True Lithuania

Joniškis Town

Joniškis (pop. 11 000) is a town in northern Lithuania, dominated by a truly massive historicist church, dating to 1901. Uncommon to the area, this gray building with a mezzanine incorporates elements of various previous architectural styles rather than emulating a single one.

Church of Virgin Mary Assumption towers over Joniškis. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Among its historic residentials and other buildings the town also has two synagogues, named "white" (1823; neoclassical) and "red" (1865; historicist) as one is plastered and the neighboring one has its red masonry visible. The red one partly collapsed in 2007 but now both are undergoing state-funded restoration. Prior to World War 2, Joniškis was home to some 900 Jews.

Two synagogues of Joniškis stand side-by-side east of the main square. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Recently Joniškis became famous for its new museum of basketball, the only one of its kind in Lithuania. The museum's enthusiastic owner has a great collection of memorabilia of Lithuanian and Soviet basketball national teams and clubs. You may compare your own feet with a shoe of Arvydas Sabonis (2,20 m tall most famous Lithuanian player of the recent decades, who spent 7 seasons in NBA), review famous basketball games on a big screen, acquire bilingual books on the sport, see medals of important competitions, among other things.

Inside the Joniškis basketball museum. The screen beyond the ball-shaped door shows the controversial final minute of Munich Olympics final USA vs. USSR. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Joniškis is important to Lithuanian basketball as it was in this Lithuanian-Latvian border town where the Lithuanian national basketball team was greeted by happy crowds in 1937 after winning their first European championship in Riga. After this event basketball was catapulted to the level of national sport where it has remained ever since, despite all the trials and tribulations that fell on the Lithuanian nation.

The basketball museum is located in Livonijos str. 3 and you will need to contact it to arrange opening times. The official website is here.

English tourist map of Joniškis. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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