Užupis Republic, Vilnius, Lithuania

Užupis is a tiny “republic” that began as an April Fools’ Day joke in 1997. The republic is less than 1km square, but has its own government, constitution and currency. It is separated from the old town of Vilnius (the capital of Lithuania) by the Vilnia river. The bronze Užupis Mermaid sculpture overlooking the river was created in 2002 by sculptor Romas Vilčiauskas.

The name Užupis means “the other side of the river” in Lithuanian. Užupis has around 7000 residents, 1000 of whom are artists. The whole area is in essence a walk-in art installation, with a bohemian, laid-back atmosphere that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The quirky constitution and government, and self-declared independence adds to this.

The parliament building, which is also a café/pub, houses the 12 volunteer ministers that oversee the microstate.

The constitution includes such wisdom as ‘a dog has a right to be a dog’, and ‘a cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in times of need’.