VILNIUS WHERE THE JOURNEY BEGINS Lithuania' s capital Vilnius is a strange phenomenon. It is big and small, young and old, modern and, at the same time, cosily provincial. You may be surprised to suddenly find yourself on a nice Italian corner in Vilnius or feel the spirit of Monmarte in Uzupis. This district has numerous curving streets and a maze of alleys, which change their aspect every few steps. It has its own constitution, is watched over by a mermaid and an angel and is often compared to Montmartre in Paris - but with a style all of its own. Vilnius is a baroque wonderland with one of Europe' s most breathtaking old towns often referred to as " Little Rome." It has one of the largest and well- preserved historic town centres in Eastern Europe - something that
9 hasn' t escaped the attention of UNESCO, who list it as a World Heritage Site. Next to pure baroque and masterpieces of perfect Gothic, you may encounter buildings characterised by mixed styles - Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance. They all blend together in Vilnius. The unforgettable atmosphere created by the people, the quiet flow of the river, the greenness of the forests breaking through the city' s very heart and the toll of the bells in numerous churches are all typical of Vilnius. This year Vilnius is a European Capital of Culture 2009 so get ready to celebrate with the locals. A special programme has been developed - Culture Live 2009 - which covers everything from charming little outbursts of creativity in tucked- away courtyards to major capital developments. Moreover, this year Lithuania celebrates its 1000th birthday!