Lithuania

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Lithuania is a Baltic country in northeastern Europe. It has a Baltic Sea coastline in the west and borders with Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east, Poland to the southwest, and Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) to the west.

Population: 3,515,858 people
Area: 65,300 km2
Highest point: 294 m
Coastline: 90 km
Life expectancy: 75.77 years
GDP per capita: $22,000
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  • Civic property Civic property
  • Education Education
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  • Golf course Golf course
  • Green space Green space
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  • Historic site Historic site
  • Interesting place Interesting place
  • Medical Medical
  • Monument Monument
  • Museum Museum
  • Shopping Shopping
  • Skiing Skiing
  • Sports facility Sports facility
  • Theater Theater
  • Winery Winery

About Lithuania

History

Lithuania, first formed in the middle of the 13th century, was a huge feudal country stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea in the Middle Ages and in 1569 entered a union with Poland to form a commonwealth. Lithuania was part of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Polish Partitions in the 18th century when it became part of the Russian Empire.

Modern Lithuania gained its independence from Russia in 1918 following World War I and the dissolution of the Czarist monarchy. However, in 1940 Lithuania was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, and shortly thereafter occupied by the Nazis, who murdered almost its entire hitherto very prominent Jewish population and many local Poles, with help from local collaborators. Later in World War II, the Soviet Union recaptured Lithuania and also brutally persecuted and killed many Lithuanians, particularly during Stalin's reign of terror. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but this proclamation was not generally recognized until September 1991, following an abortive coup in Moscow. The Soviet Union recognized Lithuania's independence on 6 September 1991. A constitution was adopted on 25 October 1992. The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently restructured its economy for integration into Western European institutions and became a stable democracy and a member of the European Union and NATO.

Climate

Transitional, between maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters (average of -5°C) and summers (average of +16°C). Climate is maritime near the seaside with wet, mild summers and winters. Climate in the South-Eastern Lithuania is influenced by the continental weather masses with dry, warmer summers and harsher winters.

Summer months receive most precipitation (up to 50% of annual precipitation), autumn and winter are drier with spring being the driest season. Snow occurs every year, it can snow from October to April. In some years sleet can fall in September or May.

Food

Lithuanian dinners usually include meat, potato, vegetables and sometimes a curd sauce of some sort. Case in point: the cepelinai, or zeppelins, which are meat filled potato-starch based zeppelin-shaped masses traditionally slathered in a sauce of sour cream, butter, and pork cracklings. Pork is traditionally eaten, beef much less so. Needless to say, vegans will have a hard time eating out, although some large restaurant chains will have vegetarian dishes on the menu.

Some fast food in Lithuania, such as Kibinai, (from the Karaim people) small turnovers usually filled with spiced lamb, and Cheburekai (a Russian snack), large folds of dough with a scant filling of meat, cheese, or even apples, can be found around the city.

Many restaurants have menus in English (usually in the Lithuanian menu) and to a lesser extent, Russian. Though use caution as sometimes menus in other languages may have inflated prices, although this is a rarity, and won't be found in Vilnius, or the better known chains such as Cili Pizza.

Drinks

Lithuania is a beer drinking country, with the most famous brands being Svyturys, Kalnapilis, Utenos, Horn and Gubernija. A visit to a kiosk will show that there may be more than 50 different brands of beer in this small country. Alcohol percentages are displayed on the label, and usually range from 4 to 9.5 percent. Compared to other European countries, beer is usually affordable, in shops approx. 0.50 to 1 € per half litre, in bars approx. 0.75 to 2 € per half litre(beer is sold by the half or full litre, a full litre being found rarely). The beer tastes excellent, putting global brands to shame and it can be said that Lithuanian lager is of at least equal quality to Czech, Slovak, German, and Polish lager. A request for a Lithuanian beer always generates goodwill, even in a Chinese or other foreign-themed restaurant.

When you visit a bar or restaurant without intending to eat, try one of the bar snacks, which are very popular among Lithuanians. The most popular of these snacks consists of a bowl of pieces of garlic bread covered in cheese.

In addition to beer, rather cheap but high quality vodka (or "degtinė" in Lithuanian) is consumed, but not to the extent usually associated with this part of the world. Also, every region has its own home-made speciality of which "Samane" is most famous/notorious and is best avoided. The larger supermarkets have an incredible variety of vodka from all the main vodka-producing countries.

Lithuanian mead, or "midus" is a beverage produced exclusively under government control. It is commonly made from all sorts of Lithuanian flora, from leaves and berries to some tree bark. Alcohol percentages range from 10% to 75% (considered medicinal).

For tourists, quality sparkling wines, such as Alita or Mindaugas, and local liqueurs are popular choices to bring back home.

