Lithuania - Vilnius - Day 2 - Hill of Three Crosses, Church of St. Paul and St. Peter and Gediminas Avenue

AUG 08,2018 - AUG 08,2018 (1 DAYS)

Citywalk

The Northern Parts of Old Vilnius:

Main Attractions: Rūdninkų Square, St. John Cathedral, Cathedral Square, River Neris, Hill of Three Crosses, St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Gediminas Avenue, Genocide Museum, Mother of God Church.

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Duration: 1 day. Distance: 13 km. Weather: the walk is along open spaces.  No rain or wind. Start: Comfort LT 'Rock and Roll' Hotel. End: Vilnius Bus Station.

Our 2nd day Itinerary:

We start our day with a 700 m. walk to the Margutis (see our "Vilnius - Day 1" blog. From Comfort Hotel LT - Rock 'N' Roll Hotel, Kauno g. 14 we head east on Kauno g. toward Mindaugo g., 300 m. We turn left onto Šv. Stepono g., 400 m and turn left onto Pylimo g. for 10 m. The 'Egg' (Margutis) is on the left:

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Continue walking north-east onto Rūdninkų g. and 65 m. further, on your right, is the All Saints Church, Rūdninkų g. 20:

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We continue, in the same direction (NE) along Rūdninkų g. crossing   Ligoninės g.. On our left is a green, small park with sculptures- Rūdninkų Square (Rūdninkų g. skveras):

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Continue northeast on Rūdninkų g., cross Dysnos g. on your left and continue toward Rotušės a. Turn left onto Rotušės a., 35 m. Slight right to stay on Rotušės a., 220 m. Continue onto Didžioji g., 200 m. We are in the Town Hall Square (see "Vilnius Day 1" blog:

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Continue onto Pilies g., 110 m. On your right you can look at the original souvenirs of the Lithuanian touristic gifts shops:

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In case you missed the ascent to St. John Cathedral in Vilnius University - for having a panoramic  view of Old Vilnius - turn left onto Šv. Jono g., 45 m. Pay 1.5 euros/person to be entitled to enter the St. John bell tower. Climb 27 stairs and use the elevator to arrive to the roof terrace. Just remember that the wonderful views are spoiled by ugly-netted windows up there:

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Compass in the entrance to the elevator:

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You can see the Hill of Three Crosses from the far distance (see below):

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Gediminas Castle from St. John Cathedral roof terrace:

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Vilnius University from St. John Cathedral roof terrace:

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Return west along Šv. Jono g. and turn LEFT (north)  on Pilies g. toward Šv. Mykolo g., 250 m. In the end of Pilies g., on your left, you see the studio of Adam Mickiewicz, where he lived during the years 1815-1819 (as a student in the Faculty of Education in Vilnius University):

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Turn left onto Šventaragio g., 55 m. Turn right, 95 m and we are,again (see "Vilnius - Day 1" blog) in the huge courtyard opposite the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Katedros a. 4. Opposite is the Inner court of Grand Dukes Palacewhich stands in the Cathedral square and was created by Vytautas Kasuba, and was put up in the Cathedral Square. Gediminas lived between 1275 and 1341 and ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for 25 years. He moved the capital of Lithuania from Trakai to Vilnius. He was better known as a diplomat who attracted the attention of Europe to Lithuania than as a military chief. It was in the letters of Gediminas to Western Europe that the name of Vilnius was mentioned for the first time in 1323. This year is considered to be the year of the founding of Vilnius. Gediminas succeeded in expanding the state borders and the sphere of influence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania far to the east and south. Under the rule of Gediminas, Vitebsk and Volyn were annexed while the lands of Kievan Rus fell into a vassal dependence of the Duchy. On their trip west, the army of Gediminas even approached Berlin. The area of the Lithuanian state doubled during the times of Gediminas. He was better known as a diplomat than as a military chief. The huge square is easy to spot, nice to stop and is a nice surrounding:

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We already visited the Grand Dukes Palace during our first day in Vilnius (see "Vilnius - Day 1") blog.

Inner court of Grand Dukes Palace:

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Since, we visited most of the sites in the Cathedral Square during our 1st day in Vilnius - we skipped all these attractions and moved to the north, back side of the Cathedral and the Grand Dukes Palace. Here, you cross an extensive park (Vilniaus pilių valstybinis kultūrinis rezervatas) along an asphalted path - where the National Museum of Lithuania (Lietuvos nacionalinis muziejus,

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the Old Arsenal and the Museum of Applied Arts and Design (Taikomosios dailės ir dizaino muziejusis) on your right (from south-west to north-east) and Gediminas Castle is further distant on your right (east).

