Visions of Lithuania

By Yasha Shatalov

This summer I had the opportunity to study Russian language at Vilnius University in Old Town Vilnius, Lithuania. A large part of my ability to take part in this study abroad was due to the incredible generosity of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and to GRAMELAC, as well as the help of Dr. Neringa Klumbyte. The following photographs depict some of the most important historical and cultural sites in the Old Town of Vilnius and the surrounding area. A few pictures are also included of a short trip we made to Klaipeda, a city on the Baltic Sea located a small distance North of Kaliningrad. I highly recommend this opportunity to anyone with a desire to improve their Russian language skills or just as a way to learn more about Lithuanian history and culture.

Saviciaus gatve (street). Located just off of the main square in the Old Town. I lived in an apartment in an alley parallel to this street. Generally it was busy (and loud) until 1-2am every night.

The bell tower of Vilnius University. One of the tallest buildings in the Old Town.

Didzioji gatve, taken around 4am. The sun begins to rise around 4-430 during the summer. Vilnius University Cathedral can be seen ahead on the right.

Cathedral Square. Home to the Palace of the Grand Dukes and Vilnius Cathedral. This place, like most others in Old Town is generally filled with people. I was jet lagged early one morning and took the photos you see that are devoid of other people.

Literatu gatve, featuring various pieces of art dedicated to famous writers.

A view inside the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church. The churches were all very interesting and beautiful but began to look the same to me in the sheer level of ornateness and splendor that was present inside of them.



The Three Crosses overlooking Vilnius. This was my favorite place to go in Vilnius, especially during a morning run. These were blown up by the Soviets and rebuilt.

However, the walk up may kill you. Literally. The 200+ steps up the hill are wooden and without a railing. There were many days when I went up where steps were broken off.

An old church on Saviciaus gatve. I thought it was interesting how old blends with new so seamlessly here. In the top of the church you can see telecommunications equipment poking out of the steeple.

Graffiti was everywhere in Vilnius, even in the historic (and wealthy) Old Town. This was one of the more interesting pieces I came across. It was painted over during the month I was there.

Weather moving through Vilnius. It seems like it is constantly raining in Vilnius during the summer. My weather app gave a perpetually pessimistic forecast of rain almost everyday, but luckily it turned out to be wrong occasionally.

Balloon tours over Old Town.

Uzupis, the artists’ district adjacent to Old Town, declared their “independence” from the country. This is their Constitution.

A view of Trakai, one of the historic capitals of Lithuania. Located on a peninsula in the middle of a lake about 25 minutes outside of Vilnius.

The Vilnius TV tower. One of the tallest buildings in the Baltic states.

One of the more interesting examples of art I found in Vilnius. Located near the market and train station and outside an American-style BBQ restaurant whose slogan is “make everything great again”.

The main square in Old Town. On the left you can see a couple outdoor cafes where it was possible to order alcohol and food.

The door to the Vilnius University Library. This was one of the few signs in Lithuania I was able to read, as the language shared very few words with English and Russian. Above the door reads “University Library”

The BBQ restaurant mentioned earlier, with more artwork. It was hard finding food that felt traditionally American and not just Europeanized American food. This was the best American food I had there.

A view of Vilnius from the Three Crosses.

The inner structure of the University bell tower. We tried to walk straight into the Bell Tower to avoid the 4 euro fee, but were unsuccessful. Playing the stupid American tourist can be a useful tactic when you get caught!

A view from the top of the Vilnius University Bell Tower, with the Three Crosses in the distance.

The Lithuanian countryside on the way to Klaipeda. We took the train there which was incredibly cheap and comfortable.

The Baltic Sea. The peninsula that we are on is opposite Klaipeda, but it feels like an island; it connects to Kaliningrad and the southern part of it belongs to Russia. It is known as the Curonian Spit.

Mythological themes in the forest.

Cloudy day taking the ferry back to Klaipeda. Very strange lighting here. Unlike many this photo is unedited.

A view of the harbor facilities in Klaipeda. The city is a major port and an extremely important link for foreign trade.

The river Dane which feeds into the Baltic Sea. German architecture is very prevalent here, as it was a German city until it was ceded in the Treaty of Versailles.

An old ship permanently docked on the river. It’s difficult to see but there was random advertising all over the sails. I thought it was strange as you wouldn’t see that in the USA on something so historic.

More views of the city. Just two miles up the road at the farthest ferry crossing (ask me how I know) there are tons of factories and port facilities that smell like burning chemicals. The transition from tourism to industry is quite abrupt.

The interior of the Church of St Peter and St Paul. The level of detail and artistry is like something you’d expect to see at the Vatican.

One last view of Vilnius.


Yasha Shatalov is a senior studying Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies.

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