Keep in mind the law that came into effect from January 2009 that prohibits selling alcohol in shops between 10PM and 8AM (bars, cafes, restaurants etc. are exempt from this).

In shops and cafés different tea and coffee qualities are widely available. The selection in coffee ranges from northern European brands to French ones. In coffee houses, you should expect to pay up to 1.50 € for your coffee. Some cafés offer also a variety of special coffees with more or less special prices. Many cafes (kavinės) still make "lazy" coffee, which is simply coffee grounds and boiling water, unfiltered, with grounds at the bottom of the cup, often surprising the drinker - ask before you buy! Tea is usually sold at 50% of the price of coffee. Some of the wonderful drinks such as the Marganito are great for fun filled party drinks and rated one of the top kinds of wine in the country, perfect for weddings.

Unlike restaurants, or pubs aimed at tourists, bars (Baras) may be frequented by heavy drinkers and can therefore be somewhat rowdy. Nevertheless a visit may still be very rewarding, especially if you accept an invitation to participate in karaoke.

A law banning smoking in cafés, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, discothèques and other public establishments was passed in May 2006, and came into effect on January 1, 2007. However, many nightclubs have internal smoking rooms, which have a degree of ventilation.

Tap water is suitable for drinking in many parts of Lithuania. In other areas, local people prefer to purchase bottled water or to run tap water through water filters. If you need to buy bottled water, a 5 litre bottle is not much more expensive than a one litre bottle. Where in doubt about the tap water, seek local advice.

Mineral water is also offered in restaurants, cafés and shops, although it's a bit more expensive than tap water. Some popular brands are Birutė and Vytautas.

Shopping

The currency is the Lithuanian litas (plural litai or litų). The subunit is the centas (plural centai or centų).

Lithuania has a lot of shopping malls for such a small population. There is no big difference between shopping malls here and in western Europe.

Vilnius recently became a shopper's paradise when plenty of massive shopping centres were opened all over the city. Akropolis (a chain of shopping malls in Lithuania) is one of them and definitely worth visiting if you are a shopping malls maniac, as it houses an ice skating rink, bowling lanes and a cinema.

In shopping centers (the largest of them being Akropolis and Panorama) you can have coffee, dinner, and go shopping under one roof.

Gariunai is the Baltic's largest open air market, located on the western edge of Vilnius. Thousands of merchants can be found there on a good weekend, from not only Lithuania, but also from as far away as Ukraine. Clothes, shoes, music and software can be bought there. Counterfeit goods are ubiquitous. A low price is guaranteed, quality is not.

Kaunas is also a city of shopping centers, and Laisvės avenue in the center of the city is a pedestrian thoroughfare. The main shopping centers in Kaunas are: Akropolis, Mega, Molas, Savas, HyperMaxima, and Urmas shopping area. There is even that symbol of "mall culture", which is new to Lithuania, Akropolis.

Klaipeda is a major shopping center for people from Latvia and Kaliningrad. The main shopping centers are: Akropolis, Arena, Studlendas and BIG. Many people coming to the city on cruise ships shop in Klaipeda, due to the good value and price combination.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Lithuania on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Lithuania

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Vilnius is the capital and largest city of Lithuania. It lies on the bank of Neris river and has approximately 560,000 inhabitants. Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture in 2009, along with Linz in Austria.

Interesting places:

  • Vilnius Cathedral
  • National Museum of Lithuania
  • Presidential Palace
  • Vilnius University
  • Cathedral Square
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Palanga is a popular seaside resort at the Baltic sea in Lithuania.

Interesting places:

  • Palanga Pier
  • Palanga Beach
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Kaunas, in the centre of Lithuania, is the country's second biggest city with approximately 350,000 inhabitants (2009) in the municipality, but is no way a poor relation. For a time it acted as temporary capital and as such benefited from investment and the status.

Interesting places:

  • Town Hall Square
  • Perkunas House
  • Kaunas Cathedral
  • Kaunas Castle
  • Kaunas Town Hall
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Klaipeda is Lithuania's third largest city, located in the north-western corner of the country. Originally founded by Baltic tribes, the city and castle was built by the Teutonic Order in 1252 and named Memel in honor of the river of the same name some 40 km to the south. For most of its history, Memel was ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Theatre Square
  • History Museum of Lithuania Minor
  • Old Ferry Terminal
  • Klaipeda Castle
  • New Ferry Terminal
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Druskininkai is a city in Lithuania.

Interesting places:

  • Gruto Parkas
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Alytus is a city in southern Lithuania.

