Discover the Radvilas in Kėdainiai and Biržai!
We will start the tour from Kėdainiai. It is one of the oldest towns in Lithuania, located in the picturesque place. According to legends, the name Kėdainiai is derived from the name of the rich merchant Keidangen, who came from Curonia and founded a small fishing village.
Kėdainiai flourished during the reign of the Radvilas family, thats why sometimes the town is still called the city of Radvilas. In the time of the Radvilas, Kėdainiai was famous as multi-ethnic center of crafts and trade. There were 6 national and 6 denominational communities. It was home to one of the largest Scottish communities in the Baltic and Scandinavian region, the Germans had their own self-government, and a large Jewish community was central throughout Samogitia. The world-famous Vilnia Gaon Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, later studied at the rabbinic school that operated here.
Kėdainiai is one of the few Lithuanian cities with a unique old town. Here is preserved a historical network of streets, four shopping squares, a number of valuable 17th – 19th century buildings with Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist features.
One of such buildings is Kėdainiai Light Gymnasium (Gimnasium Illustre). It was founded in the 17th, when the printing house of Joachim Jurgis Rheto operated in the gymnasium. One of the most important Reformed publications of the time in Lithuanian was published in the book “The Book of the Christian Church“. The most famous teachers of that time used to work here. Studies programs were prepared according to the latest trends.
Passing by some streets of the impressive Old town, let’s go towards the 17th century Renaissance-style Evangelical Reformed Church. It has a Renaissance oak pulpit, richly ornate with intricate carvings, oak panels in the side niches and an impressive chandelier. One of the Radvilas brought it here as a spoil of war from Smolensk. After descending to the basement of the church, we will enter the mausoleum of the Radvilas family. This is the only graveyard of the nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania!
Then we reach the old Market Square, we see a complex of synagogues. The synagogue complex consists of the Great Summer and the Small Winter Synagogues. It is one of the three synagogue complexes in Lithuania. The Late Baroque Great Summer Synagogue was named for its unheated premises. The form and exterior decor of the building are similar to the form and decor of the Evangelical Reformed Church. Today Kėdainiai Art School is located here. The other synagogue, named after the Little Winter, was heated, aits interior was decorated with restraint. Jews not only prayed but also studied the Torah, the community court was sitting. Now the synagogue houses the Kėdainiai Regional Museum.
Kedainiai is decorated with wooden folk baroque style St. Joseph’s Church with a bell tower. The restored 18th century altars present valuable paintings with ornate raiments of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus.
We will end the walk around Kėdainiai at the only separate minaret in Lithuania. General of the Russian Army, Count Eduard Totleben in order to commemorate the wars with Turkey and to decorate the city park around 1880 built a pier, a mosque and a minaret in the park, the height of which is 28 m. Only the minaret survived.
We continue our journey in the so-called town of the Dukes of Radvilas – Biržai. This is the northernmost territory of Lithuania, located near Latvia. Biržai people sometimes joke that they visit Riga more often than Vilnius, because they are live closer to it. The city has the oldest pond in Lithuania, which has long been called a real lake – Širvėna, where dukes grew water-nut agar (lot.Trapa natans), which has already disappeared in Lithuania.
We will visit the only in Lithuania 16th Italian type bastion fortress the Biržai Castle. The fortress and the city formed a single defensive complex that saw many battles. People have always been seduced by legends, especially those related to love. It is said that the walls of the famous fortress protect the terrible secret of its longevity – the Commander of the Armed Forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the famous soldier Kristupas Radvila Perkūnas, who ruled Biržai, ordered the construction of the castle. The castle was already under construction, but one and the same southeast corner of the castle was taking over and collapsing. He restored that angle several times, but this one soon turned over again as if enchanted. The builders of the castle decided to seek advice from a hermit, who still worshiped the Thunder as his parents used. The old man advised to stop the couple of newlyweds returning from the church house at full moon and bring them to the enchanted corner of the castle. If the young man voluntarily agrees to be walled in that corner for the sake of the homeland, and if the bride does not separate from her husband, wall them both in. Who knows, maybe someone will be able to discover the brick couple? ..
For those who do not want to leave the beautiful Biržai Castle, we offer to participate in educational programs. You will be introduced to the life of the palace of the Dukes, the old brewing traditions of Biržai region and the war of the 16th – 17th centuries.
Let’s travel towards Lake Širvėna, where we will cross the longest pedestrian bridge in Lithuania, the length of which is even 525 m! Lake Širvėna is the oldest artificial water body formed in Lithuania in the 16th century. after damming two rivers flowing through Biržai and guarding the fortress and the city accesses.
The Biržai region is famous not only for collapses, but also for beer. During the sightseeing tour of the brewery, you will learn how to make beer – from grinding the malt to sticking the label on the bottle. After finding out what must and saladin is, you will travel to the museum, where you will see where Rinkuškiai started its activities in 1991, as well as stop at an ancient authentic barn and find out what brewing traditions the brewers followed when making beer many years ago. And this day will be crowned with a alkohol free beer tasting from Biržai!