The Collection: Lithuania’s World Heritage Sites
Since 1945 UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization has been very busy trying to preserve the world’s natural and cultural legacy for future generations. Countries around the world are encouraged to subscribe to the World Heritage Convention and ensure that their natural and cultural legacy remains protected for that purpose. These sites are virtual property of the peoples of the world and it is in our responsibility to understand and look after these special places.
In Lithuania we have four main protected sites: The Curonian Spit, the archaeological site of Kernavė, Vilnius Old Town and (one that is common place for the three Baltic States) The Struve Geodetic Arc. In this newsletter we would attempt an introduction to the first three. We would have a look at the fourth site on the third issue of this collection about Estonia's heritage sites.
Curonian Spit (Nida)
“Human habitation of this elongated sand dune peninsula, 98 km long and 0.4-4 km wide, dates back to prehistoric times. Throughout this period it has been threatened by the natural forces of wind and waves. Its survival to the present day has been made possible only as a result of ceaseless human efforts to combat the erosion of the Spit, dramatically illustrated by continuing stabilisation and reforestation projects.” [unesco.org]
This inspirational stretch of sand has taken the breath of every visitor that ever planted foot on it. The author of Death in Venice and Doctor Faustus, Thomas Mann, came here and fell in love with the place so much so, he ordered a beautiful house to be built on top of the hill overlooking Nida’s bay. We recommend you visit the house and sit for a while on the terrace to enjoy an inspiring view of the Curonian Sea. Who knows, the ghost of Thomas Mann may touch you with inspiration
“The Kernavė Archaeological site, about 35 km north-west of Vilnius in eastern Lithuania, represents an exceptional testimony to some 10 millennia of human settlements in this region. Situated in the valley of the River Neris, the site is a complex ensemble of archaeological properties, encompassing the town of Kernavė, forts, some unfortified settlements, burial sites and other archaeological, historical and cultural monuments from the late Palaeolithic Period to the Middle Ages. The site of 194,4 ha has preserved the traces of ancient land-use, as well as remains of five impressive hill forts, part of an exceptionally large defence system. Kernavė was an important feudal town in the Middle Ages. The town was destroyed by the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century, however the site remained in use until modern times.” [unesco.org]
For Lithuanians, Kernavė is the place where Lithuania was born. This place has an enormous sentimental value not to mention all the patriotic connotations. Every year, fans of all things medieval would come from different parts of the world to showcase their crafts at the Festival of Experimental Archaeology that takes place every summer on July. So, if you want to know more about life in the old days when princess and kings populated the world, this is the place to be.
“Political centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the 13th to the end of the 18th century, Vilnius has had a profound influence on the cultural and architectural development of much of eastern Europe. Despite invasions and partial destruction, it has preserved an impressive complex of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classical buildings as well as its medieval layout and natural setting.” [unesco.org]
Vilnius the capital of Lithuania came to be, quite literally, as the result of a summer’s night dream. Gran Duke Gediminas dreamt of an iron wolf hauling on top of a hill between rivers Vilnele and Neris. The city has plenty of visitors every year and its hotel capacity is constantly growing to accommodate the new arrivals. The city centre is not only a heritage site but also a buzzing nightlife hub. Theatres, restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs are thriving at the rhythm of avid visitors.