The only way to our Hotel Atrium was driving through one of the oldest pedestrian passages in Vilnius. No disturbed reaction from the crowds-they moved slowly aside-and I drove very carefully.
Checked in at the Hotel and there was more delight! Because of an error on their reservation, the 3rd floor room with no elevator was unacceptable. Maybe it was because of Mike’s groaning as he carried my suit case or my hunching over the front desk panting from the drive…they transferred us to a 1st floor suite. How sweet.
We actually sat in the fireplace alcove, 3 floors down from the packed patio dining. My agoraphobia was assuaged by the number of people happily eating and drinking. I ordered their special, chopped beef and boar served on a bed of spinach mashed potatoes: excellent!
Our waiter was a student who had learned 4 languages and was working on a 5th. We went up to the patio to finish our coffee, he came with us and talked about his language studies. Walking back to the hotel we found the street even livelier.
The next morning we started touring.
A beautiful and golden Gothic gem. Apparently Napoleon’s soldiers thought so too and used it as a barracks on their way to Moscow in 1812. This may have saved the Church during the following wars.
I thought this statue was a Jesuit (but it wasn’t) because the Jesuits founded the oldest college in Eastern Europe in 1579 nearby.
Next, after climbing a thousand wooded stairs straight uphill, we were rewarded with this sight: The Hill of the Three Crosses
Traditionally –its background is that Jogails erected 3 crosses in memory of the 7 Franciscan Monks executed here by his Grandfather, Grand Duke Algirdas. Whatever the background, a trio of crosses did exist here—until a reprisal came for the 1863 uprising from the Russian Governor General.
In 1915, with the Russian departure , the city built new crosses which were dynamited by the Soviets in 1950. The picture shows the newest statue….and hopefully the last!
We limped down the hill and back to our hotel.
Our architectural tour yielded many handsome buildings and churches—but no synagogues.
We were to discover with the following photograph.
This was the Jewish-inhabited part of Old Town before the Nazi occupation. The Nazi authorities were charged with the job of ridding the German-controlled areas of Eastern Europe of their Jewish inhabitants.
Despite all the contributions of the Jewish community, in July 1943, the Germans announced they would “liquidate the Ghetto” and did.
A sorry loss to our world.
The able-bodied men went to work camps, women and children were sent out to the forest, shot and buried. The sick and disabled were killed as well.
Today Vilnius has a Jewish population around 3,000, from the 70,000 –strong community that once lived here. And those few who survived couldn’t bear the pain of remaining.
When Napoleon Bonaparte visited in 1812, he called Vilnius the “Jerusalem of the North”.
On the 22nd of June, 1941 the Germans invaded soviet territory and entered Vilna on the 24th.
Around 60,000 Jews lived here, constituting 30% of the total population. “The community of Vilna which had flourished for hundred of years was decimated during the second World War.”
Baltic States: Estonia