(Eesti) Ukmerge: avatud ja avastamisväärt

Posted on: October 3, 2012

If you want to experience the beauty of Lithuanian countryside, its hospitable people and diversified cultural life, why not take a trip to the area of Ukmergė. The city of Ukmergė is located in Aukštaitija region, some 75 km North West from the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius.  There are more than 28 000 inhabitants in this seemingly quiet and slow city which is one of the oldest in Lithuania with its Old town, old street nets, ancient buildings and squares. The net of streets, well planned square and a volumetric composition of décor have been recognized as exceptional elements of architecture. The benches and flower beds of the recently restored promenade next to Ukmerge Catholic Church add charm and openness to the city space.
The Promenade. Downtown Ukmerge

The Promenade. Downtown Ukmerge

Ukmerge Catholic Church

Ukmerge Catholic Church

Although seemingly quiet, the city has a diversified cultural life with a handful of different dance and song groups, theatre teams, circus groups and other performers actively practising in the local House of Culture. In addition to local Lithuanian culture the cultural atmosphere of the city is now and then coloured by the visits of cultural groups from other countries. Recently, Ukmerge met an Estonian group – Kanepi Song Society – who had travelled to Lithuania all the way from the parish of Kanepi in Southern Estonia and who gave two wonderful concerts to the people and visitors of the annual Ukmerge Autumn Fair.
Kanepi Mixed Choir (Estonia) performing at the Autumn Fair
Autumn Fair in Ukmerge
No wonder that Ukmerge area is keen on having a cultural focus because the city has also been put into songs. In Lithuania, Ukmerge is mostly known as a city where a legendary plumber lives according to an old very well known Lithuanian song by famous Lithuanian musician V.Kernagis. Almost everyone knows the verse: “Montego bay, Montego bay – I work as a plumber in Ukmergė”.
In addition to its cultural relations, Ukmerge has a long term history to be proud of. According to some sources Ukmergė was mentioned for the first time already in 1225. Other historians claim that 1333 was the year when Ukmergė was first mentioned in Livonian chronicles by chronicler Hermann von Wartberge. Regardless this debate, one thing is certain – there has been a wooden castle in Ukmergė city center which was burnt in 1391. A stone one was built after the destruction of its’ wooden progenitor in the beginning of the 15th century. Then Ukmergė competed with Deltuva town located nearby. In 1486 Ukmerge got city rights and started developing fast. By the 16th century it had already become an urban autonomy. In the beginning of 1900s the City of Ukmergė became a center of municipality and later on even of the whole region. During the period of Lithuanian first independence there were many factories such as linen, machinery and furniture plants opened in Ukmerge.

Today, Ukmerge is not an industrial town. However, for a region so small as Ukmerge, there is quite much to see and interesting places to visit. There are 3 catholic churches, a wooden church of Old Believers, also known as Russian Starovery, an orthodox church and a former Synagogue located in the city. Tourists coming to Ukmergė should have a tour around the area and visit the Museum of Regional studies in which also art expositions and cultural events are held. Also, do take a trip to the burial ground of Lithuanian partisans, remains of Vaitkuškis mansion, Vepriai mansion and a park, a former underground nuclear rocket base in Kopūstėliai village, famous Moko, Šaltupio and Veprių stones as well as beautiful mounds, springs and river valleys. Those interested in sports could try kayak trips as Ukmergė is established on Šventoji river shore and its boat tourism is very popular and well developed.

Taujenai Manor park

Outside Ukmerge there is another exceptional place to visit – Taujenai Manor. This estate was founded in the second half of the 16th century. Earl Benediktas Marikonis who ruled the estate in the second half of the 18th century built classicistic manor house in 1802 and nearby planted an English-style park which was the largest flower garden in Lithuania during interwar. In the park there were also tunnels for the torture of unruly serfs and the remains of these are today open to visitors. In the 19th century the estate was well known for its exclusiveness and richness. The interior of the manor house was abundantly decorated with portraits of Radvilos family, sculptures, hunting trophies and antique weapons. Taujėnai estate was owned by Radvilos family till the start of Soviet times. Its last governor was Konstantinas Radvila (born in 1837) who was exiled to Siberia in 1941 and died there. Today Taujėnai manor is the center of recreation, active vacations, conferences and entertainment. This is the place where the spirit of old times and mightiness of manors are in harmony with contemporary aesthetics. Manor house and its’ surroundings have been restored and in their grand beauty are perfect for gatherings and cultural events.

A view from the window of Taujenai Manor

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