A day in the park

  • 2014-10-01
  • From wire report

VILNIUS - A 2009 survey recognized Vilnius as the greenest capital in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, Vilnius’ air quality is the cleanest among all European capital cities.
To achieve this, Vilnius urban planners intentionally skipped many areas during the city’s expansion. Though these are named ‘parks,’ but with limited landscaping, some of them are in fact urban forests. They are now popular for strolling, walking one’s dog, or just for enjoying a picnic.

Parks and hills
The oldest of these pristine zones of Vilnius is right next to the Cathedral and the Castle. Known as Sereikiskiu Park and the Hill Park (Kalnu parkas), it includes multiple hills with good city views, among them the Pilies (Castle) Hill, the Hill of Three Crosses (Triju kryziu) and the Gedimino kapo (Gediminas Grave) Hill.
Larger and equally popular is the 162 hectare Vingis (Bend) park to the west of New Town, hugged from 3 sides by Neris river. A former nobility hunting ground, it is now a major location for summer song festivals and also hosts a rugby stadium and a WWI German cemetery amidst its greenery.

Today Vingis park forms a part of north-to-south chain of green zones which separates pre-1940 Vilnius boroughs to the east from Soviets neighborhoods to the west. While Vingis park is developed, much of this ‘Green belt’ is not and there are places where one may feel to be teleported to a countryside forest after walking merely several hundred meters from high-rise residential areas.
A bit further from downtown the two regional parks within Vilnius city limits (Pavilnis and Verkiai) are much better for recreation as they host some impressive scenery (Puckoriai rock exposure), interwar military installations and 17th-19th century manors.

Vilnius is a city built on hills, and to really appreciate the beauty of this, and to have wonderful views of the wavy rooftops of Vilnius, one needs to climb to a high vantage point. Get out and take a walk to really enjoy the city.

Changing direction
The old cemeteries of Vilnius may compete with parks in their greenness but have a different aura.
To contemplate, you may visit the early 19th century hilly Rasos cemetery (south Vilnius) or the smaller Bernardinai cemetary in Uzupis (Old town). Both include elaborate tombstones and famous burial sites.
Antakalnis cemetary (Antakalnis borough) is the burial place for 20th century celebrities, heroes and villains. If you prefer religious minorities there is an Old Believer cemetery in south Vilnius, Muslim cemeteries near mosques in the south suburbs and a Jewish zone in Suderve cemetery (Virsuliskes borough).
Sadly many famous minority graveyards were razed by the Soviets, among them two Protestant and the main Jewish one. Under the Soviet rule the tradition to bury the dead along religious lines also faded and the modern graveyards accommodate people of all communities, writes truelithuania.com.