DO EXPLORE UŽUPIS (or „the place on the other side of the river"), a tiny district right next door to the Old Town from which it is separated by the small Vilnia River and to which it is connected with a number of very romantic bridges - definitely worth seeing - dating from the 16th century and the era of the Russian Empire. On the other side, the neighbourhood is flanked by some hills, the location of several graveyards (including the Jewish Cemetery). The narrow streets of Užupis are lined by tiny wooden and brick houses of varying quality; a number of these buildings have been covered in paintings during the last few years, thus bearing witness to the status of Užupis as an artists' district - and also the tangible presence of a community of graffiti artists (also of varying - sometimes dubious - quality).
The origins of the Užupis District date back to the 16th century when it was populated by artisans, poor people and staff of the numerous brothels. Said circles stayed on until as late as the 20th century. During the Soviet era, Užupis was famous for its lowlife aura, full of squalid and abandoned houses, tramps and hookers. Užupis has to thank its ill fame for the fact that only a few blockhouses were built there during the 1970s. Užupis finally came into its own and flourished in the 1990s when the artists, actors, intellectuals and students arrived. On All Fools Day 1997, the independent Republic of Užupis was declared, complete with a president, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of its own - not to forget its own constitution which pronounces, among other things, a dog's right to be a dog and man's right - but not obligation - to die. Since then, Užupis has become the venue of countless performances, street events and concerts; the neighbourhood is also the location of numerous art galleries and artists' studios. You are not likely to encounter too many of the local artists on a windy and snowy winter day: the best time to go for an inspiring walk in Užupis must definitely be summer.
The enthusiasm of the first independence years in the artists' district was followed by other changes in the social and economic situation, which means that there are now quite a few modern buildings amidst the old houses; however, the current crisis must have brought the process to a halt, at least there is no particularly busy construction work to be seen these days.
As you make your way uphill to the undulating Užupis, the first thing you see is the central street with its square featuring a tall column topped by a trumpet-blowing bronze angel: it was intended as a reminder of the rebirth and freedom of the Užupis neighbourhood, art and movement.
The riverside Malūnu Street - Malūnų Gatvė - is the location of the first nunnery in Lithuania, the Bernadine Monastery (1496). The oldest Lithuanian cemetery likewise bears the name of Bernadine and is situated on a small hill right on the river bank. Unless you have a problem with graveyard as a promenade location, the spot is definitely worth a visit. It is a quiet and serene place featuring a number of fascinating and valuable objects, including some gradually crumbling columbaria that used to house urns with cremated remains of the deceased. Do visit two of the local churches - the genuinely beautiful red brick St Anne's Church (Šv. Onos Bažnyčia at 8 Maironio Street, located, strictly speaking, outside the borders of Užupis), built in 1394, and the St Bartholomew's Church.
A number of local holidays are marked each year in Užupis: the Užupis Independence Day when beer flows freely in the central square, the White Tablecloths Day (Easter Monday), etc. June 2009 will see the opening of the annual Užupis Convention of Montmartre Festival of Art, Jazz and Funk, scheduled to take place through August.
The Lithuanian filmmaker Arūnas Matelis is the author of the first-ever documentary dedicated to Užupis: 10 Minutes Before Icarus' Flight; he was elected the Užupis Minister of Movement on the platform of claiming that movement - for instance, from mother's womb to death, was one of the most important aspects of human life; Matelis says that a man without movement is a man without memory; according to him, movement reflects the simple fact that all of the genuine values are always with us and cannot be taken away.
you may join the FREE bicycle tour in Vilnius Old town weekdays at 11.00
for more see, Velo-city.lt, Bernardinu 10 (opposite to St. Ann's church