All the poetic humanism of Užupis is contained in the first article of its constitution: “Man has the right to live near the small river Vilnia and the Vilnia has the right to flow near Man.
In the center of Vilnius, and therefore at the geographical heart of Europe, this utopian micro-republic occupies "the district of the other bank" delimited by a meander of the Vilnia.
But whereas Thomas More's original
offered balance in collective labor, Užupis promises personal growth through creativity.
A former haunt of scoundrels of all kinds, this little deprived area of the Lithuanian capital was taken over by artists in the 1990s. Today, murals brighten up its decrepit facades, and an intense cultural life animates its incubator center Art called "the little house by the river".
As soon as you cross the Pont de l'Amour loaded with rusty padlocks, you will find in this bohemian district everything that makes a republic.
The Užupis café, at the entrance of which a plaque highlights the friendship with the Republic of Montmartre, serves as a parliament.
Since 1998, the council of ministers, animated by the most active artists of the community, meets there every week around pints of beer.
Displayed in more than 50 languages on Paupio Street, the constitution of Užupis declines in 41 articles the rights and duties of the citizen, the dog and the cat.
A currency circulates, the euroz.
And April 1, Liars' Day, is the national holiday.
Notice to collectors!
That day, a customs post was improvised to stamp passports.
A bridge between two worlds
On the other side of the bridge, Vilnius presents the face of a peaceful and wealthy town.
Its old town, listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, can easily be explored on foot, whatever the season.
In summer, the city, which is more than 50% wooded, is one of the greenest in Europe.
But in winter, it looks more like a mouth-wateringly colorful dessert topped with whipped cream.
There is then a cozy atmosphere in the winding and cobbled streets of the center. Everyone goes about, bundled up in thick down jackets to face Siberian temperatures. And it is by following in the determined footsteps of the Lithuanians, boosted by this dry cold, that one enters the intimacy of the city. Distracted visitors could thus miss the Literatų alley with walls lined with surrealist plaques.
Facades in pastel tones, ornate cornices, wrought iron bell towers... A whole architectural recital of Renaissance, Gothic, Classical and above all Baroque style is on offer for contemplation.
Towering skyward, domes, bulbs, cupolas, spiers and steeples bear witness to Lithuania's deep Christian roots.
Unlike Riga and Tallinn, its predominantly Orthodox and Lutheran Baltic neighbors, Vilnius is 80% Catholic.
In the district of Užupis, artists still remember with emotion the visit of Pope Francis who came to bless the Latin version of their constitution in 2018.
Today there are 53 churches across the city.
But the Soviets have been there... There were more than 100 of them before the occupation.
The wounds of history
About thirty kilometers from Vilnius, a region of snowy hills, birch forests and frozen lakes conceals Trakai, the former stronghold of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
In the 14th century, this veritable empire, encompassing present-day Belarus, Ukraine and part of Poland, stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea!
The recent restoration of Trakai Castle symbolizes the revival of the country.
Because since this medieval golden age, the Lithuania of the Grand Duke Gediminas has collected setbacks.
The Teutonic Knights, the Poles, the Germans and then the Russians in turn coveted and invaded it.
It is because its territory is strategically located, at the crossroads of the Slavic and Germanic worlds.
In 1944 the darkest chapter of this difficult history opened. Lithuania was then annexed by the Soviet Union, after three years of Nazi occupation. By order of the Stalinist regime, the country's dissidents were uprooted from their homes and forcibly taken to the gulags of Siberia to work there in deadly conditions. Tortures, deportations and executions of partisans continued in this way until the 1980s.
In 1989, as the Berlin Wall came down, a Freedom Channel brought together around two million people across the Baltics, from Vilnius to Tallinn.
The following year, Lithuania regained its independence.
Since then, the country has raised its head, but without really mourning this tragic time.
In the utopian Republic of Užupis, we manage despite everything to put a little levity into fatality.
“Man has the right to die, but it is not a duty.
» Article 3 of the Constitution.
La Clusaz, the most authentic of the small ski resorts
Svalbard, the ultimate adventure in a polar nature sanctuary
In times of pandemic, it is advisable to find out about the conditions of departure and return before any trip abroad.
Vaccinated French people are currently free to enter Lithuania without testing or quarantine.
However, they must complete an online form to generate a QR code within 48 hours before their arrival.
Finally, the presentation of a European vaccination certificate is required in all places open to the public.
Only a quarter of an hour's drive from the city centre, Vilnius' small airport looks like a train station.
Count 2h45 flight from Paris.
The national dish
, a kind of meat-filled potato dumpling, and the creamy Napoleon dessert are served in most Lithuanian establishments.
These two national dishes are particularly generous in the tavern of the Stikliai hotel in Vilnius.
Recognizable by its offshoots, the
spit cake is another iconic sweet of the country.
At Lokys, a medieval-inspired cuisine, based on game, takes guests on a journey through time.
If you don't drink wine, you can accompany your meat with
, a drink sweetened with bread.
The country's leading dairy product, Dziugas is a cow's milk cheese that has won awards in more than 70 international competitions.
Its hard paste is available in several variants depending on the duration of ripening, from 12 to 48 months.
Lithuania also has several very creative tables, such as the Uoksas restaurant in Kaunas, where each plate combines flavors with audacity.
It is finally in this city, on a former Russian military site, that Jonas Miezys created his micro-brewery Genys.
One of the best in the country.
In order to bring Europeans together around their cultural diversity, a city is designated each year to organize a series of artistic events.
An opportunity for it to renew itself and increase its influence.
In 2022, Kaunas will thus become the European Capital of Culture.
The second city of Lithuania is a university city with modernist architecture, very dynamic and turned towards the future.
As a preamble to this cultural year, the Kaunas Biennial of Contemporary Art is being held until February 20, 2022. Following the opening ceremony on January 22, more than 1,000 events will bring together 800 Lithuanian and international artists on 50 sites of the region.
To prepare for your trip, Lithuania Travel is a mine of practical information and ideas for visits.
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