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31 May 2017 / leggypeggy

Stairs provide exercise and good views

Bell tower stairs, Vilnius

Stairs to a view in Vilnius

Poor John loves going up stairs and hills. If there’s a tower, we have to climb it. If there’s a hill, we have to see what’s at the top. And don’t get me started on mountains. In Canberra, he’s up and out the door by 5:30 most mornings to climb Mt Pleasant and Mt Russell (both are just big hills).

So I wasn’t even a tiny bit surprised when he suggested that we visit the Bell Tower at the Vilnius Cathedral in Lithuania. Don’t tell him, but I wanted to go up it too.

At a height of 52 metres (add five more for the cross), it’s one of the oldest and tallest towers in old Vilnius. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to see sweeping panoramas of the city, an exhibition of old bells, and the city’s oldest surviving clock mechanism.

Vilnius main square

View of the main square from the bell tower

So who cares if it has almost 300 steps and doesn’t have a seniors’ admission price!

The tower, which was started in the 13th century, stands in Vilnius’s main square and several metres away from the cathedral. This placement is apparently unusual outside Italy.

Many scholars believe the tower was part of the city’s ancient walls and the medieval Lower Castle that once stood near the modern square.

In the early 1600s, the tower was converted and became the cathedral’s belfry.

Like most ancient structures, it has had its problems. Much of the wooden parts were damaged by fire in 1610, and the main bell (which took 12 men to play) was destroyed.

The current clock was installed in 1672. It is the oldest and most important clock in Vilnius. There is no record of who made the clock’s mechanism, but it is thought to have come from Germany.

The last major repairs were in 1803—that date is incised on the frame—by Juozapas Bergmanas, the elder of the Vilnius clock makers’ guild.

Vilnius Bell Tower

The bell tower is several metres away from the cathedral to the right

The clock has only one hand. Its obtuse end is decorated with a crescent, and the pointed end shows the hours. Bells help to count the time more precisely. They strike the hours, half hours and quarters with chimes. We were in the bell tower long enough to hear them three times. You should have seen one gal jump when the hour was hit.

There are recordings to listen to throughout the tower. One told us of Gustav Mörk, who cast the main bell in 1754. Apparently he added one of his wife’s hairs to every bell he made, which he claimed gave them a sweeter sound.

I read that the other bells of the clock differ in proportion (they have a much larger diameter in relation to their height), and their strikes are less resonant, which supposedly makes it easier to count them. These bells, which range in weight from 675 to 1600 kilograms, are named Saint Casimir (the heaviest), Saint Anne (the lightest) and Saint Stanislaus.

My favourite view from the tower was back over the cathedral and to the hills beyond.

Oh, and I counted the steps up and down, but have now forgotten how many there were. Close to 300 with differing kinds of staircases, from stone to timber.

View from Vilnius Bell Tower

My favourite view from the Vilnius Bell Tower


Leave a Comment
  1. The Whitechapel Whelk / May 31 2017 4:34 pm

    In view of your appalling treatment of Poor John, has it never occurred to you that he might be in search of a decent vantage point from which to hurl himself to his death?
    Food for thought perhaps? *snarl*

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2017 5:11 pm

      Or perhaps he’s looking for a place to push me? Either way, he’s missed plenty of opportunities.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. derrickjknight / May 31 2017 6:17 pm

    Some lovely shots. (I’ve never thought of a mountain as something to be mounted before)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / May 31 2017 6:27 pm

    I’m afraid I would need an armchair every 100 feet or so.
    But your photos are, as always, spectacular, and I really enjoyed reading your story about climbing the bell tower.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2017 10:25 pm

      Usually I can make the climbs just fine, but a wee bit slower than Poor John.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Miriam / May 31 2017 6:31 pm

    That’s an impressive climb and great views to go with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. beetleypete / May 31 2017 7:08 pm

    Worth the climb indeed, Peggy. Like John, I usually want to climb towers and castles. Maybe not mountains though.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2017 10:26 pm

      He goes for small mountains—really just big hills. I’ve been known to climb Mt Pleasant and Mt Russell myself—often dragged up by the dog..

