UŽUPIS – EXCLUSIVE COUNTRY IN THE COUNTRY
Užupis is exclusive, most unusual and most bohemian neighbourhood in Vilnius. Užupis residents safely say that it is a country in the country. This tiny area of the town, with the spirit of romance, booming tolerance hovering in the air, abundance of creative energy, flows of inspiration, creates true art and breaks all, even the smallest, stereotypes.
All elements of the republic
Užupis is a Republic. True, it is unorthodox and especially artistic, but it has almost all the required elements to have the status of the republic: a constitution, a national anthem, a president, a prime minister, ambassadors in other foreign countries, a map, history, traditions, and even two churches, a bishop and Bernardine cemetery. Even the language of Užupis residents is slightly different. How? It is more imaginative.
The Užupis name means “beyond the river”. Užupis is protected by Vilnelė River that encircles it. This tiny Vilnius district has as many as seven bridges leading to this spot of art and romance. Most residents of Užupis love their own, bohemian people, and the artistic orders in their small country. Security in Užupis is overseen by the watchful eyes of the sheriff, but it certainly does not mean that you can't come here just for curiosity. Residents of Užupis are friendly and will welcome you, and, of course will talk to you.
Užupis has a valid unique Užupis republic constitution carved on the wall and notifying all the strangers about the Užupis rules. The constitution has been translated into nine languages so that more people understand it correctly. Maybe one of these languages is your native?
Then and now
Going into Užupis territory, marvel not only its colours, variety, experiences and tastes. Feel its interesting history absorbed into the walls. Currently Užupis is one of the most prestigious and most expensive districts in Vilnius. However, in ancient times there you could find the wings of many mills and it was a poor suburb, where craftsmen lived. It is no secret that at one time the entire block of brothels was located nearby. In Soviet times, Užupis became very sloppy, people were afraid even to go there, or even stop for a moment, knowing that it has some of the most dangerous streets in Vilnius. Such is the history and the changing Užupis reputation.
Užupis now is so beautiful because of its people with bohemian and artistic souls. Their eyes always curiously watched the forgotten and abandoned place, they gathered here, set up their shops, and exhibited their works. And so they raised Užupis for the new, nice and harmonious rhythm of the artistic life.
On 1 April 1997 Užupis area became the “Užupis Republic”. Residents of this quarter commemorate this occasion every year. Come to the Užupis feast. On that day you can enter Užupis only if you can please the customs officers. Message of the festivities will be passed by the flags on the houses, and the serenity will be interrupted exciting concerts, and theatrical processions. You only have to enjoy, sing and dance.
Do you know why tourists from all over the world are attracted to Užupis like bees to honey? The mermaid, also known as Užupis maiden, is the symbol of this republic. It is difficult to resist her charms, and those who fail, remain in Užupis wherever. They forever create, collect, distribute ideas and enjoy the life and its colours.
The Užupis sign – an open palm – symbolizes that this area is tolerant and open to the entire world. Here everything is acceptable what elsewhere is impossible. It seems, nothing bad can happen here: the Užupis angel stands in the central Republic Square and guards this land. Because of him, the people here are now living so peacefully.
Užupis is full of interesting spots
You need some time to get acquainted with all the mysterious places of Užupis. Paintings running on the walls, colours flowing in the river – do not be afraid to wander and take a good look. There you will discover one of the most visited places of Užupis – the oldest cemetery around the city of Vilnius, Bernardine. Because of the gravestone originality and artistic value this cemetery was included in the list of Europe's most valuable cemeteries.
Your attention will be attracted by the impressive Užupis bridge with hundreds of small padlocks. They are brought here by wedding groups, newlyweds, believing that it will strengthen their feelings and connect hearts forever. The key is thrown into the river, so that they never can unlock the padlock of love.
Very close to the bridge is Užupis gallery, the only specialized art gallery in Lithuania, representing the old silversmith traditions. The gallery also hosts professional debuts and exhibitions of young metal artists, and visitors can buy their works.