Biržai

Biržai town is located in the North Lithuania, near the border with Latvia. It is called the pearl of North Lithuania as it has a colorful history, many beautiful lakes and rivers as well as locally produced very strong beer resounding Biržai city in all Lithuania. The towns occupies territory of 16,35 sq. kilometers and there live more than 14 000 inhabitants.

History

The territory of Biržai city was already inhabited 5000 years ago. The town itself was mentioned for the first time in 1415 when Lithuanian grand duke Jogaila visited these lands. The town was governed by famous Lithuanian Radvilai family for a period from 16th until the beginning of 19th centuries.

The first catholic church here was built in 1501. At the same century an important strategic way here was stretched connecting two capitals – Riga and Vilnius. The Biržai town had even got a privilege to stop and check every passerby.  In 1547 Biržai was officially declared to be a borderline town between Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Livonia in nowadays Latvian territory.  In 1589 the famous  stone Biržai castle was built which became a residence palace for Radvilai family and the oldest pond in Lithuania, nowadays known as Širvėna lake, here was formed from Agluona and Apasčia rivers. It became a part of water ways connecting Biržai town and Riga harbor. In the 17th century Biržai town further prospered. Various public institutions here were built, the town was fenced with fillings and defensive walls, trading rules and measurements were declared in order to develop local businesses, trades and manufacturing. In the beginning of 17th century, the city got Mageburg rights, Karaite people moved here to live from Trakai. The fast development of Biržai town was stopped by Sweden military forces. There is no another city in Lithuania which had faced threat of Sweden armies for so many times like Biržai town had. The first siege of Sweden soldiers in 17th century finished in devastation of the town and total collapse of Biržai castle. After these difficult times Biržai town was rebuilt until Sweden armies attacked it again. In 1704 during the North war, Biržai castle was ruined, and the town burnt. After that Biržai was given to another branch of Radvilai family to be ruled, however, the town lost its` former importance.

The growth of the town began again when another famous family took over the ruling of Biržai in 19th century. It was Tiškevičiai family who again built a residence for themselves in Biržai. Biržai town then continued developing despite the fact that Lithuania was under control of Russian Empire. Even the First World War did not make any bad influence for permanent growth of the city. Just the other way about it, there were companies of line and wool recasting established, 3 mills were working, a printing- house was opened which became a central one in the North Lithuania, a drama cluster “Lyra” was created. The part of renaissance architecture of Biržai city was almost all destroyed during the Second World War. The rest of the remained Old town of Biržai nowadays is included into list of cultural and architectural Lithuanian heritage. But the largest part of nowadays city was formed in the second part of the 20th century. In the Old town there 3 floor building of Soviet style dominate which reminds about of Soviet occupation.

Nowadays

Biržai nowadays is divided into 2 parts – the New town and the Old town. Biržai still includes objects declared to be urban monuments like the castle, and the Old town. Near the city center there is a neo gothic church of evangel reformats, in the central square there also stands a monument for freedom rebuilt in 1990. On the North part of Širvėnai lake there a complex of Astrava mansion located. When coming to Biržai, it is necessary to visit the largest sinkhole in Lithuania called “Cows` Cave”. Biržai district is famous for its sinkholes in all over Lithuania. No doubt that visiting Biržai caslte is also very important. A history museum “Sėla” is here established where visitors can see the only one tile furnace in Lithuania of 17th century . This castle is the best preserved bastion fort in Lithuania. In addition, the oldest formed Širvėnai lake includes a bridge of 525 meters length which is also a must visit sight. Biržai city is also famous to grow upthe strongest man in the world in 2009, Žydrūnas Savickas.

Biržai town seems to be very strong as it has the strongest beer in Lithuania and the strongest man in the world! History shows that the town used to be strong at any tough situation. Lithuania is lucky to have such a strong point in the very North of the country which  have protected it against north enemies for centuries.