Lithuania

Questions you would probably like to ask about Lithuania:

Where is it?

Lithuania is the southernmost of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) – and the largest and most populous of them. In the north, the country borders on Latvia (588 km), in the east – on Belarus (660 km), in the south – on Poland (103 km) and Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation (273 km). Lithuania holds a 90 kilometre long area of the Baltic Sea coast. Most of the Baltic shoreline is separated from the open sea by a long narrow strip of sand dunes called the Curonian Spit; the body of water behind the spit is the Curonian Lagoon. Klaipeda, Lithuania's only commercial port is situated where the lagoon meets the open sea.

Since when is it an independent country?

On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its renewed independence. The Soviet Union imposed economic blockade attempting to suppress this secession. The Soviet troops attacked the Vilnius TV Tower and killed 13 Lithuanian civilians on the night of 13 January 1991. In 1991 after the collapse of Soviet Union all three Baltic countries became independent.

In 1989, to demonstrate the Baltic States' wish for independence, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians joined hands forming a chain stretching from Tallinn to Riga and to Vilnius.

In 2004 Lithuania became the member of European Union and NATO.

Since 2007 Lithuania is a party to Schengen treaty

What language do people speak?

Some 84% of the population are ethnic Lithuanians. The two largest minorities are Poles, who account for just over 6% of the population, and Russians, who make up just over 5%.

Lithuanian is a Baltic language that belongs to the Indo-European language family. Its only linguistic relative is Latvian, and is considered to be among the oldest and least changed of all living Indo-European languages in the world.

What religion do people have?

Lithuanians are predominantly, Roman Catholic (approximately 80% of the total population). Other confessions include Orthodox, Old Believers, Lutheran, Reformat, Judaist, Sunni, Karaite and other communities.

Lithuania used to have a big Jewish community. Jews lived in Lithuania since the fourteenth century. From the seventeenth century Lithuania's rabbinical academies were world-renowned, and during the nineteenth century the country was a center of Jewish culture, religion, and Zionism. During the Holocaust the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators murdered around 190,000 Lithuanian Jews (91% of the pre-war Jewish community).

Is it safe?

Lithuania is a relatively safe country; however, crimes do occur. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any city. Large amounts of cash and expensive jewelry should be secured in a hotel safe or left at home. Crimes against foreigners, while usually non-violent, do occur. Pickpocketing and thefts are a problem, so personal belongings should be well protected at all times. Theft from cars and car thefts occur regularly.

Is it expensive?

Results of the latest price survey by Eurostat show that Lithuania is on the list of the TOP 10 least expensive countries in Europe. The prices of 2,500 consumer goods were compared by the research in 37 different European countries, including drinks, food, clothes and electrical items.

Other so-called cheap countries included Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Poland and Slovakia.

Prices of hotels and restaurants became unreasonably high during the years of growth in 2004-2007 when there was often shortage of hotel rooms. Now the number of service providers has considerably grown and many good offers are always available

How long should I stay?

Very often when people come for the first time they want to visit all 3 Baltic countries, so they stay 2 nights in Vilnius. For the first impression it is enough although you can only have an idea what the capital city is like. In order to explore the whole country one would need to stay for at least a week. Lithuanian territory of 65,300 km2 is roughly the same size as Ireland and is home to 3, 6 million people.

What is there interesting to visit?

The Lithuanian landscape is predominantly flat, with a few low hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands. The highest point is Aukštasis at 294 metres. Lithuania has 758 rivers, more than 2 800 lakes and 99 km of the Baltic Sea coastline, which are mostly devoted to recreation and nature preservation. Forests cover just over 30% of the country. Once a heavily forested land, Lithuania's territory today consists of only 28 percent woodlands--mainly pine, spruce, and birch forests. Ash and oak are very scarce. The forests are rich in mushrooms and berries. The country's flora and fauna have suffered, however, from an almost fanatical drainage of land for agricultural use. Environmental problems of a different nature were created by the development of environmentally unsafe industries, including the Ignalina nuclear power plant

The capital, Vilnius, is a picturesque city on the banks of the rivers Neris and Vilnia, and the architecture within the old part of the city is some of Eastern Europe's finest. Vilnius University, founded in 1579, is a renaissance style complex with countless inner courtyards, forming a city within the city. As the National Geographic Institute of France confirmed in 1989, the geographic centre of Europe lies just 24 kilometres northwest of Vilnius.