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You can't miss the giant Stonehead Sculptures looking very much like Easter Island statues. These three carvings are a little way down towards the river Neris:

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On your walk through the park - you will see the River Neris on your left, undulating through the heart of Vilnius, passing near iconic attractions such as Gediminas Castle for example:

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Vilnius Old Town extends SOUTH to the river. The north-western end of the park meets King Mindaugas Bridge (Karaliaus Mindaugo tiltas) over the Neris river. This bustling intersection is VERY PRETTY and you can get breath-taking views from both of the river banks:

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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A short detour: follow the paths along the edge of the riverbank and create your own guided tour. You can follow the curves of the river for a perfect stroll at any time of the year, and there are more than just picturesque banks to discover. The paths allow you to admire the stunning architecture, Old and New Vilnius and bridges from a different perspective. The best time is to take a tour at sunset and enjoy the illuminations of the city by night:

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From the most north-west corner of the park (intersection of T. Vrublevskio g. and Arsenalo g.) we take the asphalted path parallel to the Arsenalo g. street and walk from west to east (Neris river on our left). We pass through Skirpos al. on our right and cross the Vilnia river over a small bridge and follow the signpost to the Hill of Three Crosses. Avoid the ascent IN A VERY HOT DAY. Take water with you. A steep path but relatively short walk up (approx. 20 minutes).Beyond the bridge we turn RIGHT and slight LEFT up to the hill. The first two thirds of the ascent to the Hill of Three Crosses is shady, but zig-zags up. On our left is the official Parking lot . We take the right leg and continue climbing further for 10 minutes. We pass an amphitheatre on our left. 3 minutes later we turn RIGHT to an array of 150 stairs - leading, at last, to the Three Crosses. The hill itself with the brilliant three white-washed crosses is quite impressive:

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The original crosses were wooden and the local residents would replace them once they have been rotted. At the top you will find the original crosses which are laying down. However they were replaced with concrete ones in 1916 but were sadly destroyed by the Soviets in the 1950s. This all has been replaced by the current monument which overlooks the city. From the Hill of Three Crosses you get a panoramic  view over Vilnius. BUT, it is quite disappointing and DOES NOT rival of the view from St. John Cathedral or from the Cathedral Belfry Bell Tower. During the morning or evening hours you can watch the hot-air balloons taking-off and fly over the city:

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The forest around the Hill of the Three Crosses:

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Note: there are alternative routes to arrive the the Hill of Three Crosses. There is way from the Bernardine Park or from Gediminas Castle. Both of the are unsafe. The wooden stairs coming from the south are unstable, quite horrifying and might be a danger if you don't calculate your steps beforehand. 

We descended the hill and walked down along the the same spiral road - leading to the Kosciuskos g. This street is leading us to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Vilniaus Sv. Apastalu Petro ir Povilo parapija).  It is a 1.1 km. walk, under the trees, from the Bridge over Vilnia river (where we started our climb to the Hill of Three Churches) to the Church of St Peter and St Paul. It is a moderate climb. Kosciuskos g. is sloping upward with our face to the church - No.1 attraction in Vilnius. You can every bus which passes through Kosciuskos g. (also tram CG)  - but it is 2 stops ride only. Trolleys and buses stop almost across the street from the church. When we start climbing, the Neris river is on our left. We can see a green park with several statues on the banks of Neris river. On your way up - be careful when you cross a public parking lot. It is not a long walk - but you might be tired after climbing to the Hill of Three Crosses.

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The stunning St. Peter and St. Paul's Church is located in the Antakalnis neighbourhood of Vilnius. It is regarded as one of the 16 most beautiful churches in the world. It was a former monastery complex. Its interior is astonishing collection of some 2,000 stucco figures by Giovanni Pietro Perti and ornamentations by Giovanni Maria Galli and is unique in Europe. The church is regarded as a masterpiece of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Baroque. The church is a 17th-century basilica with a traditional cross floor plan and a dome allowing extra light into its exceptional white interior. The central facade is framed by two bell towers that are circular at the bottom and octagonal at the top. The bells are from 1668. The double broken pediment has a relief of Mary standing on a cannon, flags, and other military attributes. Below the relief, Latin inscription reads REGINA PACIS FUNDA NOS IN PACE (Queen of Peace, protect us in peace) and reflects the intentions of the founder Pac and is a word play on his last name. Pac the founder is buried under the threshold of the church (his own wish) so that people would trample over him, the great sinner... Keep in mind that this church might be very busy with hordes of visitors. The pure whiteness of sculptures and intricate stucco carvings inside are unusual and very impressive. Once inside - you will be blown away. All that without the standard gold decorations. FREE. Opening hours: everyday: 06.00 - 18.00. Photography is allowed inside:

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Further below is the main portal, surrounded by two creatures holding papal tiara (symbol of Saint Peter) and a sword (symbol of Saint Paul). 

