We heard very often that one goes to Lithuania and especially to Vilnius to see cemeteries. They were not our main focus, however, they were very memorable for us….
In our last post (Vilnius – Day 1) we described our visit to the center of Vilnius, including. Old Town and Gediminas Hill. Which took us one day. The next day we only wanted to see one particular cemetery before continuing on our way. Of course… however, this did not happen ;)
Packing in the morning took more time than we anticipated, of course, breakfast too, but we needed a decent meal before the next day on the road. Interestingly, the hotel even had vegan meatballs for breakfast! We also indulged in fresh local bread.
Novotel, as always, has delivered :)
Cemeteries in Vilnius
Once we packed into the car, we did some more driving through the city (in case things change :) ) and drove towards Lithuania’s oldest cemetery: on Rossa.
The Ross Cemetery is a place where tours from Poland draw crowds. The whole time we were there we met only Poles.
In front of the entrance to the cemetery is a separate small military cemetery, in the middle of which stands a black tombstone surrounded by flowers, candles and Polish flags – this is where Marshal Pilsudski’s heart and his Mother rest.
There are tombstones of Polish soldiers all around. Above Pilsudski’s tombstone, but already within the civilian cemetery, is the grave of Pilsudski’s brother, and nearby also his wife.
Walking around the hills on which the graves are located, one can admire the old, dilapidated, centuries-old monuments and quarters. We hit the autumn weather, during which the first autumn leaves began to fall on the graves. It was sad to see these deteriorating and neglected graves.
Inspired by a conversation with an elderly woman who was selling flowers at the cemetery, we decided to go to yet another cemetery, Antokolsky.
The Antokol cemetery is larger and definitely more well-kept. The military part alone is 15 hectares. There are two special places here: the mausoleum, where Lithuanians who died defending the TV tower in 1991 are buried, and the other: the graves of Polish soldiers who died in the Polish-Bolshevik war and the wars with Germany.
It is a very symbolic place, the crosses of Polish soldiers are evenly spaced on the Sapiezynskiy Trenches, and each individual one is girded with a red and white ribbon.
Here, too, the aura did its job, with the sun’s rays breaking through the trees and illuminating the many graves. It was simply incredibly impressive and put us in a reverie. Anyway, see for yourself how eloquent this place looks….
An interesting fact, quite on a different topic, may be of interest to some, that above the cemetery is the landing path for the Vilnius airport. The traffic there is not very heavy, however, you can also catch some interesting shots there :)
In summary, the two cemeteries are quite different. One destroyed, in disarray, and the other organized, cleaned up. Both places are unique, although we are personally more impressed by the Antokol cemetery. Therefore, we strongly recommend you to visit both of these positions.
To get to them, unfortunately, you will have to arm yourselves with your own 4 wheels or allow yourself to take a longer walk. You will find ample free parking on site. We, fortunately, were armed with a Mitsubishi Outlander, which worked well not only as a car with a roomy trunk (as we wrote earlier), but also saved us in many tricky situations as…. a changing table for the youngest part of our team ;-)
And only then does a person appreciate the size and capacity of the car :)
Back to sightseeing… We couldn’t afford any more of Vilnius that day. We had to drive to Kaunas, and on the way we still had the Rumšški Open Air Museum planned.
How much time is needed to explore Vilnius?
This is exactly the question we asked ourselves several times before our trip. We, during these 1.5 days, saw several facets of Vilnius. For sure, a year ago we would have covered all the points in one day, but since quite recently we have been visiting at a slightly different pace :)
Yet, as always, we still have a few points left to see. If we’re ever passing through, we’ll be sure to stop in to immerse ourselves in the streets of the old city, walk through the courtyards of the university and learn about the history of the Jews in Vilnius.
To answer your question, however, 2 or at most 3 days is the optimum that anyone can allocate for a stay in Vilnius in order to quietly visit the most important places and feel the atmosphere of this city.
And Vilnius itself is very diverse, both architecturally and in terms of its various cultural influences and history, which Lithuanians do not deny, but emphasize their independence.
We liked the compact Old Town, close distances that can be covered on foot (even with a stroller). The cemeteries are also mega impressive. Besides, I don’t think we’ve seen as many churches in any city yet as in Vilnius. Well, unless you include the temples in Japan;)
We recommend you our other posts about Lithuania.