The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius is somewhat unique compared to the major cities in the rest of the Baltic States, its old architecture being a mixture of styles with Scandinavian, Russian and German influences. The mix blends well into a charming 'Vilnian Baroque' that fills the cobblestone winding streets of the old quarter. The city is further enhanced by its picturesque setting in a valley at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnia rivers, nestling beneath wooded hills in the south-east corner of Lithuania.

Just a few miles from Vilnius lies Trakai, capital of Lithuania in the Middle Ages, on the shore of the scenic Lake Galve, and a little further west visitors revel in the peaceful Birstonas mineral water spa resort. Lithuania's second largest city, Kaunas, is a cultural center boasting numerous museums and three theaters among its attractions. On its Baltic coastline Lithuania boasts seaside resorts, such as Palanga, with unspoilt white sandy beaches backed by pine forests.

Kaunas is the second biggest city in Lithuania with the population of more than 415,700 and the area of 156 sq. km. It was founded in the 12th century and owes its existence to its favorable geographic position. Kaunas is situated in the centre of Lithuania, at the confluence of the two biggest rivers the Nemunas and the Neris, 100 km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and 250 km from the port city Klaipeda.

For years Kaunas has been a major center of nation's spiritual resistance and struggle for national identity. For twenty years Kaunas was a provisional capital of Lithuania. The spirit of activity and movement prevails in Kaunas today.

It was not accidental that precisely in Kaunas was the Independence Day, February 16th, first celebrated in 1988, when the liberation movement was beginning to make itself felt.

Kaunas enjoys a remarkable Old Town which is a concentration of ancient architectural monuments dating back to 13th-19th centuries.

Can I pay in Euros (dollars)?

The Lihtuanian currency is Litas (LTL; symbol Lt) = 100 centas. Notes are in denominations of Lt500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Lt5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 centas. The Litas is pegged to the Euro. Foreign currency can be easily exchanged at hotels, banks and exchange bureaux in the larger towns, at the airport and main railway station. Major credit cards are generally accepted in the larger hotels, main restaurants and shops. Some souvenir shops may accept foreign currency but it is safer to have some Lithuanian Litas.

Do the 3 Baltic countries have the same currency?

All 3 Baltic countries have different national currencies. The Estonian currency is Euro, the Latvian currency is Lat (LVL) and the Lithuanian currency is Litas (LTL)

What climate does Lithuania have?

Lithuania has a climate mid-way between maritime and continental. Average temperature in July is +17°C, in January – -4.9°C. However, temperatures can soar up to +30°C in summer, and drop down to -32°C in winter. Summers here are pleasantly mild, whereas not every winter offers abundance of snow. Rainfall is spread throughout the year, but more rain tends to fall on the coast. Summer is the wettest season and cloudy skies are common.

Are Baltic countries very similar?

The Republic of Lithuania is one of three countries commonly known as the "Baltic States". The other Baltic State countries are Estonia and Latvia. However the concept of Baltic States is misleading as it implies some sort of political unity between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia which is not the case. 3 countries are very different from point of view of their history, religion and language. As to language Latvian and Lithuanian are very similar both belonging to Baltic languages, Estonian belongs to Finno-Ugric languages. Historically however Lithuania has very little nothing in common with Latvia and Estonia. Lithuanians are the biggest small nation in Europe, that is in the figure of speaking and related to their history. During the 14th century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe: present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In this respect, Lithuania differs considerably from Latvia and Estonia, where German and Swedish influence was very significant. The main religious denomination is Roman Catholic, like in Poland - and unlike in the other two Baltic republics, which are predominantly Lutheran. For over two centuries prior to 1795, Poland and Lithuania were in effect one country, and most of the present territory of Lithuania was annexed by Russia in the course of the third partition of Poland (1795).

People in the Baltic countries do not share the same sources of information and they usually know very little what is going on in their two Baltic neighbors. But of course 50 years of Soviet occupation have created similar problems and people in Baltic countries find common language very easily. For communication older generation uses Russian and young people more often English.



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