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Archive for May, 2013

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Authentic Austria – generous Germany

Tour guide, writer and photographer: Aage Myhre


VilNews is on its way around Europe!
Throughout May-June you are all invited on a
journey from north to south, from east to west.Some
articles will dwell with history.Some with Lithuanian contact
points in various countries. I have travelled across Europe with
camera and notepad for nearly 40 years and hope you will enjoy seeing
and reading about some of my experiences.Today's tour starts in Vienna,
and continues through North Austria to many German sites. Have a nice trip!

Our today’s trip starts in Vienna, home of Sigmund Freud and the Strauss family.
From here we go west, to Linz and Salzburg, then crossing into Bavaria in
Germany. We visit Munich, continue to Schwarzwald’s many small and
picturesque villages, before heading north to the Hanseatic lands.
We end up in towns of great importance for Lithuania...

Authentic Austria

Austria is a landlocked country of roughly 8.47 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,855 square kilometres (32,377 sq mi) and has a temperate and alpine climate. Austria's terrain is highly mountainous due to the presence of the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 metres (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speak local Austro-Bavarian dialects of German as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other local official languages are Burgenland Croatian, Hungarian and Slovene.

The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty when the vast majority of the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria became one of the great powers of Europe and, in response to the coronation of Napoleon I as the Emperor of the French, the Austrian Empire was officially proclaimed in 1804. In 1867, the Austrian Empire was reformed into Austria-Hungary.

When the Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire collapsed in 1918 with the end of World War I, Austria used German Austria („Deutschösterreich”, later „Österreich”) as the state name in an attempt for union with Germany but was forbidden due to the Treaty of Saint Germain. The First Austrian Republic was established in 1919. In the 1938 Anschluss, Austria was occupied and annexed by Nazi Germany. This lasted until the end of World War II in 1945, after which Nazi Germany was occupied by the Allies and Austria's former democratic constitution was restored. In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state, ending the occupation. In the same year, the Austrian Parliament created the Declaration of Neutrality which declared that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral.

Today, Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states. Austria is one of the richest countries in the world, with a nominal per capita GDP of $48,350 (2011 est.). The country has developed a high standard of living and in 2011 was ranked 19th in the world for its Human Development Index.
Hallstatt, Austria.


Vienna - Roof top Sculpture at Hofburg Palace.
Photo: Aage Myhre.


Vienna – home of Sigmund Freud and the Strauss family

At the turn of the 20th century, Vienna, capital of the vast but ailing Austro-Hungarian Empire, reflected on its past with pride and its future with uncertainty. The empire had nurtured Beethoven, Brahms, and Strauss. The city was home to Sigmund Freud (whose father family came from Lithuania!), and considered a world leader in science, philosophy, and research. With 2 million inhabitants, Vienna was one of the most populous and multi-ethnic cities on earth, a melting pot of immigrants from across the empire.

But Vienna seethed with provincial nationalism, socialist ideals, and an odious wave of anti-Semitism. Vienna also nurtured the young Adolf Hitler, and, after his rise to power, played a significant part in supporting the Nazi reign of terror. Vienna is rife with reminders of those dark years.

Though its culture and science still predominate, modern Vienna is, of course, a very different place. In the old town section, the Innere Stadt, throngs of tourists fill the streets, lost in reveries over their fabulous surroundings.

Johann Strauss Sr. "Radetzky March", the last piece at the New Year's Concert
In Vienna 1987, with Austrian Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.



Sigmund Freud was a “Lithuanian Jew”

Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) was an Austrian neurologist who became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis. Freud qualified as a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Vienna in 1881, and then carried out research into cerebral palsy, aphasia and microscopic neuroanatomy at the Vienna General Hospital. He was appointed a University lecturer in neuropathology in 1885 and became a Professor in 1902.

His father, Jacob Freud (1815–1896), was a Lithuanian Jew, from Vilnius. Of his father's family Freud wrote, "I believe they lived a long time in Rhenish territory (Cologne), that during the persecution of Jews in the fourteenth or fifteenth century they fled east, and in the nineteenth century returned from Lithuania, through Galicia, to a German-speaking country, Austria"

Jews lived in Lithuania since the 14th century. They came at the invitation of the Grand Dukes Mindaugas, Augustus II and Augustus III, who had recognized the utility of the merchants, artisans, and traders as an integral component in the development of the nation. Jews also played important roles in diplomatic missions and defense.

Vilnius was the most important Jewish centre, a city that Napoleon in 1812 gave the nickname "Jerusalem of the North". Renowned scientists, teachers, writers, sculptors, and musicians made their homes here. Jewish secular and religious institutions flourished, including “Der Yiddisher Visenshaftlicher Institut” (The Yiddish Scientific Institute) in the 1920s and 1930s, which published countless scientific works. Vilnius was selected to be its headquarters. Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Marc Chagall were honorary members of the board.



Vienna is packed with life and culture!

My kids dancing on the grass in front of the Belvedere Palace right in the heart of Vienna.
Photo: Aage Myhre.

Vienna, a city of full of life and history, has cultivated itself through many eras and embodies the very definition of culture: the tending of natural growth. Apart from Vienna’s rich history, the 20th Century alone offers enough ‘culture’ to fill an entire textbook with intricate descriptions. Starting with Freud’s Vienna, which was largely preoccupied with death and dark, unconscious drives, switching to Art Nouveau or the paintings of Gustav Klimt, going through the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and logical positivism, and finally culminating in Nobel Prize-winning Viennese Elfriede Jelinek, the city offers an abundance of history and inspiration, which only justifies Terry Eagleton’s claim that culture is “one of the two or three most complex words in the English language.”Vienna, among other things, is a place to feel how slowly and gracefully life progresses. Literally overflowing with sidewalk cafes, shadowy landscaped parks, wine bars and pastry shops, it is an ideal place to stop and relax for a while, observe and, in the Viennese cynical fashion, make witty remarks. Here you can savour various samples of the city’s cultural buffet, be it classical music, art, literature or theatre performances. Vienna’s architecture, which is comprised of cutting-edge contemporary buildings, Art Deco, Neo-Classical, Baroque and Rococo pieces, is a significant part of the city’s splendour. Food and drink are also part of Vienna’s allure, with the city offering excellent dining options just around the corner from the most desirable and important sightseeing locations.

This cosmopolitan centre, which incorporates Eastern European, Oriental and Western modes of thinking, has been a melting pot for cultural identities throughout the centuries. Thus, the Viennese represent a peculiar blend of many nationalities and cultural belongings. Vienna started off as a Celtic settlement of the Danube, which was later occupied by the Romans, and eventually evolving into the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire in more recent times. Being defined by the iron fist of the Habsburg dynasty, the city has always been a vital spot for European history. Vienna has been through wars, occupations, it has been the victor of many battles, and in more recent history, has switched from a monarchy to a republic. Vienna is the world’s most famous music centre. A lot of talented musicians lived and worked here: Mozart, Beethoven, Hayden, Schubert, Brahms and many others. It's also the city of the legendary Vienna Boys' Choir and various musical events, such as the New Year Concert or the Annual Ball in the Vienna Opera House.

