As most museums and galleries in Europe continue to be plunged into silence without a clear timeline of full reopening, the exhibit stories trapped inside Lithuanian museums are, too, longing to escape and be heard by tourists around the world.
The good news for the museumgoers and art geeks, experiencing museum withdrawal symptoms, is that Lithuania has given the voice to some of its most historical events in a form of virtual tours. Now, the exhibits can easily appear in anyone’s home to tell their tales. Lithuania Travel, the country’s national tourism development agency, is inviting us to get to know Lithuania better through the four incredible key historical figures and relive their stories in virtual reality.
Lithuania’s virtual museums hide many fascinating stories—from the first flight over the Atlantic Ocean to world-shattering Avant-Garde art. While physical museums are still closed, Lithuania Travel offers to take 4 virtual museum tours instead, and observe Lithuanian history from a different angle.
Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas, two Lithuanian pilots living in the United States, had one dream in common—to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Their destination set to Kaunas, the pilots pooled up the last of their funds to purchase an aircraft, which they named Lituanica, reflecting the destination of their dream flight—Lithuania.
The aircraft took off in the early morning of 15th of July, 1933 from New York. Along with supplies, 1,400 letters were on board, as the men saw this as an opportunity to carry mail by air for the first time in history. Thirty-seven hours and eleven minutes after leaving Brooklyn, and less than three hours from their destination of Kaunas, Lituanica crashed into a forest near Soldin, Germany (current day Myślibórz, Poland).
Although the pilots never reached their destination, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas left their mark not only in the Lithuanian but also global aviation history. Their transatlantic flight New York-Kaunas is being considered as one of the most accurate in the entire global aviation history and is frequently compared to Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight.
The life-size replica of the Lituanica airplane can be found at Lithuanian Aviation Museum in Kaunas, as well as the history of Lithuanian aviation and other thrilling stories of flight.
Take the guided virtual tour here.
The musical prodigy, pioneer of professional music in Lithuania, and painter extraordinaire, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis remains the most famous Lithuanian artist to have ever lived, leaving a profound imprint on the Lithuanian culture. Seen as a true Renaissance man, Čiurlionis composed nearly four hundred musical words such as large-scale symphonic poems “Miške” and “Jūra”, dabbled in writing literature and poems, and found time to experiment with art photography.
Over his short but bright, decade-long career, the celebrated composer has also found his calling for art, creating around another three hundred paintings and etchings in the last years of his life. While the earliest paintings such as “Kalnas” and “Ramybė” are heavy with symbolism and elements of abstractionism, later in his career, Čiurlionis moved towards the musicality of painting, joining his two most prominent artistic expressions. His artworks shifted towards a structure resembling classical music forms: allegro, andante, scherzo and finale. The key painting cycles of this time include sonatas “Jūra”, “Žvaigždės” and “Saulė”.
Almost all of Čiurlionis’s known works of art and literature are kept and exhibited at M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, alongside Lithuanian folk art, foreign fine and applied arts and more.
Jonas Mekas is a well-known name in the world of cinema. The Lithuanian-American filmmaker, poet, and artist spent most of his life in New York where he got deeply involved in the American Avant-Garde film movement and soon became the key figure of it; on many occasions, he is called the godfather of American Avant-Garde cinema. Among many of his achievements, in 1962 Mekas founded The Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, which grew into Anthology Film Archives, one of the world’s largest and most important repositories of Avant-Garde cinema.
Mekas worked closely with such artists as Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Salvador Dali, and the fellow Lithuanian Jurgis (George) Maciunas. Maciunas was the founding member and the central coordinator of the Fluxus movement. The full-blown movement, which expressed a countercultural sentiment to the value of art, played a key role in the broadening of what is considered art.
These are only two of many modern Lithuanian artists that have shaped and are still shaping the world of art at home and abroad. The National Gallery of Art in Vilnius holds a comprehensive history of the 20th and the 21st centuries Lithuanian art, while MO Museum, also in Vilnius, showcases the most recent works of art.
Tired after the day’s hunt in the sacred forest near the Valley of Šventaragis, where the rivers of Vilnia and Nėris meet, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Gediminas settled in for the night. As he drifted to sleep, a massive iron wolf standing atop a hill, howling with a voice of a hundred wolves, showed up in the Duke’s dream. The dream represented a castle and a city surrounding it, which became the Gediminas Castle and the capital of Lithuania—Vilnius—subsequently. The Iron Wolf sculpture, which was built to commemorate the establishment of the capital city, still stands to this day.
Vilnius Old Town, one of the largest surviving medieval towns in Northern Europe, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is surrounded by myths and legends. The Vilnius Castle Reserve is a must-see for any history enthusiast, as it presents the fascinating history of the city. The weaving streets of the Old Town hide exciting places for any tourist wanting a quick getaway, even if it may be from their own living room.
Follow the guided tour around the Vilnius Castle Reserve here.
Take the chance to dive deeper into the most intriguing stories of Lithuania from the comfort of home. The four remarkable stories invite all museum lovers to take a virtual glimpse into the parts of Lithuanian history. These and other more surprising stories are awaiting to meet visitors in person; after all, what is “Real is beautiful.” And while museums are a great way to explore history, more of Lithuania’s authentic culture is hiding in the streets of Vilnius, Kaunas and the other parts of the country. Don't shy away and plan your post-pandemic city break in Lithuania to discover all the hidden mysteries.