General information about Vilnius district municipality
Vilnius district municipality is one of the largest municipalities in Lithuania. The district occupies an area of 2129 square kilometres and is divided into 23 civil parishes. Vilnius district surrounds the capital from north, south and east, with its well developed public and business rural infrastructure it is developing harmoniously and dynamically, attracting new investments and ensuring high quality of life and enviroment for every individual. The Territory of Vilnius district has joining borders with the republic of Belarus from the East, on the northern outskirts it neighbours with Švenčionys and Molėtai districts, from the Northwest side – it neighbours with Širvintai district, from the West – Elektrėnai district, from the Southwest – Trakai district and from South – Šalčininkai district.
Country-side localities prevail in Vilnius district, there are 1163 villages. When Vilnius district was artificially separated from Vilnius city, it was left only with Nemenčinė, which is a city that has its own, separate parish. There are four more towns on the territory of Vilnius district municipality – Bezdonys, Maišiagala, Mickūnai and Šumskas. 95 percent of Vilnius district residents live in villages while the average number of people living in villages in Lithuania alltogether is 33 percent. People from Vilnius region are characterized as hospitable, sincere and distinctive – they have their own, special multicultural traditions which are carefully upheld by all generations.
The helm is in women‘s hands
For the fourth time in a row, Maria Rekst has been elected for the mayor of one of the largest and most multinational districts of Lithuania – Vilnius district municipality. There are 60 municipalities in Lithuania, right now only five women have been elected to lead their municipalities. Director of administration of Vilnius district municipality is Liucina Kotlovska, it is her third term of office.
Vilnius district is distinguished because of its multinational composition: 52 percent are of Polish nationality, 33 percent – Lithuanian, the remaining 16 percent are Russians, Belarussians and people of other nationalities (Ukarainians, Tatars, Jews). Today Vilnius district has over 100,000 residents.
Vilnius district‘s conformation is very diverse. There are two upland areas in Vilnius district: Aukštaičiai – in the Western part and Medininkai – in the Southeast. The highest terrains of Lithuania are located here – Aukštojo, Juozapinės and Kruopinės hills, which are towering over290 metresabove sea level. In the central and Eastern part – Neris, Vilnelė and Vokė rivers‘ valleys are located. Lowlands are typical for the Northern part of the district.
Vilnius district is rich with valued landscapes, historical, architectural and natural monuments, ethnographic villages. This determines a huge potential for development of tourism and recreation services in the rural areas. Another advantage is the high percentage of wooded areas (36.8 percent) and plenty of grown, mature forests on district territory. Largest arrays of forests are located around Nemenčinė. The nearby capital‘s impact on the number of tourist flows in Vilnius district must be taken under consideration. Vilnius district has reasonable recreational potential, especially on the territories of Asvejos and Neries regional parks, and in some suburban areas. Those regional parks and Alionių, Baravykinės and Kruopinės landscape parks are very valuable from the point of view of nature protection and recreation. The most valuable natural complexes are being protected in Grioniai, Juozapinė, Kuosinė, Skersabaliai geomorphological reserves, Kena and Vilnius hydrographical reserves, Medininkai and Pravalo botanical reserves and in Papio ornithological reserve.
Medininkai castle. 2 kilometres fom the border of Belarus, stands the biggest stone keep castle in Lithuania – Medininkai castle. Shaped like an incorrect square, it occupies the area of 2 hectares (6.5 hectares – if you count in mounds and trenches). It is located on the edge of a plain, next to a swamp. There was a double trench, between trenches stood a wooden wall. On the corner of the defence wall a five storey tower was located and on the southern side of the wall, another, smaller tower was built. One of the lower gates with a tower was built into the Eastern wall, another – beside the middle of the Western wall, and the upper gates were in the Northern and Southern walls. In 1385 when Teutonic knights attacked the vicinity of Ašmena and tried to besiege the castle – Medininkai castle was mentioned for the first time. It is known for sure, that the building of the brick castle was finished before the end of the 15th century. Somewhere around the beginning of the 16th century all the wooden buildings of the castle were burnt. Since 2004 Medininkai castle is a part of Trakai historical museum. Funds were received from the EU structural funds for the restoration of the castle, in the period from 2010 to 2012 – the first stage of restoration works was finished. A museum with four exposition halls was established in a 27 meter high tower.