Johann Strauss II. Statue in the Vienna City Park.
Photo: Aage Myhre

Hofburg Royal Palace, surrounded by Vienna’s typical horse carriages.
Photo: Aage Myhre.


Austrian wining & dining

Photo: Cassandra Myhre.

If any European capital knows how to enjoy the good life, it’s Vienna. Compared to most modern urban centers, the pace of life here is slow. Locals linger over pastry and coffee at cafés. Concerts and classical music abound. And chatting with friends at a wine garden is not a special event but a way of life.

For many Viennese, the living room is down the street at the neighborhood coffeehouse, which offers light lunches, fresh pastries, a wide selection of newspapers, and “take all the time you want” charm (just beware of the famously grumpy waiters). Each coffeehouse comes with its own individual character. Café Sperl dates from 1880, and is still furnished identically to the day it opened—from the coat tree to the chairs. Café Hawelka has a dark, “brooding Trotsky” atmosphere, paintings by struggling artists (who couldn’t pay for coffee), smoked velvet couches, and a phone that rings for regulars. Mrs. Hawelka died a couple of weeks after Pope John Paul II. Locals suspect the pontiff wanted her much-loved “Buchteln“ (marmalade-filled doughnuts) in heaven.

Make it a point to stop by Demel, the ultimate Viennese chocolate shop, filled with Art Nouveau boxes of choco-dreams come true: “Kandierte Veilchen” (candied violet petals), “Katzenzungen” (cats’ tongues), and much more. An impressive cancan of cakes is displayed to tempt you into springing for the 10-euro cake-and-coffee deal (point to the cake you want). You’ll sure to see Sacher torte, the local specialty. Apart from its apricot filling, the recipe seems pretty simple...chocolate on chocolate. You can sit inside the shop, with a view of the cake-making, or outside, with the street action. Fancy shops like this boast on their sign: “K.u.K.” (meaning good enough for the “König und Kaiser” – king and emperor).

For another royally good experience, head to the wine gardens. Clustered around the edge of town, mostly in the legendary Vienna Woods, wine-garden restaurants feature cold-cut buffets paired with fine Austrian wines in an old-village atmosphere with strolling musicians. If you visit in fall, try Sturm, the semi-fermented new wine made from the season’s first grape harvest and only available in autumn. Many locals claim that it takes several years of practice to distinguish between Sturm wine and vinegar. The red version is so hearty and fruity that locals say “Eat up!” when toasting with it.

The Café-Restaurant Weimar is one of the classic coffee houses of Vienna's 9th District, the area where Sigmund Freud lived and conducted his psychological investigations. Nice, even in rain.
Photo: Aage Myhre.


Watching each other... Neptune statue at the Royal Palace Hofburg, Vienna.
Photo: Aage Myhre.


Linz – birthplace of Lithuanian Grand Duchesses

File:Linz Donau.jpg
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria (German: Oberösterreich). It is located in the north centre of Austria, approximately 30 km (19 mi) south of the Czech border, on both sides of the river Danube. The population of the city is 189,367, and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is about 271,000.



The golden age of Austrian – Lithuanian relations

15th – 16th centuries


The Lithuanian “Jagiellonian Dynasty” and the Austrian “Habsburg Dynasty” ‘united’ in 1454 when Lithuanian Grand Duke Casimir married Austrian Elizabeth von Habsburg

The Jagiellonian dynasty was a royal dynasty originating from the Lithuanian House of Gediminas that reigned over the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Europe’s largest country in the 14th-16th centuries (present day Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, parts of Russia (including nowadays Kaliningrad oblast), Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia).

The Habsburg dynasty was another predominant force in Europe for several hundred years. This house ruled over the Holy Roman Empire, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Spain and many other realms in Europe. The Habsburgs were especially powerful and played an exceptional role in the history of Central and Eastern Europe.

This Jagiellonian dynasty started with Vladislaus Jagiello, Grand Duke of Lithuania (1377-1401), who later also became King of Poland, marrying Jadvyga,theonly daughter of the last King of Poland of the Andegawen dynasty(1386). In Lithuanian historiography this house is known as Gediminaiciaithat isthe descendants of Gediminas (c.1275-1341), grandfather of Jagiello and Grand Duke of Lithuania (1316-1341).

Over five hundredyears ago dynastic relations were a significant part of European politics. They were used to acquire new landsandcement political alliances. Therefore, dynastic contacts between the two most powerful houses in Central Europe were inevitable.

When Casimir IV Jagiello, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania married Elizabeth of Habsburg in 1454 that became the first Habsburg-Jagiellon marriage ever contracted. The copule was a “Dream Team” of the late Middle Ages. Their wedding in 1454 (she was 17, he was 27) trigged off a historical golden era for Poland and Lithuania, which lasted over 100 years and ended in 1572 with the death of their grand-son Sigismund II Augustus. Those were the glorious days of the Jagiellon dynasty

Elizabeth von Habsburg (Elzbieta Habsburgaite) was called „Mother of the Jagiellons”, as she gave birth to 12 children, whereof six sons, among them the later Polish-Lithuanian King and Grand Duke Sigismund the Old (1467-1548).

The Austro-Lithuanian couple seems to have been successful in practically all their undertakings, not least in politics and in warfare. King Casimir died in 1492, so the marriage lasted for 38 years, which is quite remarkable for those times. In their lifetime and after, Lithuania was the major power in eastern Europe. Historians point out that Casimir and Elizabeth were also renowned for their open-mindedness and tolerance. Cracow was then a rich and splendid royal residence, and its close contacts to Prague and Vienna certainly were of great mutual advantage. The Jagiellon courts were international meeting places of noblemen, intellectuals and artists.
Grand Duke Casimir IV KG (1427 – 1492) of the House of Jagiellon was Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1440, and also King of Poland from 1447, until his death. He married to Elisabeth of Austria (1436 – 1505) in 1454. She became known as „Mother of the Jagiellons”.
Europe in 1490, when Grand Duke Casimir’s reign was coming to its end and the
Grand Duchy of Lithuania was Europe’s largest country.



Two Austrian sisters married Lithuania’s Grand Duke Sigismund Augustus


The older sister is buried in Vilnius

Elisabeth of Austria (1526 – 1545) was the eldest child of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife Anna of Bohemia and Hungary. Elisabeth was a member of the House of Habsburg.

From an early age Elisabeth was being prepared for her marriage to Sigismund II Augustus (1520-1572), Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, grandson of Grand Duke Casimir and Elizabeth of Austria.

Elisabeth's father had attempted to marry his daughter off to the Lithuanian Grand Duke when she was only one year old. In view of the fact that Elisabeth was the granddaughter of Vladislas II of Hungary, uncle of Sigismund, Pope Clement VII had to give a papal dispensation so the wedding could take place. So 16 year old Elisabeth married 22 year old Sigismund, they married on May 6, 1543 in Wawel, Krakow. Elisabeth's mother-in-law Bona Sforza did not want the wedding to take place because she hated the Habsburgs.

