Your local tour guide will meet you at the airport or at the hotel and you will commence the tour in the southern part of the Baltic States – Vilnius. Gediminas Castle Hill and the remnants of the Upper Castle. Down to the Cathedral square where one can observe the beautiful Neo-Classical Cathedral. Continue through the narrow street to another square to see the Presidential Palace and to visit the Old Vilnius University, founded in 1579. Walk along medieval Castle street in the heart of the Old City.
Visit Vilnius Choral Synagogue built in 1903 in Moorish-Romanesque style. Visit Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum – an exhibition is divided into several locations, we are planning to visit the Tolerance Centre.
During the walk in the old city, we will see the Music school where Jasha Heifetz, the great violinist, did his first steps in a music career, the building of the famous ORT school and the house of the famous Tarbut Gimnazia (grammar school), nowadays the building is a house of the Jewish Comunity Centre.
Former Yiddish theatre, which was developed by young actors in a warehouse building. Next, we will see the rabbi’s Council and the place of the community meeting with Theodor Herzl’s during his visit to Vilnius.
Around the corner, there is Benedictine Convent which houses a story of saving 12 Jewish souls by Lithuanian Righteous Among the Nations.
We will continue walking in the medieval Jewish Quarter of Vilnius, called Lithuanian Jerusalem. Here once stood the house of the Vilna Gaon; just next to it was the Great Synagogue of Vilna and the “Shulhoif” with its numerous prayer houses.
Continue walking in the Large Ghetto of Vilna; will explore the story of suffering, resistance and struggle against the Nazis. FPO – Jewish United Partisan Organization which was acting in the Ghetto. Judenrat – Jewish Council of the Ghetto, its office and the story of “choiceless choices” taken by the leaders. Recreated hiding place in the cellar, where Jews were hiding after the liquidation of the Ghetto. Will finish the walking tour next to the Ghetto Theatre, which used to be the center of Spiritual resistance.
The day will be crowned by a drive and visit Ponar forest and Holocaust memorial – the site of extermination of one hundred thousand people among them seventy thousand Jews, numerous Russians, Romas, Poles and Lithuanians.
Will start the day by visiting one of the most impressive sites in Christian Vilnius – the “Gothic triangle” which includes St. Anne’s church. From here will drive to see the pearl of Baroque architecture in Vilnius – St. Peter and Paul’s Church – which is unique by having more than 2000 statues and bas-reliefs in its interior decoration.
A tour of Trakai – the land of lakes and forests, the ancient capital and the residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania with its 14th-century insular castle. Today Trakai History Museum is one of the most visited sites in Lithuania. Visit the Karaite exhibition, representing the story of this small ethnic group, confessing Judaism, brought from Crimea 600 years ago. If time allows we will also visit the unique Karaite cemetery.
Next, we will drive to Kaunas, the second large city of Lithuania. Walk in The Old Town of Kaunas with its narrow streets and cobbled squares, cozy cafes and art galleries. Walk on A. Mapu street – named after the author of the first Hebrew novel of the 19th century. Pass by L. Zamenhof street – a famous doctor and inventor of Esperanto language. Continue walking along the main pedestrian street of the city, “Laisves aleja” (Freedom Alley), with its 2-3 story buildings just as they looked before the WWII.
Visit M.K.Ciurlionis National Museum of Art, he was the most outstanding Lithuanian painter, and composer.
Just a few blocks down the street we will visit the only functioning Synagogue in Kaunas – “Ohel Yaacov”, built in 1871. It has an interesting exhibition of Jewish artifacts and pictures of Lithuanian rabbis painted by a local artist using the pictures as models.
We will continue our visit in Kaunas by a stop on an observation platform. Will be seeing most of the city from the top of the Aleksotas Hill. Then will drive to “Slobodka”, district of Kaunas which used to be totally Jewish neighborhood since 1500′. Will talk about The Yeshiva of Slobodka standing next to its building.
Will end our visit to Kaunas paying the last tribute to the holocaust victims. Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum and the Memorial – the place where Nazis and their local collaborators murdered over 50 thousand people, most of them Jewish.
On the way to Klaipeda will stop in a town of Kedainiai – a citadel of Radzivil family, one of the most powerful Lithuanian nobility families in the late middle ages. In this town, the Vilna Gaon lived and worked and the three synagogues have amazingly remained.
Upon arrival to the seaport Klaipeda, formerly named Memel, we will walk in the Old Town, distinguished for its German-influenced medieval architecture. The main square is not a market one or a Cathedral, it is the Theatre square. The statue of Annke von Thoreau reminds every visitor about the German origin writer Simon Dach and his famous book.
Next, we will follow to the Linden street to see an old, but still functioning, Neo-Gothic Post-office, which is an important cultural pride of local history.
