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Sunday, January 29, 2017

A new year in an old town

Kristiana might be a citadel of capitalism (in this case cosmetics and fashion) on Gedimino Prospektas, but the figure above the sign looks suspiciously Soviet

Saturday is the first day of the Year of the Rooster 酉, Day One of the Lunar New Year. In an attempt to replicate an aspect of Taiwanese life in the Baltics, on Friday night (the Lunar New Year Eve) we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant close to the Seimas Palace (Seimo rūmai). The best thing that could be said about the meal was that the Dragon beer was different from the usual local favorites (a Google search reveals the surprising fact that it's brewed in Saint Petersburg, Russia of all places); the best thing that could be said about the restaurant itself was that it's the best-decorated of all the Chinese restaurants in Vilnius that we've patronized to date:


Back home after dinner, and time to hand out the red envelopes 紅包:


On Saturday afternoon I dragged my daughter away from the computer screen and out into Old Town. Our route took us past the Presidential Palace and the word "Freedom" out front:


At Akademinė Knyga, a book store specializing in academic and scientific titles, Amber purchased a copy of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children:


The book shop is located on Universiteto gatvė, which is also home to the historic buildings of Vilnius University (Vilniaus Universitetas). The oldest university in Eastern Europe, it started out as a Jesuit college in 1568, before obtaining university status in 1579 during the Counter-Reformation. The present campus consists of buildings constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries, with the result being a combination of different architectural styles. The school was run by the Jesuits for a couple of centuries and my Lonely Planet guide describes it as being one of the greatest centers of Polish learning during that time, producing many noted scholars. The Russians shut it down in 1832, however, and the school didn't reopen until 1919. Vilnius University is now home to 23,000 students, as well as Lithuania's oldest library:


The university is known for its 13 courtyards, which non-students can check out for a small admission fee. My daughter stands in the Mathias Casimir Sarbievius Courtyard, named after a prominent 17th-century Latin poet:


The Astronomical Observatory Courtyard features an 18th-century Neoclassical observatory:


The largest of the courtyards is the aptly-named Grand Courtyard, dominated by Sts. Johns' Church (Šv Jonų bažnyčia), founded in 1387 (and thus predating the university), though the present late-Baroque building was erected following destructive fires in 1737 and 1749. To the right of the church is the bell tower - the freestanding campanile is the tallest structure in Old Town, at 68 meters (223 feet) in height. The view from the top is supposed to be a good one, but can only be accessed from April to October. We'll be back:


The Grand Courtyard features 300 year-old frescoes and plaques on the walls commemorating noted faculty members and graduates:



Inside the Church of St. Johns, St. John the Baptist and Sts. John the Apostle and Evangelist:






The Simonas Daukantas Courtyard, named after the author of the first history of Lithuania written in Lithuanian:


Some lucky Vilnius University students will have the opportunity to take summer classes at National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學:


In the Mikalojus Daukša Courtyard, dubbed so in honor of a Catholic priest, administrator and translator (the surrounding buildings are home to the history faculty). I can't explain the presence of lit candles on the ground:


Once the sun returns and the snow has melted away, I'd like to visit the courtyards again to see them in their spring and summer finery, as well as ascend the campanile of Sts. Johns to take in the view of Old Town. The university book store, Littera, was closed on Saturday; another reason to visit the university would be to check out the shop when it's open:


From Vilnius University Amber and I walked over to the Gedimino 9 shopping center on Gedimino Prospektas, where we enjoyed a little taste of Taiwan in the form of 珍珠奶茶, courtesy of Formosa (doughnut by Donut Lab):


On the way home:


雞年快樂!








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