The marriage was not happy. Young, inexperienced and shy Elisabeth was not attracted to her husband. The situation deteriorated when Elisabeth was diagnosed with an incurable disease, epilepsy. Throughout the duration of marriage Sigismund betrayed his wife by taking a mistress, Barbora Radvilaitė. At the same time Bona openly showed dislike to Elisabeth. The only person showing sympathy to Elisabeth was her father-in-law Sigismund I the Old. In autumn 1544 the couple moved from Poland to Vilnius, where her husband was heavily involved in an affair with Barbora Radvilaitė.

In the spring 1545 Elisabeth's health deteriorated, tormented by her increasingly frequent seizures of epilepsy. At the beginning of June 1545 Sigismund went to Krakow to receive the dowry of Elisabeth, he left his wife alone in Vilnius. On June 15 the young queen died exhausted by many seizures of epilepsy, she was just 19 years old. She was buried on August 24, 1545 in Vilnius Cathedral next to her husband's uncle, a brother of her grandfather, Alexander the Jagiellonian. Her quarrel with Bona Sforza over the Parmesan cheese was commonly known in both Poland and Lithuania.



File:Tomb of Elisabeth of Austria in Vilnius Cathedral.jpg
Tomb of Elisabeth of Austria in
the Vilnius Cathedral.

The younger sister is buried in Linz

After Elisabeth's death Sigismund remarried to Radvilaitė and after her death he married Elisabeth's younger sister Catherine of Austria (1533 – 1572.. On June 23, 1553, she became the third wife of Sigismund II Augustus. Sigismund had no legitimate children from his three wives

Catherine became pregnant and miscarried in October 1554. After the miscarriage, the Grand Duke decided that his marriage was cursed because Catherine was sister of his first wife. He vainly attempted to have the marriage annulled, and in the autumn of 1566, Catherine left Lithuania and lived until her death in 1572 in Linz.



Abbey of St. Florian
Catherine of Austria was buried in 1614,
in the Sankt Florian monastery
near Linz in Austria.





Salzburg – birthplace ofthe world's most prominent composer of all time

File:Old Town Salzburg across the Salzach river.jpg
View of Salzburg City Centre.

Salzburg is the fourth-largest city in Austria and the capital city of the federal state of Salzburg. The "Old Town" (Altstadt) has internationally renowned baroque architecture and one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The city is noted for its Alpine setting.

Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the mid-20th century, the city was the setting for parts of the American musical and film The Sound of Music.

The city has three universities. It has a large population of students who add liveliness and energy to the area, and the universities provide culture to the community.


How to recognise, understand and appreciate genius?

A ‘must see’ collage from the film 'Amadeus'.
Salieri, Austria's court composer by then, discusses the time he first met Mozart.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers.

Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of Mozart's death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.

Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent Western art music is profound.

Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years. Now more than 250 years have passed since Mozart was born...


Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg – the intellectual Cold War meeting point...,0,214,317_.jpg
In 1965 the film The Sound of Music, directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews, was produced in Salzburg with the grounds adjacent to those of Schloss Leopoldskron as one of the main locations.

Earlyin the 1980s, I satin a‘bierstub’inSalzburg.Ifell into conversation withan elderlygentleman and asked whathewas workingwith. He then pulled outa 1000-shillingnote fromhis wallet,pointing tothe picture ofa castle, and said thatwas whereheworked, ascastlemanager.The castle,he said, wasnamed afterCount LeopoldAntonEleutherius vonFirmian(1679-1744).

Schloss Leopoldskron is a rococo palace and a national historic monument in a southern district of the city of Salzburg. The palace is located on the lake Leopoldskroner Weiher. Leopoldskron-Moos, an affluent residential area, reaches to the foot of the 1853m high Untersberg and features a number of still working farms as well as a peat-bog. The palace has been home to the Salzburg Global Seminar since 1947.

The Salzburg Global Seminar is an American non-profit organization that holds seminars on economics, politics, and other issues for future political, economic, and business leaders from around the world. Its purpose is to "challenge current and future leaders to develop creative ideas for solving global problems." and to "lead the conversation for global change" through seminars held at the Schloss Leopoldskron.

The organization was founded in 1947 by three men at Harvard University--Clemens Heller, a graduate student originally from Austria, a college senior named Richard Campbell and a young English instructor named Scott Elledge. "We hope to create at least one small centre in which young Europeans from all countries, and of all political convictions, could meet for a month in concrete work under favourable living conditions," Campbell said of their intentions in January 1947, "and to lay the foundation for a possible permanent centre of intellectual discussion in Europe." The Salzburg Seminar, as it came to be called, was created to be a venue to encourage intellectual exchange among Europeans and Americans and to ameliorate rifts created by World War II.

Generous Germany

No big developed country seems to come out of the global recession looking stronger than Germany. Exports are booming and unemployment has fallen to levels last seen in the early 1990s. The government is a stable, though sometimes fractious, coalition of three mainstream parties. Amid the truculence and turmoil around it, Germany appears an oasis of tranquillity.

A recent essay published by Bruegel, a Brussels think-tank, explains “why Germany fell out of love with Europe”. Another, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, alleges that Germany is “going global alone”. Jürgen Habermas, Germany’s most distinguished living philosopher, accuses his country of pursuing an “inward-looking national policy”. “How can you not ask Germany questions about its vision of the future of Europe?” wonders Jacques Delors, who was president of the European Commission when the Berlin Wall fell.

Even a pacific and prosperous Germany causes international angst...

The German question never dies. Instead, like a flu virus, it mutates. On the eve of unification some European leaders worried that it would resume killer form. “We’ve beaten the Germans twice and now they’re back,” said Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s prime minister. Such fears now look comical. But even today’s mild strain causes

aches and pains, which afflict different regions in different ways. America’s symptoms are mild. Central Europe seems to have acquired immunity. After unification 85% of Poles looked upon Germany as a threat, recalls Eugeniusz Smolar of the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw. Now just a fifth do. It is among Germany’s long-standing west and south European partners that the German question feels debilitating, and where a dangerous flare-up still seems a possibility. Germany’s answer to the question matters not only to them. It will shape Europe, and therefore the world.

Germans have not forgotten that their country was the author of the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s but, says Renate Kocher of Allensbach, a polling firm, they want to “draw a line under the past”. That does not mean ignoring its lessons or neglecting to teach them to the next generation. A new exhibition on “Hitler and the Germans” at the German Historical Museum in Berlin is drawing blockbuster crowds. But Germans are no longer so ready to be put on the moral defensive or to view the Nazi era as the defining episode of their past. Even non-Germans seem willing to move on. Recent books like “Germania” and “The German Genius” suggest that English-language publishing may be entering a post-swastika phase. Germany still atones but now also preaches, usually on the evils of debt, the importance of nurturing industry and the superiority of long-term thinking in enterprise. Others are disposed to listen. “Everyone orients himself towards Germany,” says John Kornblum, a former American ambassador.