Liubavas manor mill. It takes a 20 kilometre ride from Vilnius to get to Liubavas, which is located near the open air museum of the centre of Europe. Visitors of Liubavas are welcome to see a unique cultural object – Liubavas manor museum, which is established inside the stone mill. The mill was built by foreign wrights, a lot of authentic mill equipment remains there until now and almost all of it is still functional. On the second floor of the mill there is a historical exposition of Liubavas mill which is almost 500 years old. Liubavas is one of the oldest manors of Lithuania, settled in a beautiful location near Gerėja river which is now called Želesa. The manor was mentioned in the first treasury books of the grand duke of Lithuania and the king of Poland Sigismund II Augustus in 1546, with texts about Liubavas mill pond repairs. 19th century was the golden age of Liubavas manor, Slizieniai family owned the manor then, they were related to Tyškevičiai family. There were more famous names in the history of the manor. It belonged not only to Sigismund II Augustus, Mikalojus “the Red“ Radvila posessed it, later – Martynas Krišpinas Kirštenšteinas and other historically important aristocrates owned the manor. Full of mysteries, surprises and discoveries, the most romantic manor in Lithuania – Liubavas is presented in the work of Gintaras Karosas, a sculptor who initiated the establishment of a new museum in a unique stone manor mill. This monument of technical heritage presents the history of Liubavas manor and demonstrates authentic mill equipment. Liubavas manor mill-museum is one of the best examples of European cultural heritage conservation – it has been awarded with EU cultural heritage prize and with “Europa Nostra” award.
Bareikiškės manor. Next to the old Vilnius – Minsk road, near Vilnius, in Bareikiškės village stands a manor built in the 19th century. Famous poet Vladislovas Sirokomlė (real name: Liudvikas Kondratovičius) lived there for eight years since 1853. The years that the poet had spent there were the most productive in his career. Bareikškės manor is the place where he wrote 24 of his works, including one of his most significant pieces – “Margiris” which has become a symbol for the Lithuanians who fought Teutonic knights. He also wrote the first tourist guide for Lithuania where he wrote, that it is a huge shame for someone not to know anything about his country or even worse – to know other countries better than he knows the country that he lives in. In1973 a memorial chamber was opened in Bareikiškės manor in order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the poet‘s day of birth. This exhibit illustrated the life and works of Vladislovas Sirokomlė, a memorial plaque was put on the wall. Bareikiškės manor was reconstructed in 2011 and now Vladislovas Sirokomlė museum, a village library with an internet reading-room and Vilnius district tourist information centre are open there. Bareikiškės manor is also a place for gatherings of poets, Central library of Vilnius district organised spring poetry festivals take place here and “Maj nad Wiliją” (“May by the river Neris”) – event, organised by Polish people from Vilnius district happens here as well.
Live history reflections
Vilnius district is famous for its Easter palms. Vilnius palms are prepared from willow branches and catkins. As palm trees are not indigenous to Lithuania, willow branches serve as symbolic substitutes for them. Vilnius palms can be very different, from very short and small to long and thick, usually, they are about 50 centimetres long, colorful, with different patterns from various dried flowers and herbs. Traditional Vilnius Easter palms were made by combining intense coloured flowers in winding patterns, but now, palms are made simpler, in calmer colours and patterns, usually in grey and pastel. The tradition of Vilnius Easter palms reaches the times of prince Casimir. These palms are unique all over the world. They became popular and were added to minor folk art creations thanks to a famous artist, painter – Ferdinandas Ruščicas (1870 – 1936). This tradition has to be cherished. The cradle of Vilnius palms is in Zujūnai parish, Kriaučiūnai village, even today almost all of it‘s villages have famous palm makers. In the year 2000, in Čekoniškės, a palms and appliances house has been opened for visitors.