863 uprisings against the Russian Empire: Bernardine monks themselves organized the insurgent squads, led them, and supported other insurgents. Some of the priests were imprisoned or exiled to Siberia after the collapse of the uprising in 1864, the monastery was closed same year by tsarist government.
Major parks and gardens
Landscape parks designed by Édouard André
There are 4 parks in lithuania: palanga park in the seaside resort of palanga, užutrakis park užutrakis, trakai district, lentvaris park lentvaris, trakai district, trakų vokė park trakų vokė, paneriai elderate, vilnius municipality.
Pagan heritage: sites and artifacts
Thunder God Temple
perkūno šventykla - the biggest known lithuanian pagan temple constructed supposedly by duke gerimundas in 1265. archaeological investigations in 1986 have revealed the exact location of the temple and confirmed the legends and texts of chronicles which say that vilnius cathedral was built at the site of the pagan shrine. remains of the temple can be seen in the cellars of vilnius cathedral. tours only accompanied by a guide.
are probably most tangible witnesses of the pagan past that survived until modern times. It is known about the 600 mythological stones in the country. Their origins, shapes, purposes and associated legends vary. Lithuanian soils are unevenly podzolized, mostly fertile and cultivated, while sandy soils cover about one-fourth of the country’s territory – you are supposed to make sure that Lithuania has no rocks, and even stones are rather rare birds. Majority of them partially or entirely rest beneath the ground, some protrude outward. And some are quite sizeable. These are well known and held in respect just as a cool natural phenomena, but among them there are stones which are something more than just that. Even in 19th until the middle of 20th century during Christian religious holidays many people used to gather by the mythological stones in large numbers, sacrificing various items and money, praying for health and happiness. Even today you can wing the sacred Bradeliškės Stone in Airėnai, Vilnius district, and you will always find the coins left on it. All regional maps have an icon “mythological” or “prominent stone” in the legend’s section “objects of interest”; the more detailed is the map, the more of mythological stones are marked on it. During short one or few days trips Lithuanians like to visit country's famous and mysterious places, and stones here go without saying. Such trips are done by combining various modes of transport, also on foot. Some even famous stones are quite remote or just are hard to locate, so attempts alone to find them are quite an adventure.
Tverai Sacred Site
Tverai elderate, Rietavas district. Although Tverai village, an ancient capital of Samogitia, can be a very interesting place to visit in itself, Lithuanians link this name to a place which, although still in Tverai elderate, is 3km 400m east from Tverai central square and situated in Ruškis Landscape Reserve, which is a strange hilly forest with a lake Ruškis in the middle. South-west corner of this forest, framed with a medium-size 25m height hill-fort, is probably one of the most mysterious places in Samogitia. The hill-fort is separated from the forest with a deep ravine of a narrow stream that springs slightly further, its murmur you can hear all the time. Winding deceptive paths leads you between the hills from one stone artifact to another, until you finally start to understand the stories that local people tell about the spells of this place that makes people to get lost. Directions: head east Varniai direction, road No 3203, as soon as you leave the village you already see the forest in a distance by left side of the road, and a serpentine stream that flows across the fields by the right side of the road. When you reach the stream turn left, the road takes to the entrance to the forest where you find a parking lot and a sign that informs that this is a "Ruškio valstybinis kraštovaizdžio draustinis". As you enter the forest, there are other info shields with the scheme of the object locations and some other information.
Papilė Jurassic Exposure
papilės atodanga - 2km venta river section of jurassic conglomerates with abundant remains of small fossils. papilė town, mažeikiai district samogitia region. object of the venta regional park, declared as geological monument since 1964, listed among the most valuable geological localities of lithuania since 1997.
karvės ola - a well-type almost round funnel-formed sinkhole, the most notable one out of 9,000 sinkholes that have been identified in the area of biržai district, northern lithuania. at the top its diameter reaches up to 10m, the depth is about 19m, of which 7m is under the water. in the bottom of the sinkhole at the depth of 9.5m there is an underground cavity opened instead of melted gypsum; this cavity splits up into several caves that were explored by speleologists and cave divers from kaunas in 1973 and 1978. there are five caves: the wet cave šlapioji ola, the narrow burrow siauroji landa, the bat burrow šikšnosparnių landa - several bats have been found here, the toad's cave rupūžės ola with a small underground lake of about 1.5m depth and the lustrous cave blizganti ola. the water level in the bottom of underground cavity is variable, the water temperature reaches 4.5°c. in 2007 the joint expedition of lithuanian caving club "aenigma" and caving club "sokolniki-rudn" from moscow explored the cow's cave in detail and discovered a new hall, 15m in width. it was noted that cave diving in sinkholes is extremely complex and requires a high level of professionalism, this also means that average cave diver with good skills can't get a permit to explore this sinkhole. cow's cave is an object of the biržai regional park, it has been declared as geological monument since 1964.