Germany is a federal parliamentary republic. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2. With 81.8 million inhabitants, it is the most populous member state and the largest economy in the European Union. It is one of the major political powers of the European continent and a technological leader in many fields.

A region named Germania, inhabited by several Germanic peoples, was documented before AD 100. During the Migration Age, the Germanic tribes expanded southward, and established successor kingdoms throughout much of Europe. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the centre of the Protestant Reformation while southern and western parts remained dominated by Roman Catholic denominations, with the two factions clashing in the Thirty Years' War, marking the beginning of the Catholic–Protestant divide that has characterized German society ever since. Occupied during the Napoleonic Wars, the rise of Pan-Germanism inside the German Confederation resulted in the unification of most of the German states into the German Empire in 1871 which was Prussian dominated. After the German Revolution of 1918–1919 and the subsequent military surrender in World War I, the Empire was replaced by the Weimar Republic in 1918, and partitioned in the Versailles Treaty. Amidst the Great Depression, the Third Reich was proclaimed in 1933. The latter period was marked by Fascism and the Second World War. After 1945, Germany was divided by allied occupation, and evolved into two states, East Germany and West Germany. In 1990 Germany was reunified.

Germany was a founding member of the European Community in 1957, which became the EU in 1993. It has the world's fourth largest economy by nominal GDP and the fifth largest by purchasing power parity. It is the second largest exporter and third largest importer of goods. The country has developed a very high standard of living and a comprehensive system of social security.



München mag Dich - Munich likes you

We have left Austria behind. We approach Munich, the capital city of Bavaria, Germany. It is located on the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is the third largest city in Germany, behind Berlin and Hamburg. About 1.35 million people live within the city limits. Munich hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics.

The city's motto is "München mag Dich" (Munich likes you). Its native name, München, is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat of arms. Black and gold—the colours of the Holy Roman Empire—have been the city's official colours since the time of Ludwig the Bavarian.

Modern Munich is a financial and publishing hub, and a frequently top-ranked destination for migration and expatriate location in livability rankings. Munich achieved 7th place in frequently quoted Mercer livability rankings in 2010. For economic and social innovation, the city was ranked 15th globally out of 289 cities in 2010, and 5th in Germany by the 2thinknow Innovation Cities Index based on analysis of 162 indicators. In 2010, Monocle ranked Munich as the world's most livable city.


Romantische Strasse and Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Don’t miss The Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) when you are in Bavaria! This a theme route coined by travel agents in the 1950s to describe the 350 kilometres (220 mi) road in southern Germany. In medieval times it used to be a trade route, connecting the centre of Germany with the South. Today this region is thought by many international travellers to possess "quintessentially" German scenery and culture, specifically in towns and cities such as Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The route is also known for passing a lot of castles, such as Burg Harburg and the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. The Romantic Road is marked with brown signs along the road.

File:Rothenburg BW 4.JPG
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a town at the Romantische Strasse, well known for its
well-preserved medieval old town, a destination for tourists from around the world.


Nuremberg – the romantic city that became venue for the post-war Nazi Trial

Nuremberg is a beautiful city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 500,000. The "European Metropolitan Area Nuremberg" has 3.5 million inhabitants. Nuremberg is often referred to as having been the 'unofficial capital' of the Holy Roman Empire.

But what a contrast isn’t it, knowing that it was right here the trial against the Nazi leaders took place during the immediate years after World War II...


Nuremberg: Nazis on trial

By Professor Richard Overy

File:Süddeutsche Zeitung - The Verdict in Nuremburg.JPG
The October 1, 1946Süddeutsche Zeitungannounces "The Verdict in Nuremberg." Depicted are (left, from top): Göring, Hess, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick; (second column) Funk, Streicher, Schacht; (third column) Dönitz, Raeder, Schirach; (right, from top) Sauckel, Jodl, Papen, Seyss-Inquart, Speer, Neurath, Fritzsche, Bormann. Image from Topography of Terror Museum, Berlin.

File:Nuremberg Trials retouched.jpg
Nuremberg Trials. Defendants in the dock. The main target of the prosecution wasHermann Göring(at the left edge on the first row of benches), considered to be the most important surviving official in theThirdReichafterHitler's death.


In the aftermath of World War Two the Allies sought to bring the aggressors to justice. How did the surviving Nazi leaders give account for their actions?

In November 1945, in the German city of Nuremberg, the victors of the World War Two began the first international war crimes trial. The choice of the city was significant for it was here that the National Socialist Party held its annual rallies.

Adolf Hitler intended it to be rebuilt as the 'party city'. Now many of the leaders of the party were on trial for their lives, only a short distance from the grand arena where they had been fêted by the German people.

The 21 defendants came from very different backgrounds. Some, like Hitler's chosen successor Hermann Goering, were senior politicians - their responsibility clear.

Others were there because senior party leaders Heinrich Himmler, head of the feared SS, and Joseph Goebbels, head of propaganda - had killed themselves rather than face capture and trial. Their deputies or juniors stood on trial instead of them. But most of them were regarded by the western public, rightly or wrongly, as key playmakers in a system that had brought war to Europe and cost the lives of 50 million people.

This catalogue of sin was difficult for many of the defendants to come to terms with.

The charges laid at their door were extraordinary. They were collectively accused of conspiring to wage war, and committing crimes against peace, crimes against humanity (including the newly defined crime of genocide) and war crimes in the ordinary sense (abuse and murder of prisoners, killing of civilians and so on). This catalogue of sin was difficult for many of the defendants to come to terms with.

One of them, Robert Ley, best known for his role as head of the 'Strength through Joy' movement, which masterminded the Volkswagen car, hanged himself in his cell a few weeks before the trial started, so shamed was he by the accusations of crime. Ley's suicide was the most extreme example of the many ways the defendants responded to the trial.

The reaction of the others covered a very wide spectrum, from confident defiance to full admission of responsibility. In the case of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's former deputy, the reality was almost complete memory loss.

Two prisoners in particular came to represent opposite poles in their reaction to the trials and the accusation of massive crimes. Hermann Goering, the man Hitler chose as his successor in the 1930s and the most flamboyant and ambitious of the party hierarchy, prepared to defend Hitler and the Reich's war policy rather than admit that what had been done was criminal.

On the other hand Albert Speer, the youthful architect who rose to run Germany's armaments effort during the war, accepted from the start the collective responsibility of the defendants for the crimes of which they were accused and tried to distance himself from Hitler's ghostly presence at the tribunal.


Hermann Goering: 'Prisoner Number One'
Defendant Hermann Goering consults with his lawyer, Dr. Otto Stahmer, in the
Nuremberg prison at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals.

Goering was captured shortly after the end of the war with large quantities of his looted artworks. He thought he could negotiate with the Allies as Germany's most senior politician, but he found himself under arrest, stripped of everything, and held in an improvised prison camp before his transfer to Nuremberg to stand trial.

He was a big personality in every sense. The guards nicknamed him 'Fat Stuff' and bantered with him. He was charming, aloof and confident, and from the start was determined to dominate the other prisoners and make them follow his line of defence.