      Liked by 2 people

  6. ralietravels / May 31 2017 7:53 pm

    It is going down that I find hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2017 10:27 pm

      I usually don’t mind down as long as it’s not too steep or the stair risers aren’t too high.


  7. thefunnyoneblog / May 31 2017 8:10 pm

    The view was beautiful, seems it worth the pain of climbing the stairs.:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2017 10:28 pm

      I really enjoyed the views and the history of the bells and clock. All worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Midwestern Plant Girl / May 31 2017 8:29 pm

    My hubby is the climber in the relationship. I don’t mind stairs, when they go down… is the UP part I don’t like. A wee bit scared of heights, I am!
    Love the tale the bell maker puts a wife’s hair in them. Love the mountain shot!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2017 10:29 pm

      Being married to Poor John, I would find it hard to be scared of heights. Like you, I loved the tale of the wife’s hair in the bell. Had to share that.


  9. sidilbradipo1 / May 31 2017 9:05 pm

    WOW… stunning view, wonderful photos! 😀
    Stairs… my enemy! (I live in a 4-floored-house!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2017 10:30 pm

      I think four floors every day would make stairs my enemy too. Although I lived in Cairo and was on 6th floor (no lift). I was a lot younger then. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • sidilbradipo1 / May 31 2017 10:38 pm

        Four floors inside the house, dining room on the ground floor, kitchen on the 1st, main bathroom on the 2nd and our bedroom on the 3rd!
        Look the positive side: it’s all cardio-fitness 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 12:03 am

        It sure is cardio-fitness and, yes, very important to remember the benefits.


  10. spearfruit / May 31 2017 9:21 pm

    Great views and well worth the stair climbing – I would do it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The Year I Touched My Toes / May 31 2017 9:23 pm

    It seems Poor John and The Trainer have a thing or two in common. The hills and mountains. I didn’t realise. So getting dragged up … I can relate. But the view is worth it, isn’t it? Louise

    Liked by 1 person

  12. pvcann / May 31 2017 10:08 pm

    Love bells, such an array, great architecture too. But feeling dizzy from the height

    Liked by 1 person

  13. lexklein / Jun 1 2017 12:05 am

    I like going up stairs and hills also … once I’m at the top! I often mumble and grumble on the way up, but I absolutely love being up there. It’s like having babies; no matter how hard a climb is, I always forget and can’t wait to do another one. This looks like a fun one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 12:06 am

      Yep, you and I look at stairs and hills in the same way. This was a fun one, with almost no grumbling from me.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Andrew Petcher / Jun 1 2017 12:29 am

    I am like John, if there is a tower I have to climb it, if there is a cave I have to go down deep and if there is a pier I have to walk to the end!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Curt Mekemson / Jun 1 2017 1:18 am

    Liked the story about the hair in the bell, Peggy. And good for you climbing to the top. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 1:25 am

      Oh heck, I’ll almost always go to the top. Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan was an exception. Got more than halfway there.


      • Curt Mekemson / Jun 2 2017 2:53 am

        You and your husband would like Burning Man, Peggy. It seems like half of the sculptures, certainly the tall ones, are designed to be climbed! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2017 4:18 am

        Thanks Curt, I’m sure we’ll get there someday, especially now that Poor John knows there are things to climb.


  16. lorriedeck / Jun 1 2017 2:17 am

    those wooden stairs look a bit “iffy”. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to trust them. Yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 4:06 am

      I confess that I posted the pic partly because the stairs looked frightful, but they were rock solid. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  17. The Cooking spoon / Jun 1 2017 2:37 am

    I love the pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. 3rdofthe3rd / Jun 1 2017 3:21 am

    Some amazing pictures from your trip, I am the same I drag my partner up hills because I want to witness the view at the top. What are the locals like there?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. dinosaursdonkeysandms / Jun 1 2017 4:44 am

    Amazing photos! Glad you’re having a lovely time. Not sure I would have been brave enough to get up those stairs. :/ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Phil Huston / Jun 1 2017 5:11 am

    The wooden ones? No. Way. The narrow stone stairs are reminiscent of Italian Cathedrals. You are a braver tourist than I.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 5:15 am

      Aw, the wooden stairs are in great shape. So are the stone ones.


