Hello Vilnius, we have arrived!
I love to arrive in a new city without having a tight schedule or any detailed plans. I prefer following my intuition and let the eye-catchers determinate how to spend my holiday, which is always too short anyway. During my very first glance out of the hotel room window, I already decided that conquering that hill would be the thing to do the following morning.
While standing next to the window I kept measuring the distance with my eyes. It didn’t seem to be too far to walk, maybe from 10 to 15 minutes from our hotel to the hill. How long it would take to climb to the top was a bit more challenging to estimate. From distance, it didn’t seem too difficult, so I decided to trust my instincts.
We can do it. It’s easy.
Whether I am visiting a city I know well or in a destination I have never heard of, I love everything with a good story. Practically every single town, attraction and even a person or a dog should have a story of some kind. The story doesn’t need to be full of twists and turns if it’s told well, am I right?
The Gediminas Castle is widely known as a symbol of Vilnius, and to some extent also as a symbol of the whole of Lithuania. According to some sources, it’s the first building ever built in Vilnius; some stories tell the whole city was built around the castle. Let me tell you one story, which is very well known among the Lithuanians.
As all the best stories, also this one contains an iron wolf and a soothsayer. Interested already? Read along.
It’s the early 14th century. The legend tells the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas was hunting in the forests around the Vilnius valley, at the time known as Šventaragis valley, named after the cremation of a mythical Grand Duke Šventaragis.
Being exhausted from hunting all day, Gediminas decided to stay overnight in the valley. During the night he had a dream about an iron wolf that was howling louder than a large pack of wolves. The iron wolf was standing on top of the very same hill where Gediminas had earlier hauled a big bull. Do you want to have a guess what was the hill in question?
Being confused about his bizarre dream Gediminas decided to talk to a soothsayer. The mage Lizdeika interpreted the dream being an omen about a castle and a city that Gediminas was expected to build on the spot.
The city would later be well known all over the world, and it would become a magnificent capital for Lithuania.
Faithfully Gediminas followed the soothsayer’s guidance. A castle was built on top of the hill, and around the hill rose the city of Vilnius, which was named after the river Vilnia.
Today the Gediminas Castle ruins is one of the most famous attractions in Vilnius. There might be disagreements about the story how the castle was born, but one thing is guaranteed; thanks to the panoramic views over the city, the castle hill will always be popular among tourists, and you should not miss it when visiting Vilnius.
You can reach the castle ruins by walking or using the funicular on the North side of the hill. It’s not rough to climb up, so anyone can do it, but due to a path made of cobblestones comfortable and flat shoes are highly recommended.
The view is definitely worth a little walk uphill. Really. Try to aim your visit on the hill for a sunny day if possible. Although you can get quite dramatic shots on a cloudy day.
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