A Local’s Guide to Vilnius Statues is part of a series collaboration with Spotted by Locals Vilnius

Many associate ex-Soviet art with grandiose, monumental statues that would once sing hymns to the ultimate victory of the world’s proletariat or ‘immortalise’ notable politicians and figures the regime deemed significant at the time. Though in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania and formerly part of the Soviet Union, many of the statues that flank its streets don’t fit that mold; in fact, they might raise a few eyebrows with their creativity and tenderness as they play their part in deconstructing some of the more persistent stereotypes often associated with ex-communist Europe.

Frank Zappa

Rock legend Frank Zappa never visited Lithuania, nor was he connected to it in any way. Yet there is a statue of him in Vilnius. It was through the efforts of the very active local Zappa fan club, which collected money and commissioned the statue to sculptor Konstantinas Bogdanas, that this artwork came to exist. The statue is located in the backyard of a medical centre –a fittingly bizarre site for quite a controversial person.

Lucky Belly

Each country and culture has its ceremonies, charms and sites said to bring good luck to those who pay their respects. Lithuanians seem to be particularly fond of such rituals, and apart from a certain ‘miracle tile’ that’s said to bring good fortune to anyone who makes a wish standing on top of it, there’s also this golden, Buddha-esque lucky belly sticking out of a wall. All you have to do is rub it and it will shower you with all the positive energy you may need! It might be nothing more than the miraculous power of humour, but that’s not too bad at all.

Enamoured boot-eater

This statue is of Romain Gary, a French author who was born in Vilnius. In his 1960 book La Promesse de l’aube (Promise at Dawn), Gary described his childhood in Vilnius and his early romantic adventures. In one of them, he tells of how he was ready to literally eat a boot for the love of lucky Valentina. This story must have inspired many romantic souls (or sufferers of tortured, toxic, unrequited love) out there in the Lithuanian capital, for there are often fresh flowers to be found in the hands of young Romain.

Monument to Basketball

One of Lithuania’s most significant claims to fame is its international success in basketball. The sport is like a second religion in the country. The statue comprising four hands reaching for a ball is dedicated to the country’s most honoured players and coaches (all 37 national heroes) and can be found right outside the Siemens arena, where the 2011 European championship took place.

Užupis Mermaid

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen might be the most famous mermaid sculpture in the world, but it’s definitely not unique – Vilnius also has a mermaid that’s bringing in visitors with her song. Legend has it that those who don’t manage to resist seduction stay in the magical Užupis district forever… but to be honest, I can think of plenty of worse things!

A Local’s Guide to Vilnius Statues photos courtesy of Radvile Bieliauskiene, Arnas Andriuaitis and Lev Glick.

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