Vilnius the capital of Lithuania is a compact city with an Old Town that is full of baroque Orthodox and Catholic churches, with an amazing variety of spires, colors and decorations. And alongside there is an oddness. The city is home to the world's only statue of Frank Zappa, KGB torture cells are turned into a museum and part of the town is a self-proclaimed, independent republic inhabited by artists and bohemians?
Churches in Vilnius
The famous icon of the Virgin Mary, a strange combination of painted hands and a face framed by a lot of gold, is in a chapel in the Gate of Dawn, an ancient city gate. It is visible from the street, right above the gate. Within sight of this chapel is the St. Theresa Church, a baroque construction with a rococo interior full of stucco cherubs and golden trimmings. On the subject of churches, the city is pretty blessed. The interesting part is that they all have a unique character from the extraordinary baroque St Peter and St Paul's to the austere neoclassical design of the reformed Reformed Church. The cathedral with its freestanding tower is a neoclassical white building with an ornamented facade supported by Doric columns.
Castles and other monuments
But there is more to Vilius than churches. Next to the cathedral is the Lower Castle. In the rear is a park with the Higher Castle, a round brick fortress, the National Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts and the Archaeological Museum. Between this park and the Gates of Dawn is roughly the old town, which is home to most other attractions. Pilies, running south from the park is a nice street with vistas full of pinkish and brownish shades of pastels. The street leads to a stately square with the town hall. In total Vilnius has over 1,000 protected monuments; Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and neoclassical, so take the time for an extended scroll.
Museum of Genocide victims
For a more sinister side trip visit the Museum of Genocide Victims, housed in a former KGB building. The cells are reconstructed and on the walls in the corridors are gruesome images of death and torture. The Russians were the oppressors here, besides of course shortly the Germans.
This part of Vilnius has its own constitution, national anthem and bishop. The national holiday is on April Fools Day (April 1st).