Zarasai

Zarasai is a beautiful town located in North East Lithuania, 3 km from the border with Latvia. Despite the fact that in comparison with other Lithuanian cities it is quite small as it includes just 8000 inhabitants, it is a center of Zarasai district and also it is an active participant of various national as well as international cultural and educational projects. There`s nothing to be surprised about as Zarasai is a very spectacular settlement which has recently achieved a resort status where many active, friendly and inventive people live.

History

The official start of city existence is 1506, so it is already a bit more than 500 years for this beautiful town. Then only one estate was standing in the territory of nowadays city as well as a lonely monastery and a stone church in the Great island on Zarasai lake. The settlement then was not marked in any maps yet, however, it is strongly believed that it had to be settled quite densely as it was a very comfortable place between lakes and forests where the main international trade routes ran. The town was marked in a map of Grand Duke of Lithuania in the early 17th century. Then a new church was built which was burnt during the war in 1654-1667. In 1674 it was rebuilt. As soon as the city started developing step by step, it was devastated during the North war and plague in early 18th century. Survived these disasters Zarasai town became a simple tiller village serving landlords. Zarasai regenerated in the second half of 18th century when the first school and a custom house were established..

One of the biggest influences for city development had a highway Kaunas – Daugpilis, extended in 1830. In addition, a railway Sankt Peterburg – Warszawa extended through Zarasai in 1836 enlarged the number of local inhabitants too. In 1837 a very interesting city plan was confirmed to be implemented. The combination of the city streets looked like a square including two corners and a half circle ending with branches  - radial streets crossing circular streets. The plan remained till nowadays. During years under russian tsar government, Zarasai town was called Novoaleksandrovskas, after the First World War - Ežerėnai, the name Zarasai was accredited only in 1929. Zarasai was slightly growing and developing its infrastructure, surroundings and social life. In 2008 it became the first Culture capital of Lithuania.

Nowadays

As it was already mentioned, Zarasai is located between 7 lakes on marvelous mounds raising the city above the waters. That’s why Zarasai town is called a City of Lakes as more than 10% of territory of Zarasai district is covered by waters. Besides more than 300 lakes, 8 rivers cross the settlement. Forests growing in Zarasai district distinguish for their beauty too. There are many spectacular pine woods in Gražutė regional park, famous for mushrooms. People can enjoy the wild nature, included into list of objects that were the least affected by human force, and an amazing Sartai regional park, famous for Sartai lake, Dumblynės island where a real treasure of 10-12th centuries was found and several cognitive pathes.

Zarasai town is famous for its cultural heritage too. Many architectural monuments like folk architectural buildings, former ensembles of estates, religious buildings and memorial monuments. Besides vizual cultural heritage many events are held in order to mention lithuanian traditions or to encourage people to create and concern the art. Festival of folk music called Musicians of Sėla („Sėlos muzikantai“ lit.), chlidren dance and pop music festival Under Butterfly Wing („Po drugelio sparnu“ lit.), international competition of young creators Song by Mermaids („Undinėlių daina“ lit.) and many others each year are catching more and more attention. There is no doubt that visitors once attended those festivals would find participating very useful and interesting.

In Zarasai there also are many interesting places to visit. The most famous are the once mentioned Great island on Zarasai lake, Zarasai Museum, the famous Stelmužė oak which is the oldest tree in Lithuania (approximately 1500 years old), Energetics Museum, a brewery, the largest lake in Lithuania Drūkšiai, the wind mill and many others.

Beautiful town Zarasai welcomes visitors all year round. Perhaps it would take not one day to explore that magnificient place. Take your time and enjoy the clean and beautiful environment and cultural spirit of the Land of Lakes located in border of Lithuania.