Of all the legends about Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, the people who live here most love the one that tells us of Grand Duke Gediminas’s dream about a wolf howling in hundreds of voices. Nobody can verify whether it was this dream wolf that encouraged the Grand Duke to found the city of Vilnius, but the proof that he invited merchants, soldiers, craftspeople and priests from all over Europe to the city is irrefutable. Our Latvian neighbours preserved his letter in Latin of 1323 – the first written source in which the name of Vilnius is spelled out in black and white.
Customs did not change much as time went by, and the historical centre of Vilnius also changed little. This remarkable part of the city, next to the river Vilnia, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its white churches and red roofs.
Our capital city has always been at the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures. The city’s historical buildings are charming for their differing styles, featuring elements of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism. Narrow streets in the Old Town and spacious, open squares provide evidence that Vilnius was never inclined to shake off the influence of alien cultures. Indeed, quite the opposite – it always showed them respect and readily used them for the city’s embellishment.
Today, as well as other Baltic capitals, Vilnius is a modern, homely and welcoming city full of culture and creation. It is a place where you can see talking statues, hear music being played, smell good food and have adventures. You can get to the centre of Vilnius by boat, take to the sky in a hot-air balloon, pick some beautiful liverleaves from the forest in the middle of town, or count stars from the top of the hill where the legendary iron wolf howled in Gediminas’s dream.