velnio duobė - a pit of unknown origin. its diameter is 60-65m at the bottom, 200m at the top with a depth of 30-40m. the total area is 0.04 ha at the bottom and 4.5 ha at the top. it's located about 4km north of aukštadvaris town, trakai district in the aukštadvaris regional park, 54°36′41.96″n, 24°30′55.45″e. the bottom of the pit is walkable, however it is rather soft as that what looks like a bottom is a top of 9.5m height peat layer which is still in early stage of formation. a light fog, supposedly slightly toxic, tends to form early in the morning and in the evening. it is not recommended to stay for a long time at the bottom as you may start to feel yourself a little weird, though there is no official statistics or researches about the consequences of such an effect. research conducted by physics phd's reveal that "this is especially active place where intersects the structures of strong and diverse geological biofields". around and inside the pit there is a number of virtually healthy trees with the growth anomalies. the pit is ready for visits; there is an observation deck at the edge and a path leading around and inside it. devil’s pit has been declared as geological monument since 1964.
stelmužės ąžuolas – a pedunculate oak quercus robur which grows in stelmužė village near the church imbradas elderate, north of zarasai near latvian border at the north-east corner of the country. the oldest plant in lithuania, at least 1,500 years old, it measures 3.5m in diameter, 958 cm in girth at waist level and 23m in height. declared a natural monument since 1960 and included in the list of protected objects in lithuania. the skeleton of napoleon's army soldier and gun were found in one of its inner hollows. the oak grows in the park 10 ha of the former stelmužė manor which is known since 17th century when estate owner was a german baron folkerzamb. distance from vilnius 160km.
Oak of Thunder God
perkūno ąžuolas – a pedunculate oak which grows in a park of ogiński manor estate, parkas st 1, plungė. legend tells that priestess galinda stoked a sacred fire near this oak. one day her lover went forth to war against crusaders, and never returned back. the chief priest, seeing galinda’s tears and heartache, began to teach her that only a sacred fire can quench her earthly pain. once, when galinda was weeping under the oak, a thunder struck the tree. oak shook, some soil has poured into its trunk – and soon the flower of incredible beauty has sprouted out of the trunk of the oak. since then people started to call it on behalf of thunder god. trunk girth 530 cm, height 21m, has 2 trunks, several hollows. declared as natural monument. distance from vilnius 286km, distance from klaipėda 59km.
The most southern of the Baltic countries, Lithuania's historic heritage sets it quite apart from the other two. Visiting this small but colourful country today, few travellers might guess that this was once the largest nation in Europe. A few monuments remind of those golden ages, when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched out far into modern day Russia, Poland and Moldova, but even fewer are still inside the Lithuanian borders. The archeologic site of Kernavė, long ago a medieval capital, is now a World Heritage Site and has historic hillfort mounds as well as a museum. The Trakai Island Castle in Trakai is sometimes called "Little Mariënburg". It's located on an island and was one of the main strongholds in the prime days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Although it was severely damaged in 17th century wars with Muscovy, the castle was beautifully restored in the 20th century and is now a popular tourist sight. Kaunas Castle in Kaunas is even older, but only a fourth of the original building remains.
The country's lovely capital, Vilnius, is a small but pleasant place with a UNESCO listed historic centre. It's the perfect place to admire a range of architectural styles, as it boasts a mixture of gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical buildings. Stroll through the narrow streets and cosy courtyards and kick back for a coffee in one of the many cafés on Pilies Street. Then, walk down Gediminas Avenue, the town's main street lined with governmental buildings and theatres, towards the old neighbourhood of Žvėrynas. With some 65 churches, the famous Gediminas Tower, the Cathedral Square, the Royal Palace, the Presidential Palace and many other monuments and museums, you won't run out of things to see in Vilnius any time soon.