Goering insisted that everything that they had done was the result of their German patriotism. To defy the court was to protect Germany's reputation and to maintain their loyalty to their dead leader.

From the start Goering was determined to dominate the other prisoners and make them follow his line of defence.

With the start of the trial, Goering assumed at once the informal role as leader and spokesman for the whole cohort of prisoners. He was given the most prominent position in the dock.

When it came to his cross-examination he prepared carefully and in the opening exchanges with the American chief prosecutor Robert Jackson he emerged an easy winner.

So frustrated did Jackson become with Goering's clever, mocking but evasive responses that at the end of the session he threw down the headphones he had been wearing to hear the translated answers and refused to continue.

'If you all handle yourselves half as well as I did,' Goering boasted to the other prisoners, 'you will do all right.' Only after his cross-examination by the more experienced British barrister, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, was Goering at last cut down to size.

For the prosecution teams, Goering's domineering role among the prisoner body posed a problem. In mid-February 1946, on the recommendation of the psychologist who monitored prisoner behaviour, Goering was forced to exercise and take his meals on his own.

His isolation allowed the other prisoners to talk freely to each other and in the courtroom. The united front that Goering wanted soon collapsed.

During the long summer months, when he had to listen to the catalogue of crimes and atrocities laid at the door of the system he had served, he became less confident. But he maintained his loyalty to Hitler until the very end, when he finally confessed to the prison psychologist his realisation that in the eyes of the German people Hitler had 'condemned himself'.

Goering was found guilty on all the charges laid against him and condemned to death. He regarded the whole trial as simply a case of victors' justice and had not expected to escape with his life. At the very end he cheated his captors. On 14 October 1946, the night before he was to be executed, he committed suicide with a phial of cyanide either hidden in his cell or smuggled in by a sympathetic guard.

Read the complete BBC article at:


Würzburg – capital of the Franconian white wines

We have arrived in Würzburg, capital of the Franconian wines. Founded in the 10th century, Würzburg served as the home of powerful prince-bishops for many centuries. It is renowned for the Residence, regarded as one of the finest palaces in Europe and a high point of Baroque art. Würzburg is also home to one of the oldest churches in Germany, built in the 8th century on top of a former pagan shrine. One of its most famous structures, Festung Marienberg, is a fortress which now surrounds the church. Würzburg was the centre of the kingdom known as Franconia. In the 19th century, Napoleon merged Franconia with Bavaria, by which the city is ruled to this day.

Würzburg experienced heavy demolition during a 20-minute bombing raid in 1945 which destroyed some 80% of its city buildings. Much of the city has since been rebuilt, though not as painstakingly true to its original architecture as some other historic german communities. Anyone eager to visit this town to study its historic architectural structures should be prepared to see its restored buildings placed next to several post-war modernistic houses. Today Würzburg is a beautiful, historic, and lively city that is often overlooked by foreign visitors.



Schwarzwald – Germany’s beautiful black forest...

We drive south-west after Würzburg, to Germany’s Black Forest, a truly attractive, romantic area with mountains, hills and endless forests. I love all the small curved roads, the picturesque villages, the cows, the feeling of warm friendliness...

The Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres (4,898 ft). The region is almost rectangular with a length of 200 km (120 mi) and breadth of 60 km (37 mi). Hence it has an area of approximately 12,000 km2 (4,600 sq mi). The name Schwarzwald, i.e. Black Forest, goes back to the Romans who referred to the thickly forested mountains there as Silva Nigra, i.e. "Black Forest," because the dense growth of conifers in the forest blocked out most of the light inside the forest.


Freiburg – most sunny in Germany

Down to the river Rhine after the mountainous Balck Forest, to Freiburg im Breisgau, a sunny city in Baden-Württemberg in the extreme south-west of the country. It straddles the Dreisam river, at the foot of the Schlossberg. Historically, the city has acted as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest in the Upper Rhine Plain. One of the famous old German university towns, and archiepiscopal seat, Freiburg was incorporated in the early 12th century and developed into a major commercial, intellectual, and ecclesiastical centre of the upper Rhine region. The city is known for its ancient university and its medieval minster, as well as for its high standard of living and advanced environmental practices. The city is situated in the heart of a major wine-growing region and serves as the primary tourist entry point to the scenic beauty of the Black Forest, supposed to be the sunniest and warmest in Germany.


Baden Baden – the spa town loved by Romans

The German word, 'Baden,' translates as 'baths.' The springs of Baden-Baden were known to the Romans, and the foundation of the town refers to the emperor, Hadrian, with an inscription of somewhat doubtful authenticity. The bath-conscious Roman emperor, Caracalla, once came here to ease his arthritic aches. Baden was also known as Aurelia Aquensis, in honour of Aurelius Severus, during whose reign Baden would seem to have been well known. Fragments of its ancient sculptures are still to be seen, and, in 1847, the well preserved remains of Roman vapour baths were discovered just below the New Castle.



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Heidelberg – my lively favourite

Heidelberg is a lively city, clearly one of my favourites in Germany. The fifth-largest city in the State of Baden-Württemberg after Stuttgart, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Freiburg im Breisgau, Heidelberg is part of the densely-populated Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. In 2009, over 145,000 people lived in the city. Heidelberg lies on the River Neckar in a steep valley in the Odenwald. A former residence of the Electoral Palatinate, Heidelberg is the location of the University of Heidelberg, well-known far beyond its and Germany's borders. Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination due to its romantic and picturesque cityscape, including Heidelberg Castle and the baroque style Old Town. Amazing place!




The Lithuanian school in the Rennhof Manor, Lampertheim-Hüttenfeld

The Lithuanian High School is the only full-time, state-accredited Lithuanian educational institution in Western Europe. Students from all over the world come to this unique place to learn Lithuanian or to refresh and improve their Lithuanian language skills. Here they can acquaint themselves with Lithuanian history and culture in the context of European history and culture and meet others who share their interest in Lithuania’s heritage. In addition, students study the German language and culture and enjoy the opportunity to learn and live in the heart of Western Europe.

The Lithuanian High School in Germany—known in German as thePrivates Litauisches Gymnasiumand in Lithuanian asVasario 16-osios gimnazija. In Lithuanian the name refers to the founding of the Lithuanian Republic on February 16(vasario 16-oji), 1918.

For decades the Lithuanian High School was the only full-time high school outside the Eastern Bloc offering courses in Lithuanian history, language, and culture. It is renowned for its rich history, including, especially, the critical role it played as a symbol of freedom for Lithuania during the Soviet occupation.

During World War II, thousands of Lithuanians left their homeland fleeing Soviet occupation. By the close of the war, most of them had ended up in Germany. As war refugees they were housed in “displaced persons camps.” Conditions were harsh and their future uncertain. Yet they did not allow that to discourage them and went to work establishing Lithuanian educational institutions for themselves and their children. By 1947 there were 26 Lithuanian high schools, five Lithuanian technical colleges, and 112 Lithuanian primary schools in Germany.

