Short history on Zarasai Lithuania
The town of Zarasai on the border with Latvia was officially called Zarasai until 1836, at which time the name changed in Novoaleksandrovsk. Known as Ezerenai from 1919, it finally regained its original name in 1929. It may have emerged along-side a monastery built on an island in Lake Zarasas in the 15th century.
A first Christian sanctuary was already mentioned in 1508. The surrounding lakes and converging roads determined the lay-out of Zarasai. Its fan-shaped Seliu Square at a five-junction road has been the center of town since the 17th century. The site first appeared on a map in 1613. 19th century stone buildings surround the present-day squares. There is a monument to the physician and anthropologist Dominikas Bukantas.
Zarasai Lithuania Town Center
Standing on the highest elevation is the twin-tower Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built in 1862 and consecrated only in 1906 because of prolonged repairs to a construction fault. A painted obelisk at the Vilniaus and Vytauto streets junction marks the Kaunas-Daugavpils highway completion (1845).
The monument changed designation depending on the political situation. In 1932 it commemorated those who died in the struggle for Lithuania's independence, in 1941 it was left without any markings, in 1961 it acquired a stainless steel depiction of a man soaring into the cosmos, and in 1987 it regained its 1932 role, as indicated on a plaque inscribed in Lithuanian and Russian.
This is not the only "shifting" monument in this town. A 1955 statue on a high pedestal in the center of town of Soviet partisan Maria Melnik (killed by the Nazis) went down and was given to Gruto Parkas at the end of the 20th century. In 1992 the town erected a sanctuary for old believers. Their original church still stands in the nearby village of Minauka (see the map under this article for directions).
A commemorative obelisk made of boulders (1930's) in the Zarasai cemetery marks the grave of Lithuanian soldiers who died in the struggle for independence, and those killed in 1941-1942. Information on the history of the city and environs is available at the regional museum (D. Bukonto Street 21/1), which also has examples of traditional crafts and peasant furniture. The is also a permanent exhibition of works donated by the American-Lithuanian painter Mikas Sileikis.
Zarasas lake observation bridge
A unique architectural construction, which has no analogues in Lithuania. It was opened in 2011. Visitors can see the Zarasai lake panorama from a 17 meters high bridge. The stairway down leads to the path along the Zarasai lake shore and to the benches, where visitor may sit back and enjoy the scenery of the lake. The architect of the building is Š. Kiaunė.
A 1,4 km long shore connects the observation bridge with the Great island of lake Zarasas. During the warm season the inhabitants and visitors can enjoy the fountain, which is set on the shore, sit on bridges, use boat rental (those travelling by land here also can rent bicycles and a Segway), playground for children. There is a sculpture park set up on the lake shore. We suggest visiting the Zarasai lake shore during all the seasons, because this place can be an opportunity for a local or a traveler to welcome or say good bye to his favorite time of the year.
Zarasai Natural surroundings
Information on the surrounding natural habitat is available at the headquarters of the Grazute Regional Park, which encompasses the lake and forest-covered landscape of the Upper Sventoji River and its tributaries, the intricately shaped Antaliepte Bay, the picturesque lakes Asavas, Luodis, Samavas etc.
The immense Grazute Forest includes the surviving part of a large ancient tract of woodland, many types of protected flora and fauna, and archaeological monuments in the form of fortress hills and burial mounds. The park also shelters the interesting town of Salakas, which has urbanistic monument status.