Pilies Street (literally, "Castle Street"; Lithuanian: Pilies gatvė) is one of the main streets in the Old Town of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It is rather a short street, running from Cathedral Square to the Town Hall Square.
Out of several locations across Vilnius used by market traders to sell the wares of folk artists, Pilies Street is the most popular. It has a natural advantage over the Town Hall Square as the street is generally busy and less likely to be interrupted by the political or cultural events commonly held at the Town Hall. Many people visit the street to buy gifts at Christmas or before going abroad to visit friends. The market is also popular with souvenir hunters. Souvenir shops offer amberware and amber jewelry as well as linen clothes. The street is also known for the Kaziukas Fair, when folk artists from all four corners of Lithuania gather here to display and sell their latest merchandise.
Speaking of festivals, if something is being celebrated in Vilnius, Pilies Street is usually an excellent vantage point – most processions will make their way through here at some point. This is true whatever the festival – be it Christmas, Easter, the day of Restoration of Independence, or just a spontaneous celebration following a major win for the Lithuanian basketball team.
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St. Anne's chapel, St. John church, Vilnius, Lithuania
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.