By that time, however, it was becoming apparent that Lithuania was likely to remain occupied for the foreseeable future. Lithuanian refugees began to leave war-ravaged Germany. Most emigrated to distant countries—foremost among them the United States, Canada, and Australia. In the wake of their departure, most of these schools were shuttered. But approximately 8,000 Lithuanians chose to remain in Germany.

In 1950, Germany’s Lithuanian Community established a single high school for Lithuanian students. The high school was founded in Diepholz—the site of a displaced persons camp where many Lithuanians had lived since the end of the war. In 1954, the Lithuanian Community acquired Rennhof Manor House with its twelve-acre park in the town of Lampertheim-Hüttenfeld. The school was relocated there.

Throughout Lithuania’s 50-year struggle for independence from Soviet rule, the Lithuanian High School promoted engagement with Lithuania as well as support for dissidents fighting for freedom and human rights behind the Iron Curtain.

With the advent of the reform movement Sąjūdis in the mid-1980s, the Lithuanian High School became an increasingly important conduit for ideas and support for reforms that led to Lithuanian independence in 1990.

Following the reestablishment of independence, the school continued to serve as a cultural center for Lithuanians in Western Europe and a bridge between Lithuania and the West, providing an opportunity for the children of Lithuanian expatriates to integrate without losing their Lithuanian identity.

Receiving full state accreditation in 1999, the Lithuanian High School remains the only full-time Lithuanian educational institution in Western Europe.

The Rennhof Manor in Lampertheim-Hüttenfeld has a unique position for Lithuanians, harbouring numerous Lithuanian organizations, which has figured as the centre of Lithuanian émigré community life in Western Europe since 1953.

Go to the school’s website to learn more about the school:

To learn about other Lithuanian youth activities in Germany, go to:



Frankfurt am Main – where EU’s financial decisions are made...

The European Central Bank is the institution of the European Union (EU) that administers the monetary policy of the 17 EU Eurozone member states. It is thus one of the world's most important central banks. The bank was established by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1998, and is headquartered here in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt am Main, commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of almost 700,000. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010. The city is at the centre of the larger Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region which has a population of 5,600,000 and is Germany's second-largest metropolitan region.

Frankfurt is the financial and transportation centre of Germany and the largest financial centre in continental Europe. It is seat of the European Central Bank, the German Federal Bank, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the Frankfurt Trade Fair, as well as several large commercial banks, e.g. Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and DZ Bank. Frankfurt Airport is one of the world's busiest international airports, Frankfurt Central Station is one of the largest terminal stations in Europe, and the Frankfurter Kreuz is one of the most heavily used Autobahn interchanges in Europe. Frankfurt lies in the former American Occupation Zone of Germany, and it was formerly the headquarters city of the U.S. Army in Germany.

Frankfurt is considered an alpha world city as listed by the Loughborough University group's 2010 inventory, was ranked 20th among global cities by Foreign Policy's 2010 Global Cities Index and was ranked 6th among global cities for economic and social innovation by the 2thinknow Innovation Cities Index in 2010.

Frankfurt is an international centre for commerce, finance, culture, transport, education, and tourism. According to the Mercer cost of living survey, Frankfurt is Germany’s second most expensive city, and the 48th most expensive in the world. Frankfurt also ranks among the 10 most livable cities in the world according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

Bonn – the post-war capital of West Germany

Bonn was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999. Starting in 1998, many national government institutions were moved from Bonn to Berlin. Roughly half of all government jobs were retained as many government departments remained in Bonn and numerous sub-ministerial level government agencies relocated to the former capital from Berlin and other parts of Germany. Bonn has developed into a hub of international cooperation in particular in the area of environment and sustainable development. Bonn The Poppelsdorfer Schloss (picture), in which there is the “Mineralogisch-Petrologische Museum” today.


Cologne – not only perfume

Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city, and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants. Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is the city's most famous monument and the Cologne residents' most respected landmark. It is a Gothic church, started in 1248, and completed in 1880.

Eau de Cologne, “Water of Cologne”, is a toiletry, a perfume in a style that originated from Cologne. As of today cologne is a blend of extracts, alcohol, and water. Colognes are used by men and women but are generally marketed to men as an alternative to perfume.


Bremen – go sailing or fishing!

Bremen is a Hanseatic city in north-western Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the river Weser, Bremen is part of the Bremen-Oldenburg metropolitan area (2.4 million people). Bremen is the second most populous city in North Germany and tenth in Germany. With Bremerhaven right on the mouth the two comprise the state of Bremen. The Bremen Ports are among the most important universal harbours of Europe. The air of a seafaring port bursts from every corner of the busy but young seaport, which offers a range of attractions along miles of waterfront promenades, in generous areas of parkland and on the scenic River Geeste.



Hamburg – the cosmopolitan Hansa town

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany and the seventh-largest city in the European Union. The city is home to over 1.8 million people, while the Hamburg Metropolitan Region has more than 4.3 million inhabitants. Situated on the river Elbe, the port of Hamburg is the third-largest port in Europe and it is among the twenty largest in the world.

Hamburg's official name is the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. It reflects Hamburg's history as a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, and also the fact that Hamburg is a city-state and one of the sixteen States of Germany.

Hamburg is a major transport hub in Northern Germany and is one of the most affluent cities in Europe.

Wehave arrived at Hamburg, the world's leading Hanseaticcity.This is aremarkable, powerful metropolis that alsoclearly display sits traditional past in contact with the North Sea and Baltic Sea. This is also the place to go for tasty North-European seafood...


Quedlinburg – where the name Lithuania was first mentioned

We leave Hamburg, drive south-east, to Quendlinburg, a small town of about 23,000 inhabitants, near the Harz Mountains in Germany’s western Saxon-Anhalt, virtually the heart of Germany. This town is a treasure which is rapidly evolving into a prime tourist attraction, particularly for non-Germans. And Lithuanians are first in the queue!

A rare combination of ancient, medieval and modern historical and artistic treasures are making it a "must" for visitors, much as Rothenburg, Trier, Lübeck and other German historical gems.

Unlike the others, such as Aachen, where Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse) held sway over the Franks,Quedlinburg

is the birthplace of a Nation. For it was here in 919 A.D. that a Diet of noble ducal peers elected a German King, the Saxon Duke Heinrich, monarch of Germany-everything--, rather than merely a ruler of a local domain such as Bavarian or Rhenish or Hessian lands.

And this first hegemony extended for more than three centuries until Germany dissolved into almost 300 tiny city-states, provinces and squabbling communities, only to be reunited in 1871.



The first written occurrence of the name LITHUANIA has been

traced to the Annals from Quedlinburg Abbey, dated to 9 March year 1009

"Sanctus Bruno, qui cognominatur Bonifacius, archiepiscopus et monachus, XI suae conversionis anno in confinio Ruscia et Litua a paganis capite plexus, cum suis XVIII, VII. Id. Martii petiit coelos."
Quedlinburg Abbey.