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The main entrance is flanked by two large sculptures of Saint Christopher carrying baby Jesus and a skeleton standing on crowns and other symbols of power.

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Its interior has over 2,000 different decor elements that creates a stunning atmosphere. The main designer of the decor plan is not known. It could be the founder Pac, monks of the Lateran, or Italian artists. No documents survive to elaborate the creating artist and explain the ideas behind the decorations, therefore various art historians attempted to find one central theme: Pac's life and/or Polish–Lithuanian relations. 

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The internal decor combines a great variety of symbols, from local (patron of Vilnius Saint Christopher) to Italian saints, from specific saints to allegories of virtues. There are many decorative elements – floral (acanthus, sunflowers, rues, fruits), various objects (military weapons, household tools, liturgical implements, shells, ribbons), figures (angels, soldiers), fantastical creatures (demons, dragons, centaurs), Pac's coat of arms, masks: a huge variety of elements which are individualized, rarely repeating. The variety of the stuccos is tremendous and unexpected in a Catholic Church. Once inside you are astonished by the beautiful architecture and amazing paintings on the ceiling. You can spend hours observing everything inside:

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St. Florianus:

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The nave is dominated by plain white walls that contrast with the opulent decorations elsewhere. From the central nave, the entrance to each of the four chapels has two allegorical female figures. The central nave is also decorated with evenly spaced sculptures of the twelve apostles. It also has a number of torture scenes from the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire - but, these are not, immediately, visible. The nave has narrow side aisles which are turned into interconnecting chapels: Women's or Queens', Saint Augustine's, Saint Ursula's, and Soldiers' or Knights'.

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 A noticeable feature is the missing main altar. Instead, Kazimierz Jelski sculpted four prophets (Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Elijah) while Franciszek Smuglewicz painted the large central painting depicting the emotional final parting of Saint Peter and Paul. 

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Four other paintings hang in the choir: another painting by Smuglewicz depicting Archangel Michael, painting of Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, a formal portrait of founder Michał Kazimierz Pac, and a painting of crucified Jesus. The ceiling of the apse is decorated with three stucco reliefs depicting the conversion of Paul the Apostle, calling of Saint Peter, and handing over of the keys of Heaven to Peter by Christ. This scene emphasizes that Peter and subsequent popes derived their power directly from God.

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Above them, there is a relief of the Holy Spirit represented as a dove. The ceiling of the choir has a relief of the dinner at Emmaus. Next to it, there is a Latin inscription that reads "domus dei aedificata est supra firmam petram" (your house is built on firm rock). The dome's pendentives depict the Four Evangelists. The inscription surrounding the base of the dome: "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram edificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevale buntadversus eam" (You are Peter (rock) and on that rock I shall build my church and gates of hell shall not prevail against it) is from the Confession of Peter and is the same as that of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. 

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Above it, there are sculptures of four Doctors of the Church: Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine (his sculpture can be seen from the entrance), Saint Ambrose, and Pope Gregory I. A boat-shaped chandelier made of brass and glass beads hangs from the middle of the dome and reminds that Saint Peter was a fisherman. Made by craftsmen from Liepāja and installed in 1905, it had eight seven-branch candle holders. 

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The ceiling is decorated with five frescoes which are the second largest ceiling frescoes (after the Pažaislis Monastery) in Lithuania. The three smaller frescoes above the organ form a triptych from Saint Peter's life: healing a cripple, escape from prison, and vision of a sheet with animals. The other two frescoes depict Quo vadis? and Peter's confrontation with Simon Magus. This boat chandelier is really outstanding ! The coin box, near the entrance turns on the lights for the chandelier:

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After visiting in the St. Peter and St. Paul's Church - we head to our next destination: the Gediminas Avenue. In case you, probably, want to dine head to Sakwa restaurant. It is on your way to the bus stop. From the church - head west, 10 m. Sharp left toward M. K. Paco g., take the stairs, 45 m. Turn right onto M. K. Paco g., walk 100 m.  and the restaurant  is on the left. A lot of space. Budget prices. Polish food. Traditional appeal. Filling and tasty. Take any BUS or TRAM which rides down to the Neris river and drop off at the intersection of Kosciuskos g. and King Mindaugas Bridge (Karaliaus Mindaugo tiltas) (over the Neris river). 

