2019 Balzekas Museum Tour to Lithuania
Sept. 7 to Sept. 17
You can still register for the 10-day Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture tour to Lithuania, which departs on September 7th. Call the Museum at 773-582-6500 and ask for Barbara. Book today!
The Museum organizes tours with assistance from Vytis Travel Agency (United States) and Lithuanian Tours (Lithuania). At this time, a trip from Chicago to Lithuania is being organized with a scheduled departure date of September 7th.
*** The Museum’s Genealogy Department Chair and Lithuanian genealogy expert, Karilė Vaitkutė, will accompany this tour and will be available to answer questions about researching Lithuanian ancestry. ***
The tour coordinators can assist with arranging visits to the birthplaces of parents or grandparents or meetings with relatives. These services do incur an additional charge. When booking your trip, please indicate if you wish to access these services.
Please note there is still time to register. For further details, call the Museum at 773-582-6500 and ask for Barbara.
For two decades now, the Balzekas Museum has led annual tours to Lithuania. These popular trips provide a great introduction to Lithuania’s major cities, beautiful countryside, and historic sites and attractions both on and off the beaten path. Touring with members of the Balzekas Museum community offers a friendly and supportive way to discover the country with other first-time visitors. Knowledgeable English-speaking guides further enhance the experience for travelers who may not speak the Lithuanian language.
Join the fun and book your tour today!
September 7-17, 2019 — Balzekas Museum Tour Itinerary
Saturday, Sept. 7
Chicago to Vilnius
Depart USA for flight to Vilnius, Lithuania
Sunday, Sept. 8
After your arrival in Vilnius, you will be transported to your hotel. In the evening, enjoy the tour’s official welcome dinner at Stikliai Tavern.
Monday, Sept. 9
Today you will take in the sights of Vilnius with stops at: Vilnius University; Vilnius Cathedral and its catacombs; Valdovų Rūmai, the palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania; and Aušros Vartai, the Gate of Dawn, among other well-known landmarks. The rest of the evening is free.
Tuesday, Sept. 10
Trakai, Kernavė, and Vilnius
After breakfast, you will visit the historic city of Trakai, once the medieval capital of Lithuania, and its restored island castle in the middle of Lake Galvė. After a regional lunch, you will visit Kernavė, an ancient site in the Neris valley and the government seat of King Mindaugas over 750 years ago. You can view and climb the many mounds where great castles once stood. Inscribed into UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004, the Kernavė archaeological site, is an open-air exhibition created by nature and man over many centuries.
Upon returning to Vilnius, you will make a stop at the TV Tower, the site of the January 13th massacre in 1991. Here, during a stand-off with the Soviet army, thirteen civilians keeping vigil to protect the tower and Lithuania’s newly re-declared independence were crushed by Soviet tanks.
Wednesday, Sept. 11
This morning will begin with a tour of the KGB museum, where so much suffering was endured by the Lithuanian people during the Soviet occupation. Afterward, you will depart for Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city, which served as the Lithuanian capital between the two world wars. En route, you will stop at the Rumšiškės Open-air Museum (22 km from Kaunas), where you’ll explore Lithuanian country life and the traditional homestead as it was over a century ago. Step back in time as you stroll among original country houses and wooden churches moved and reconstructed on this 500-acre site from the four regions of Lithuania.
After lunch, you will continue on to Kaunas. On the outskirts of the city, you’ll stop at Pažaislis Monastery, the largest monastic complex in Lithuania and arguably the most magnificent example of Italian Baroque architecture in northern Europe. The monastery is now home to the Sisters of St. Casimir, a Camaldolese order.
Upon arrival in Kaunas, you’ll check into your hotel and explore Lithuania’s second largest city. You will tour Old Town, Cathedral Square, Rotušė, as well as the Kaunas castle.
Thursday, Sept. 12
This morning you will visit the Čiurlionis Museum, dedicated to Lithuania’s most revered artist and composer, and, afterwards, the quirky Devil’s Museum. After lunch, you will ascend to the rooftop of Prisikėlimo bažnyčia, the Church of the Resurrection, to take in panoramic views of Kaunas. The rest of the afternoon is free to enjoy Kaunas on your own.
Friday, Sept. 13
Kėdainiai and Palanga
After breakfast, you will depart for Palanga with a special stop in Kėdainiai boasting a fully restored Old Town with its unique architecture. Here you will visit the Janina Monkutė-Marks Museum-Gallery and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Afterward, you’ll continue on to the resort town of Palanga, which borders on the Baltic Sea. After the hotel check-in, you can enjoy the resort at your leisure.
*Centrally located in Lithuania, Kėdainiai is a good point of departure for tour participants with prearranged excursions to ancestral towns, who will be picked up by their respective drivers and taken to their chosen locations. Afterward, they’ll be driven to Palanga for the overnight stay and to rejoin the tour.
Saturday, Sept. 14
Neringa, Kretinga, Palanga
Today you will visit the Curonian Spit, Neringa, that borders the windswept coast of the Baltic Sea. Your first stop will be the Witches Mountain in Juodkrantė, where you will be able to admire its many unique wooden sculptures and other artwork. You will continue to Nida, a charming fishing village, where you can shop for some beautiful amber jewelry, and visit the highest dune in Neringa.
Upon your return in the afternoon, you will stop in Kretinga and dine in the enclosed winter garden of the Tiškevičius mansion. Originally constructed in the late 19th century by the Lithuanian nobleman Juozapas Tiškevičius, the home and its grounds are one of the most magnificent estates in Lithuania.
After returning to Palanga, You can join in a time-honored tradition among visitors and locals alike: a sunset stroll along the famous Palanga Pier.
Sunday, Sept. 15
Salantai, Šiauliai, Šeduva, and Vilnius
Today, you will have an opportunity to see two fascinating and enduring monuments to the indomitable Lithuanian spirit: Kryžių Kalnas, the Hill of Crosses, near Šiauliai and the lesser-known Orvidas Homestead Museum in near Salantai, the first stop on today’s itinerary. Both landmarks were born in defiant protest of Soviet suppression of religious freedom and withstood Soviet efforts to bulldoze and destroy them. In its own unique way, each one gives evidence today not only of Lithuania’s triumph over the Soviet occupation, but–in the example of those who built them–of the resilience of the human soul.
The descendant of stonemasons, Vilius Orvidas (1952 to 1992) was an eccentric and deeply religious stonemason and self-taught artist who claimed he was inspired by God and the very pieces of salvaged stone and wood he tirelessly scavenged, carved and assembled with found objects into fantastic monuments, grottos, altars, and other sacred spaces, into a unique open-air cathedral. The late Lithuanian-American filmmaker Jonas Mekas deemed Orvidas’s opus a Lithuanian national treasure and the artist himself equal to Čiurlionis and other greats. Mekas lamented that this prolific and misunderstood genius has yet to gain the recognition he deserves from his fellow countrymen.
After a tour of the Orvidas Homestead, you will head to one of the most revered and visited places in Lithuania–the Hill of Crosses–where thousands of crosses where placed by people asking God for special favors or thanking him for favors granted. After lunch at the unique Šeduvos Malūnas restaurant, located within a restored windmill, you will continue on to Vilnius. Upon arrival in Vilnius, you will check in to your hotel. The rest of the day is free.
Monday, Sept. 16
Today you are free to enjoy Vilnius on your own: sightseeing, shopping, meeting with relatives, and/or making business contacts. In the evening, join your tour group for the official Farewell Dinner at a traditional Lithuanian Restaurant.
Tuesday, Sept. 17
After breakfast, you will be transported to Vilnius Airport for your flight Breakfast