The Annals of Quedlinburg were written between 1008 and 1030 in the convent of Quedlinburg Abbey. In recent years a consensus has emerged that the annalist was a woman. The annals are mostly dedicated to the history of the Holy Roman Empire; they also contain the first written mention of the name of Lithuania ("Litua"), dated to 1009. The original document has disappeared, surviving only as a 16th-century copy held in Dresden, but its contents endure as a scholarly resource.

The city of Quedlinburg, Germany, was first mentioned in writing in a document dated to 922. Saint Mathilda founded a religious community for women at its abbey, serving as abbess from 966 to 999. The abbey became a premier educational institution for the female nobles of Saxony, and maintained its mission for nearly 900 years. The city served as an imperial palatinate of the Saxon emperors, where Henry the Fowler, the founder of the Ottonian dynasty, was buried. Quedlinburg was situated not far from Magdeburg, the Royal Assembly of the empire, and its annalists could therefore rely on genuine information from the royal house and obtain eyewitness accounts.The city lost some stature under the rule of Henry II, who broke with the tradition of celebrating Easter there; the Annals portray him unfavorably, and demonstrate the extent to which a royal monastery was entitled to criticize its monarch.

The Annals open with a chronicle of world history from the time of Adam to the Third Council of Constantinople in 680-681, based on chronicles by Jerome, Isidore, and Bede. The narrative is largely borrowed from multiple older sources until the year 1002, although original reports from as early as 852 are present. Beginning in 993, the narrative begins including events which represent the annalist's own eyewitness testimony concerning events at and around Quedlinburg. The amount of detail increases significantly from 1008 onwards, leading some analysts to conclude that 1008 was the actual date that the Annals were first compiled, although Robert Holzman argues for a start date of 1000. It has been suggested that the annalist temporarily abandoned the project between 1016 and 1021. The exact reasons for this suspension of the work are unknown. Work on the project continued between 1021 and 1030, when its authors were able to report a military victory against Mieszko II.

The primary task of the annalists was to record the heritage of the Ottonian dynasty and of Quedlinburg itself. The Annals incorporate the stories of a number of historic and legendary figures such as Attila the Hun, King Dietrich of the Goths, and others. The historian Felice Lifshitz has suggested that amount of saga material integrated into its narrative is without parallel.

The Annals of Quedlinburg became an important research source; during the 12th century they were used at least by five contemporary historians. Felice Lifshitz asserts that the Annals of Quedlinburg played a key role in shaping the ways in which influential Germans of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw their medieval past. They continue to be analyzed in other contexts: by scholars of Beowulf discussing its use of the term Hugones to mean Franks, by climatologists, and in a book discussing fear of the millennium.

The first written occurrence of Lithuania's name has been traced to the Quedlinburg Annals and dated to 9 March 1009.The passage reads:

"Sanctus Bruno, qui cognominatur Bonifacius, archiepiscopus et monachus, XI suae conversionis anno in confinio Ruscia et Litua a paganis capite plexus, cum suis XVIII, VII. Id. Martii petiit coelos."

"[In 1009] St. Bruno, an archbishop and monk, who was called Boniface, was struck in the head by Pagans during the 11th year of this conversion at the Rus and Lithuanian border, and along with 18 of his followers, entered heaven on March 9th."

From other sources that describe Bruno of Querfurt, it is clear that this missionary attempted to Christianize the pagan king Netimer and his subjects. However, Netimer's brother, refusing to accept Christianity, killed Bruno and his followers. The historian Alfredas Bumblauskas has suggested that the story records the first baptismal attempt in the history of Lithuania.

Quedlinburg Abbey was a house of secular canonesses in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was founded in 936 on the initiative of Saint Mathilda, the widow of Henry the Fowler, as his memorial. For many centuries it enjoyed great prestige and influence.

Quedlinburg Abbey was founded on the castle hill of Quedlinburg in the present Saxony-Anhalt in 936 by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, at the request of his mother Queen Matilda, later canonised as Saint Matilda, in honour of her late husband, Otto's father, King Henry the Fowler, and as his memorial. Henry was buried here, as was Matilda herself.

The "Kaiserlich freie weltliche Reichsstift Quedlinburg" ("Free secular Imperial abbey of Quedlinburg"), as its full style was until its dissolution in 1802, consisted of a proprietary church of the Imperial family to which was attached a college of secular canonesses (Stiftsdamen), a community of the unmarried daughters of the greater nobility and royalty leading a godly life.

Thanks to its Imperial connections the new foundation attracted rich endowments and was soon a wealthy and thriving community. Ecclesiastically, the abbess was exempt from the jurisdiction of her diocesan, the Bishop of Halberstadt, and subject to no superior except the Pope. The bishops of Halberstadt were constantly engaged in dispute with the abbesses, as they claimed to have spiritual jurisdiction over the abbey in virtue of subjection of women to men. In her political relations, the abbess was a princess of the Holy Roman Empire, entitled to seat in the College of Princes and a vote at the Diets.

During the Reformation the abbey became Protestant, under Abbess Anna II (Countess of Stolberg).

After the German Mediatisation of 1803 the abbey was taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia as the Principality of Quedlinburg.



Magdeburg – the city that set rules for Lithuanian towns

There is more Lithuanian related history traces here in this area of Germany. We go to Magdeburg, the largest city and the capital city of the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe River and was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe.

Emperor Otto I, the first Holy Roman Emperor, lived for most of his reign in the town and was buried in the cathedral after his death. Magdeburg's version of German town law, known as Magdeburg rights, spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The city is also well known for the 1631 Sack of Magdeburg, which hardened Protestant resistance during the Thirty Years' War.

Nowadays Magdeburg is a traffic junction as well as an industrial and trading centre, with a population more than 230 000. The production of chemical products, steel, paper and textiles are of particular economic significance, along with Mechanical engineering and plant engineering, Ecotechnology and life-cycle management, Health management and Logistics. Along with ten other cities in Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia, Magdeburg is a member of the Central German Metropolitan Region.

The town's main symbol –the Cathedral of Magdeburg.
Photo: Prinz Wilbert



Vilnius was granted Magdeburg rights on the 22nd of March 1387


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Jogaila, (1362 – 1434), was Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland. He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle, Kęstutis. In 1386, he converted to Christianity.
In 1387 he granted Vilnius Magdeburg rights.

Magdeburg Rights or Magdeburg Law were a set of German town laws regulating the degree of internal autonomy within cities and villages granted by a local ruler.

Modelled and named after the laws of the German city of Magdeburg and developed during many centuries of the Holy Roman Empire, it was possibly the most important set of Germanic mediæval city laws. Adopted by numerous monarchs in Central and Eastern Europe, the law was a milestone in urbanization of the region and prompted the development of thousands of villages and cities.

In February 1387Lithuania’s Grand Duke Jogaila began to institute reforms in Lithuania, which were required by the conditions for the union with Poland. On February 17th, he established the Vilnius Bishopric. On February 20th, he declared the first of the privileges to the Lithuanian nobility, who had accepted Christianity. The privileges were the granting of rights equal to those held by the Polish nobility.