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Continue south on Karaliaus Mindaugo tiltas toward Arsenalo g. (on your right) and Žygimantų gatvė (on your left) and continue southward along T. Vrublevskio g., 230 m. Continue onto Šventaragio g., 50 m. Turn right onto Gedimino pr or Gediminas Avenue. In the beginning of the Gediminas Avenue - we see the Vilnius Cathdral Belfry (Bell Tower) on our left:

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Gediminas Avenue is a nice street to walk down and see a mixture of old and new combined together. High end shops, government buildings, hotels and parks. It will remind you the Champs-Élysées in Paris - BUT, far less bustling and crowded. The avenue is totally sleepy. The avenue start with the Cathedral in the east and ends, in the west, with the Parliament. It is a 1.8 km. walk along this main artery of Vilnius. But, still, the transportaion along this avenue is very sparse. There many old and new, beautiful mansions or buildings like:

Gediminas Avenue #3:

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Statues of Three Muses on Lithuanian National Drama  (Lietuvos Nacionalinis Dramos Teatras) in #6:

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Gediminas Avenue #9 near the GO9 shopping centre:

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After 550 m. walk, with our face to the west, we arrive to Vinco Kudirkos Square  (Vinco Kudirkos aikštė) opposite Novotel Hotel:

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From Hotel Novotel Vilnius Centre, Gedimino pr. 16, head west on Gedimino pr. toward Vilniaus g., 40 m. Turn left onto Vilniaus g. to find a busy, narrow road with many restaurants, cafes and eateries. A good option for having lunch or dinner is Pinavija Cafe & Bakery, 21, Vilniaus g - 160 m. walk from Gediminas Avenue. Two main portions in 20 euros. Clean, pleasant, but a rather slow service. The road has a few interesting buildings (most of them need/under restoration):

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Note the Radvila Palace - 17th-century palace, now home to a modest museum showcasing Lithuanian art & culture - in the intersection of Vilniaus g. and Islandijos g.:

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Back to Gediminas Avenue (with our face to the north). Turn LEFT (west) to continue our walk along Gediminas Avenue:

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Harry Krishna in Gediminas Avenue:

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Gediminas Avenue #27:

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After crossing vasario 16-osios g. - we see the City Park in Lukiškių Square (Lukiškių aikštė):

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No way you miss the turn to the left (south) to Aukų g., opposite  Lukiškių Square. Here resides the Genocide Museum (Genocido aukų muziejus).

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It is, actually, the KGB Museum. We DID NOT enter this museum since it was closed. Very few people know this period in history of Lithuania: how cruel were the Soviet authorities and how the Lithuanian people were tortured and imprisoned during the Russian conquest. As well as dealing with the systematic murder of Jews by the Nazis, we advice you to study the brutal treatment of the Lithuanian nation by the Soviets during both the war and subsequent occupation. Housed in the former KGB building across from Lukiškės Square, the museum retains in its basement the prison used by the Russian secret service (KGB), as well as the original execution chamber, where bullet holes still scar the walls. Opening hours of the museum: MON-TUE: closed, WED-SAT: 10.00 - 18.00, SUN: 10.00-17.00. Prices:  adults – 4 €, concessions – 1 €. Photography permit – 2 €. Entrance to the museum is free of charge for the tourists with the Vilnius City Card. Cash payments only:

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The outdoor exhibition is devoted to the Jewish Genocide. We were deeply moved by the outdoor exposition of children paintings and the memorial monuments in Aukų g. Both of these chapters of history - will leave you under a shock and mentally exhausted:

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We continue walking along Gediminas Avenue until its most western end. 

Gediminas Avenue #41:

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Gediminas Avenue - National Library:

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Gediminas Avenue - The Parliament:

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We continued westward, crossing the Neris river along the bridge of A. Mickevičiaus g.

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After crossing the bridge - you see a park on your left and a big church on your right - The Mother of God (Vilniaus Dievo Motinos ikonos „Ženklas iš dangaus“ cerkvė) Church:

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We turned LEFT (south) to Vytauto g. and in the intersection with Liubarto g. you can catch buses (#1,2,7) to Vilnius central Bus and Train stations.

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