Few hundred meters away is M. Mazvydas Stone Sculpture Park, an excellent example of Lithuanian fine arts.
We can find remnants of a Jewish presence and life in almost every place on our way in the Baltic States. Even in Klaipeda where was a ban on the settlement of Jews, there was a Jewish Community. Today they have the center and a prayer room which serves 150 last jews of Klaipeda. We will take some time to visit it and if possible to meet the representatives of the community.
We need the whole day to visit Neringa National Park. It was acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in the year of 2000. Geographically it is a peninsula dividing the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea. It is a huge dune which starts in Kaliningrad enclave of Russian Federation and is 95 km. long and about 2 km. wide sand dune.
On our tour, we have a lot of city sites full of history, culture, Jewish Heritage, Holocaust, and who knows what else. This day will be a very nice break away from all of the deep content and information. We will look at Lithuania from a perspective of a beautiful countryside and nature.
Will visit Juodkrante village to walk in the forest to the Hill of Witches. A vivid piece of very common Lithuanian folk art – wooden sculptures and carvings. Statues will tell us local legends and fairy tales. All the carvings are made out of oak trees.
Another stop will be to watch one of the biggest populations of cormorants in the area. Continue for Nida, a lovely summer resort with its 60 meter-high sand dunes, pine-trees growing on the very seashore. Some German artists and writers found inspiration and serenity in this corner of Europe, the most famous was Thomas Mann, who bought a summerhouse here. He wrote his famous novel “Joseph and His Brothers”.
One can visit Nida’s Ethnographic Fisherman’s Homestead and numerous amber galleries.
There is about 300 km. to drive today. But do not think that it will be a boring day. We have few very exciting stops and sites planned for you.
Our first stop is just 25 km. away from Klaipeda. It is Palanga – a popular resort on the Baltic Sea, famous for its kilometer-long beaches and a beautiful Botanic Park. The town itself is like a big park of Baltic Pine trees. You can see how houses and hotels are composed concerning nature.
Next attraction is Felix Tyszkiewicz Palace and Botanical Park which is bordering the seashore. There are over 200 kinds of trees and plants and it is really well kept English style park. Today the palace houses the biggest Amber Museum in the Baltic States. Amber is often called the Baltic Gold, as many local artists make amber jewelry. You can find it in almost every souvenir shop or art gallery.
Next stop at the Hill of Crosses, a unique site of Catholic pilgrimage, containing around 500.000 crosses. It is a place of a battle which was elevated to become a symbol of Lithuanians’ resistance against the foreign rule in the 19th and 20th centuries.
We pass the border and enter the second country of the tour – Latvia. First stop in Jelgava (former Mittau), the capital of the former Duchy of Courland to see the huge Duke’s Palace. The summer residence of the Duke was in a wonderful Baroque Rundale Palace, built by the famous Italian architect F.B. Rastrelli, the author of the Winter Palace in St.Petersburg.
Rundale Palace was badly devastated by wars and Soviet period, but today you will be lucky to see the tremendous restoration work of Place museum and the adjacent beautiful French park almost completed.
Late afternoon arrival to the capital of Latvia – Riga.
Today we are in the biggest city of the Baltic States. Riga was founded in 1201 by German bishop Albert. Our tour in the city center will include Park Vermanes and a statue of Michail Tal – Chess World Champion, Latvia University established in 1918, Statue of Freedom, Riga Canal and Esplanade Park, walking in the streets and lanes of the Medieval Old Town.
Concerto piccolo of the extraordinary organ music in Dome Cathedral, which was started to be built in 1211 by the founder of the city. The last organ was installed in 1880′ and has over 6700 pipes. Even if you are not a big fan of organ music it is worth to spend 20 minutes at 12 sharp and to listen to the powerful voices of it.
The Great and Small Guilds’ houses will tell us about commercial history of Riga city, today former commercial institutions house a concert hall and a Philharmonic. Just next to the guilds stands the Cats’ house, there is a superstitious legend about a merchant and his attempt to join the Great Guild.
“Three Brothers” – an architectural complex of three houses built next to each other but in different centuries shows us the evolution of construction and architecture in Riga. St. Peter church is a competitor of the Cathedral, but its tower always was higher. The House of the “Blackheads” makes the town hall square the most beautiful in Riga. They were single merchants competing with Hansa union. Will walk through the Beer-brewers street and will leave the Old City through the Swedish gate, the last gate added to Riga City Walls.
We will crown the day tour exploring the famous district of Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture, observing the outstanding collection of numerous residence houses constructed in the years 1885-1915. The most ornate houses were designed by a famous architect of Jewish origins Michail Eizenshtein.
