Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vilnius. An Art Wall and Churches.

Entering St. Anne's Church.

It's late morning on our only full day in Vilnius and I'm already enjoying being in Old Town. After spending a couple of hours visiting Vilnius University, we continued our wandering about. I know it would have been better had we had an itinerary to follow but Vilnius Old Town is the kind of place that you just throw out the guidebook and explore. At every turn and in every nook and cranny of its cobblestone streets and charming buildings, there’s something to be discovered.


Our meandering took us down a very street where we came across a very unusual art display.


We had stumbled upon Literatų gatvė, a short street that also serves as a small outdoor art gallery. A free art gallery in the middle of Old Town!

The art work of over 100 select, Lithuanian artists is displayed on several walls. The pieces are primarily small mixed media prints, drawings and paintings. Several pieces caught my eye immediately like the decorated set of dentures while others begged for closer examination. There were pieces that made me smile and others that just made me go “hmmm”. 


 Each art piece is numbered and there is a plaque that identifies who the artist is so you can look them up on the web. I didn’t recognize any of the names but I most certainly appreciated the creativity of each artist. Afterwards, I learned that the gallery was started in 2008 and is dedicated to Lithuanian writers, poets and essayists who have left their mark on the city.

Next, we saw and visited a few more churches.  In total, there are 28 churches in Vilnius Old Town  of which twenty one are Roman Catholic and four are Russian Orthodox. Lutheran, Reformed and Eastern Rite Catholic communities have one church each. All of the churches except for 6 of the Catholics reopened at the end of Soviet occupation of the city.
 
We've already been to two churches this morning.  The next one that we came across was St. Michael's Church which now houses the Church Heritage Museum.


The Church Heritage Museum, which preserves and displays liturgical clothing and items used in worship, was founded in 2005 by the Vilnius Archbishop Metropolitan Cardinal and established at the Church in 2009.  We didn't go inside.

Right next door to St. Michael's is the grand St. Anne's Church and the church of the Bernardine Monastery.  One tourist after another was headed inside so we decided to follow suit.

With it's ornate red brick façade, St. Anne's Church is part of an ensemble, comprising the much larger Gothic Church of St. Francis as well as a Bernadine monastery.

St. Anne's Church on the left,  Church of St. Francis in the middle, and the
belfry of St. Anne's Church on the right.

We started our visit to the church complex with St. Anne's, just quickly stepping inside.


Then, it was on to see St. Francis.  Once forming part of the city’s original defensive walls and constructed on the site of an earlier wooden church dating from the middle of the 15th century at the behest of an order of Bernadine monks, the current dates from the early part of the 16th century onwards.

Walkway connecting St. Anne's with St. Francis.

Looking up at the two churches from the entry courtyard to St. Francis.



Interior of St. Francis.  Beautiful.


The belfry of St. Anne's.

Located a short walking distance from St. Anne's is the Cathedral of the Theotokos, the main Russian Russian Orthodox church in Lithuania. 

The cathedral was built during the reign of the Grand Duke Algirdas for his Orthodox wife Maria of Vitebsk in 1346, making it one of the churches of Vilnius - built before the christianization of Lithuania when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the last pagan state in Europe.

We didn't go inside but should have as the interior is stunning. 


Bro got a wonderful photo of the church from the top of the campanile at St. John's Church.

By now, it was well past lunch time.  I wasn't hungry and would have gladly skipped a meal but Bro is very disciplined as far as meal times go which is very good for his metabolism.  We decided to give a local eatery, La Kavinė Pas Erlicką, a try.  We walked by and saw quite a few people, looked to be office workers, eating. 


We got a table outside, under the shade of an awning.  The waitress handed me a menu; it had such a cute cover.  You can't help but smile at a grumpy man holding up a wooden spoon :-).  The quote is by Juozas Erlickas, a Lithuanian humorist, poet, novelist, and playwright.

We both ordered Lithuanian specialties.  Potatoes are big here so we both went with potato dishes. I went with the cepelinai which are a Lithuanian national dish. They are a type of dumpling made from a dough of shredded potatoes mixed with riced potatoes and then stuffed with minced meat, dry cottage cheese (curd) or mushroom. They are shaped to look like a Zeppelin airship and that's where they get their name from.  The cepelinai are then boiled and served with sour cream sauce and bacon or pork rinds. 

Bro ordered something that looked the potato latkes and we shared a bottle of kvass.

Verdict on the cepelinai.  I expected small dumplings but one huge one showed on the plate!  The texture of the potato dough was oddly dense, kind of gluey and a bit chewy.  With the cheese filling inside, it was an incredibly heavy dish.  It was like eating a giant ball of dough. I couldn't finish the whole thing before my tummy signaled it was full.  Lithuanian food is definitely hearty peasant fare!


Latke, upper right.  Cepelinai, lower right.

We still have a full afternoon ahead of us so time to walk off all the calories we just ingested!