For a day at the sea, the popular seaside resort of Palanga is the place to be. Although it gets crowded in summer, it has some great beaches and beautiful sand dunes. Sand dunes overgrown with pine forest is also what you'll find at the almost 100km long Curonian Spit, which separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. It's a World Heritage Site shared between Lithuania and Russia and is best explored from the large port city Klaipėda, though there is a possibility to stay on the Spit itself in one of the four fishermen villages. Not far from Klaipėda is the village of Juodkrantė, which is famous for its Hill of Witches, decorated with sculptures from the country's legends and tales. Farthermost on Lithuanian half is the fishermen's town of Nida, it is praised for its shores, ancient ethnographic cemetery and high sand dunes in vicinity. Klaipėda is also a good hub to other sea side resorts on the Baltic Coast, less known but equally cosy, such like Karklė. Nice bicycle path stretches north and south from Klaipėda, as well as along all Curonian Spit.
A few kilometres from the northern city Šiauliai you'll find the remarkable Hill of Crosses, which is an extraordinary and popular pilgrimage site. Over a 100.000 crosses - small, huge, simple and exuberant - have been placed here by faithful from far and wide. On the other side of the country, in the very south, you'll find the popular and classy spa resort town of Druskininkai, surrounded by largest pine forest in the country.
Like it's Baltic neighbours, Lithuania has a lot to offer for nature lovers. Dense forests, hills, beautiful blue lakes and rivers are the main base. The forested Aukštaitija National Park is perhaps the most popular of the country's national parks for its balanced diversity of natural and cultural values. Its forests are home to elk, deer and wild boar. Some of the pines you'll see here are up to 200 years old and the park is a safe haven for many plants and birds that are endangered in the rest of the country. The 126 lakes and countless streams in between them make the park a great place for water sports activities and the villages in the park have some interesting wooden churches. South west from the national park lies a one of the largest forests, famous Labanoras Forest, which is a part of Labanoras Regional Park - and there is more rare plants, more rare birds, including Black Stork, Capercailye, Crane and few species of eagles, more rare animals like Lynx and Wolf, 285 lakes 70 of them swimmable, mysterious swamps and numerous rivers and streams suitable for canoeing. No surprise that its popularity among holidaymakers exceed even popularity of its neighbour Aukštaitija National Park. Another favourite regional park, especially among the birders, is the Nemunas Delta. The vast wetlands around the place where Neman River reaches the Baltic Sea are a popular eco-tourism destination and an important bird habitat.
Lithuanians describe their land with the help of poetry. Poetry and songs are filled with romantic images of gently rolling hills, vast valleys and meandering rivers, somber forests rich of animals, meadows full of butterflies and the birds singing in the sky. This embodies what the Lithuanian is looking for and is happy when he finds it. This is what the Lithuanian is willing to promote and defend. And when Lithuanians abroad begin to feel homesickness – this is homesickness for all such scenery and everything else related to it. This is, according to many Lithuanians, the highest value of the country. Consequently, if you are after all this, you can experience more than you had expected, however this can be quite a challenging experience. You have to be well prepared and probably to rent a car. You can see, hear and touch everything that is described in Lithuanian poetry and songs, but how you will perceive it depends on you and circumstances, which often are unpredictable. And this is a part of modern Lithuanian myths and urban legends as well: unpredictable circumstances. One of the first things that travelers from the West notice is the lack of infrastructure and facilities in the recreation areas. And there is no reason to expect any improvements or changes in this respect in the future: Lithuanians tend to make the difference between the "urban habitat" and the "visits to the nature", the latter is supposed to be a rough experience, a visit to the natural, not necessarily pristine or well maintained, but naturally strong and lively environment without the attributes of urban life, it should contrast with the daily routine of the city resident. Visiting the nature is supposed to be a way of gaining vital energy. Therefore you must to "pave your path" through the woods as if you were a pathfinder – each time again and again – so that ultimately you are affected by elements of nature even against your will or laziness. Locals would tell you that if you don’t want to make any effort you don’t deserve to step outside the city. But if some effort is not a big trouble to you, all those gently rolling hills, vast valleys and meandering rivers, somber forests, meadows full of butterflies and the birds singing in the sky are almost every time guaranteed.