Today we will go shopping with locals on the biggest Central market in the Baltic States. It is located in 5 huge hangars ones planned to be used for Zeppelins construction; continue to “Maskavas forshtadt” a former suburb of Riga developed by foreign merchants coming to trade on the Market. This area became a home for the first Jewish settlement in Riga.
We will walk on Gogol Street towards the Memorial ruins of the Great Choral Synagogue of Riga. In 2007 another memorial was added to the same location – The Wall of Righteous among the Nations with their names set in concrete. First Jewish nonreligious school was founded in the 19th cent in this neighborhood.
The same place was chosen by the Nazi authorities to establish the Riga Ghetto. Its borders were changed few times and there were two main areas: the Small Ghetto and the “Reichs Juden” Ghetto. Next, we will see the building of and Old-New Synagogue on Maskavas street, and Hospital “Bikur Holim” established in 1924. During the Soviet period it had a different name, and in 1992 its original name was restored.
After a short drive, we will reach the eastern border of the Jewish settlement – the Old Jewish Cemetery which was devastated during the WWII. Today there is a memorial and park where local people stroll around.
Visit Rumbula Holocaust Memorial, where the Nazis and their local collaborators murdered thousands of Jews from Latvia, Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.
The last Holocaust and Genocide related site on our tour is Salaspils – the memorial site of a former concentration camp which gives us a reason to touch the extermination of Slavs in WWII.
On the way to Tallinn, we will visit the town of Sigulda. Locals call it the “Switzerland of Latvia”, it is located on the riverside of the Gauja river. Romantic ruins of Sigulda Castle once built by Crusaders. They named it Siegewald or Victory Forest, to honor their victory conquering local pagan tribes.
We will go down to a lowland of the Gauja river and will walk to reach Gutmana caves. The place is full of spring water and old legends, the most famous is a love story of the Rose of Turaida.
Turaida Castle museum and beautiful Stone Sculpture Park, reflecting the rich folk heritage of Latvian people. This place is famous for the celebration of summer solicit day, here called Ligo and Latvian Folk song festival Daina.
Drive along the Baltic Sea coast to Tallinn. We will break the drive by stopping in Parnu – a resort town in Estonia and a cradle of Estonian independence. Will walk on the main pedestrian street to see the beautiful wooden houses and the statues of Voldemar Jansen. Will finish the visit by spending few moments on a sandy beach of Parnu.
Arrival in the northern capital of our tour of the Baltic States – Tallinn.
Nothing last too long, and we are on the last day of our tour. Many people say that Tallinn is a Pearl of the Baltic States. Indeed it is the smallest but very beautiful city.
Full day city tour of Tallinn, including the Old Town, one of the most preserved in Nothern Europe. It is divided into Upper Town with breathtaking panoramic views and Lower Town, here in the middle ages all the trades and crafts were handled. In the Upper Town, you will see the impressive Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevski Cathedral, with its excellent acoustics, and women choir singing.
Town fortifications were miraculously preserved here, and today one can see 27 out of 46 defensive towers still standing in the original shape. The Toompea Castle was a seat of Landtag of German Knights, today the Palace is housing the Parliament. Estonian flag flutters on the highest tower Herman which is part of the complex.
“Kiek in de Kok” or “Look into the Kitchen” tower stands not far from here and tells us about medieval wars.
One can admire the view of Tallinn harbor from the panoramic platforms in the Upper city.
In the Lower town, we will visit the City Hall Square, and the building of the city hall built in 1402, ancient pharmacy since 1422 and many restaurants. On the side streets, we will see the Big Guild and the House of the Blackheads, and Dominican Monastery. St.Olaf church once used to be the highest in Europe, now it is 124 m. high. You will visit Katharina guilds, the workshops of different craftsmen, such as hatter, tailor, leather-dresser, glassmaker, potter, stain glass master, etc. and will be able to watch them work.
In the afternoon visit to the Song field, where the last Estonian independence movement evolved. Next is the visit to Pirita, a suburb of Tallinn, where the sailing competition of 1980 Olympics was held. On the way back to the city stop at a beautiful “Rusalka” monument and visit the Kadriorg Park and Palace erected in the early 18th century.
We will finish the tour by visiting the newly built Tallinn Synagogue and the Jewish Museum of Estonia.
Lithuania, situated in northeast Europe, is a compact low-lying country with extensive forests, lakes, fishponds and a relatively short coastline adjoining the Baltic Sea. Our main interest is the Baltic Sea and Kurshiu Lagoon with their varied birdlife of wildfowl […]
Destination Management Company JeruLita operates individual private tours as well as small and medium size groups in cooperation with our partners. We will be glad to accommodate you in a private tour or will direct you to travel expert in your country who will register you to the groups we operate.