Interesting places:

  • City Park
  • Alytus Ethnographic Museum
  • Angels of Liberty Monument
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Interesting places:

  • IKI Mall
  • Soldier\'s Wall of Remembrance
  • Mazeikiai Park
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Trakai is a town in Lithuania, located approximately 20 km west of Vilnius, on the shores of some of the many lakes in the area.

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Panevėžys is a city in Lithuania. It is the fifth-biggest city in Lithuania with population of 119,000, situated on the shore of the River Nevėžis not far from the Via Baltica highway between Vilnius and Riga.

Interesting places:

  • Juozas Miltinis Sculpture
  • Juozo Miltinio Theatre
  • Panevezys University
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Lithuania

The most southern of the Baltic countries, Lithuania's historic heritage sets it quite apart from the other two. Visiting this small but colourful country today, few travelers might guess that this was once the largest nation in Europe. A few monuments remind of those golden ages, when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched out far into modern day Russia, Poland and Moldova, but even fewer are still inside the Lithuanian borders. The archaeological site of Kernavė, then a medieval capital, is now a World Heritage Site and has historic hillfort mounds as well as a museum. The Trakai Island Castle in Trakai is sometimes called "Little Mariënburg". It's located on an island and was one of the main strongholds in the prime days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Although it was severely damaged in 17th century wars with Muscovy, the castle was beautifully restored in the 19th century and is now a popular tourist sight. Kaunas Castle in Kaunas is even older, but only a third of the original building remains.

The country's lovely capital, Vilnius, is a small, pleasant place with a UNESCO listed historic centre. It's the perfect place to admire a range of architectural styles, as it boasts a mixture of gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical buildings. Stroll through the narrow streets and cosy courtyards and kick back for a coffee in one of the many cafés on Pilies Street. Then, walk down Gediminas Avenue, the town's main street lined with governmental buildings and theatres, towards the old neighbourhood of Žvėrynas. With some 65 churches, the famous Gediminas Tower, the Cathedral Square, the Royal Palace, the Presidential Palace and many other monuments and museums, you won't run out of things to see in Vilnius any time soon.

For a day at the sea, the popular seaside resort of Palanga is the place to be. Although it gets crowded in summer, it has some great beaches and beautiful sand dunes. Sand dunes is also what you'll find at the almost 100 km long Curonian Split, which separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. It's a World Heritage Site shared between Lithuania and Russia and is best explored from the large port city Klaipėda, which is also a good hub for other seaside resorts on the Baltic coast. Not far from Klaipeda is the village of Juodkrante, which is famous for its Hill of Witches, decorated with sculptures from the country's legends and tales. The fishermen's town of Nida is praised for its shores and ancient ethnographic cemetery.

A few kilometres from the northern city Šiauliai you'll find the remarkable Hill of Crosses, an extraordinary and popular pilgrimage site. Over 100,000 crosses – small, huge, simple and exuberant – have been placed here by faithful from far and wide. On the other side of the country, in the very south, you'll find the popular and classy spa resort town of Druskininkai, surrounded by lakes and rivers.

Like its Baltic neighbours, Lithuania has a lot to offer for nature lovers. Dense forests, hills, beautiful blue lakes and rivers are the main base. The forested Aukštaitija National Park is perhaps the most popular of the country's national parks, and is home to elk, deer and wild boar. Some of the pines you'll see here are up to 200 years old and the park is a safe haven for many plants and birds that are endangered in the rest of the country. The 126 lakes and countless streams in between them make the park a great place for water sports activities and the villages in the park have some interesting wooden churches. Another favourite is the Nemunas Delta. The vast wetlands around the place where Neman River reaches the Baltic Sea are a popular eco-tourism destination and an important bird habitat.

Lithuania has many religious sites, especially of the Catholic faith. All of them are open for people of any religion and background. The most popular pilgrimage sites to visit are:

  • Žemaičių Kalvarija in Samogitia (most pilgrims come in July)
  • Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai
  • Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, Vilnius
  • Šiluva, Samogitia.

National Museum of Lithuania - Vilnius

Town Hall Square - Kaunas

Theatre Square - Klaipeda

Palanga Pier - Palanga

Hill of Crosses - Siauliai

Juozas Miltinis Sculpture - Panevezys

Gruto Parkas - Druskininkai

City Park - Alytus

IKI Mall - Mazeikiai

Tirksliai Synagogue - Tirksliai

Vilnius Cathedral - Vilnius

Presidential Palace - Vilnius

Vilnius University - Vilnius

Cathedral Square - Vilnius

Gediminas Tower - Vilnius

St. John\'s Church - Vilnius

Church of the Holy Spirit - Vilnius

Gate of the Dawn - Vilnius

St. Anne\'s Church - Vilnius

Perkunas House - Kaunas

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

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