  21. magarisa / Jun 1 2017 5:57 am

    Doesn’t it feel great to reach the top? We also climb to the top of every tower we visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 1:57 pm

      I remember a trip to New Zealand a few years back and all we did were climbs. Must do a post on that one day.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Brian Lageose / Jun 1 2017 6:48 am

    So, were you at least a tiny bit tempted to ring the bells and confuse the townsfolk with what time it might be?… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 1:58 pm

      Oh you bet, I was tempted to do that. In fact some young men did exactly that when we were in a Cuban tower last year. But I couldn’t reach these bells—just close enough for photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. gerard oosterman / Jun 1 2017 9:55 am

    Coming from Holland I like climbing horizontal mountains. Show me a flat country side and I will walk all over it. The challenge is always to reach the horizon stretching on forever. Few reach it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 1:59 pm

      I am especially good at horizontal hills. I can even outpace Poor John on those. Never made it to the horizon though.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Nikki / Jun 1 2017 4:41 pm

    Really nice article

    Liked by 1 person

  25. wfdec / Jun 1 2017 5:55 pm

    I love the timber staircase. I’m a woodwork freak. Thanks. PS I have blocked my blog and will start a new one in a different name. I will get to you some other way. I got trolled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 1 2017 11:54 pm

      Like the comment about wood, but not the trolling. Argh!


  26. Superduque777 / Jun 2 2017 5:47 am

    Liked by 1 person

  27. chattykerry / Jun 3 2017 6:39 am

    Adding Vilnia to the list… I could not go up those stairs. In Lisbon I made everyone walk backwards down steep stairs because I got a panic attack… 😵

    Liked by 1 person

  28. dfolstad58 / Jun 6 2017 11:14 am

    You both have seen and experienced so much together. As long as you can climb stairs, and walk hills, you can forgo a gym pass!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 6 2017 4:16 pm

      We still have the gym passes. Weight-lifting (resistance training) is beneficial too.


  29. milliethom / Jun 6 2017 6:20 pm

    It’s too difficult to resist climbing tall towers, although my ancient knees would undoubtedly baulk at 300 steps! This Lithuanian tower is well worth the climb. It looks a wonderful old building and I’d love to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 6 2017 6:32 pm

      I usually survey the steps with some dismay and then just get on with it. In this tower, even the steps were interesting.


  30. Sovereign Stairparts / Oct 14 2017 5:37 am

    You don’t need to go to the gym after that climb – reminds me of going up the stairs of the statue of liberty

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 16 2017 1:39 am

      I’ve never been in/up the Statue of Liberty, but now I know I’ll need to train for it! 🙂


  31. whywouldyouwanttodrivetokazakhstan / Nov 21 2017 1:15 am

    On our way
    Be sure to see your top sights

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Sartenada / May 11 2018 8:04 pm

    Wonderful post and very beautiful photos. I noticed this among Your text: “The bell tower is several meters away from the cathedral to the right”.

    In Finland, it is natural, because our churches are mainly wooden churches. This is due, if the light burns the church, then the bell tower will be saved.

    Beautiful bell towers in Finland

    Happy weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 11 2018 11:06 pm

      Thank you for that explanation as to why the bell tower is separate. Makes complete sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Shubha Athavale / Mar 27 2022 8:39 pm

    Peggy, all your posts and photos are beautiful. I’ll share with you what our guide said in Vilnius. We are naturalised Australian but of course can’t help looking Indian ( fair enough) and the guide looked at us and said that their language is derived from Sanskrit, and when some Sanskrit scholars visited Lithuania, there was no need for an interpreter!!! I am not sure how authentic it is but as I am a dark chocolate person, we bought a bar and it read Tamas. Tamas is dark in Sanskrit!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 27 2022 8:54 pm

      Thanks so much for your interest in my blog.
      Very interested to hear about Tamas and language in general in Vilnius. We’ve spent a lot of time in India in the last seven years. I’ll have to ask our Indian travelling companions if they know Sanskrit.


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