On February 22nd, he ordered all Lithuanians to accept the Catholic faith. Soon thereafter, he also established the first 7 parishes. The christening of Lithuania proved to be a tremendous social upheaval, even though Lithuania with her Pagan faith already exhibited the most important elements of civilisation, including brick architecture and writing. The Pagan Dukes were as advanced, as to go on military manoeuvres bringing a personal office with them. For example, the travelling bag of Skirgaila, which fell into the hands of the Crusaders in 1385, was found to contain "Ruthenian privileges sealed in lead."

On the 22nd of March 1387, Jogaila granted Magdeburg Rights to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Kaunas was granted Magdeburg Rights by Grand Duke Vytautas the Great in 1408, Trakai in 1409.



Leipzig is, along with Dresden, one of the two largest cities in the federal state of Saxony, Germany. Both have a population of about 525,000. Leipzig is situated about a hundred miles south of Berlin at the confluence of the Weisse Elster, Pleisse and Parthe rivers at the southerly end of the North German Plain.

Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing. After World War II, Leipzig became a major urban centre within the Communist German Democratic Republic but its cultural and economic importance declined.

Leipzig later played a significant role in instigating the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through events which took place in and around St. Nicholas Church. Since the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others, and the development of a modern transport infrastructure. Leipzig has many institutions and opportunities for culture and recreation including a football stadium which has hosted some international matches, an opera house and a zoo.

In 2010 Leipzig was included in the top 10 of cities to visit by the New York Times.

Leipzig, old town hall
The Old Townhall of Leipzig is one of the most important Renaissance buildings in Germany.
It was constructed in just nine month in 1556/57 under the direction of the Leipzig architect
Hieronymus Lotter.



Lithuania’s national painter and composer, Mikolajus K. Čiurlionis,

studied here in Leipzig 1901-1902


Čiurlionis studied composition under Professor Carl Reinecke and counterpoint under Salomon Jadassohn at the Leipzig Conservatoire in 1901-1902. As an external student he attended lectures in aesthetics, history and psychology. He listened to his favourite compositions by Handel, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Liszt at the Gewandhaus and Leipzig Theatre. He studied independently orchestration of Berlioz and R. Strauss compositions at the library of C.F. Peters’ publishing house.

During his Leipzig period, he composed the symphonic overtureKęstutis, a string quartet in four movements, canons and fugues including Sanctus and Kyrie for mixed choir. During his vacations he did some drawing.



Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area.

Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence for the Electors and Kings of Saxony, who for centuries furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendour. The city was known as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo city centre. A controversial Allied aerial bombing towards the end of World War II killed thousands of civilians and destroyed the entire city. The impact of the bombing and 40 years of urban development during the East German communist era have considerably changed the face of the city. Some restoration work has helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city, including the Katholische Hofkirche, the Semper Oper and the Dresdner Frauenkirche. Since the German reunification in 1990, Dresden has regained importance as one of the cultural, educational, political and economic centres of Germany, with a population of more than half a million.

Dresden in the 20th century was a leading European centre of art, classical music, culture and science until its complete destruction on 13 February 1945. Being the capital of the German state of Saxony, Dresden had not only garrisons but a whole military borough, the Albertstadt. This military complex, named after Saxon King Albert, was never targeted in the bombing of Dresden.

During the final months of World War II, Dresden became a safe haven to some 600,000 refugees, including women, children, and wounded soldiers, with a total population of 1.2 million. Dresden was attacked seven times between 1944 and 1945, and was occupied by the Red Army after German capitulation.

The bombing of Dresden by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force between 13 February and 15 February 1945 remains one of the more controversial Allied actions of the Western European theatre of war.

The inner city of Dresden was largely destroyed by 722 RAF and 527 USAAF bombers that dropped 2431.0 tons of high explosive bombs, and 1475.9 tons of incendiaries.The high explosive bombs damaged buildings and exposed their wooden structure, while the incendiaries ignited it. The bombing raid destroyed the 500 year-old Cathedral, along with almost all of the ancient centre of the city. The German Dresden Historians' Commission, in an official 2010 report published after five years of research, concluded there were up to 25,000 civilian casualties, while right-wing groups claim that up to 500,000 people died.


Lithuanian war refugees in Germany after World War II

In the summer and autumn of 1944 thousands of Lithuanian refugees left their homeland ahead of the advancing Soviet Army and headed West. The overwhelming majority chose to flee not because they had collaborated with the Germans, and thus feared retribution, but because they had directly experienced the horrors of the first Soviet occupation (1940-41) and did not anticipate that the second occupation would be better. They fled, however, with every hope and intention of returning home after the defeat of Nazi Germany, but by 1951 the majority had emigrated to the Anglo-Saxon countries or to Latin America.

At the end of World War II there were approximately 60,000 Lithuanians in Western Europe. From this number nearly 50,000 were refugees who fled in 1944. The remaining 10,000 consisted of individuals who had been liberated from Nazi concentration camps, those who had repatriated to Germany at the beginning of the war, single young men and women who were forcibly taken to Germany for work, and prisoners of war (most were forcibly conscripted into the German Army). Obviously a considerably larger number of Lithuanians left Lithuania in the second half of 1944 than the number mentioned. Many were trapped by the rapidly advancing Red Army in Poland and East Germany. Their actual number and their fate remain unknown.

The end of hostilities brought a sense of relief to most of the Europeans, but not to the Lithuanian and other Baltic refugees. Because of the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union, their political status was not clear, and many Baits feared and suspected that they were in danger of being forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union. This sense of uncertainty was evident in the Lithuanian refugee publications, as in the following: "The Lithuanians who had suffered so much do not have a free country to return to. Nor is their present position in any way secure, nor is there a guarantee that the Americans and the English will not betray them to a new slavery." Such fears were not unfounded.


Here some VilNews stories about Lithuanian refugees in post-war Germany:
Vanda Sliupas

DP Camp brochure

Rimgaudas Vidziunas
Rimgaudas Vidziunas
Regina Narusiene




File:Brandenburger Tor Nachts.JPG
Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate.

Berlin is the capital city of Germany and one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in north-eastern Germany, it is the centre of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which has 4.4 million residents from over 190 nations. Located in the European Plains, Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one third of the city's area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes.

First documented in the 13th century, Berlin was the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (1933–1945). Berlin in the 1920s was the third largest municipality in the world. After World War II, the city became divided into East Berlin—the capital of East Germany—and West Berlin, a West German exclave surrounded by the Berlin Wall (1961–1989). Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital of Germany, hosting 147 foreign embassies.

Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media, and science. Its economy is primarily based on the service sector, encompassing a diverse range of creative industries, media corporations, and convention venues. Berlin also serves as a continental hub for air and rail transport, and is a popular tourist destination. Significant industries include IT, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, biotechnology, electronics, traffic engineering, and renewable energy.

Berlin is home to renowned universities, research institutes, orchestras, museums, and celebrities, as well as host of many sporting events. Its urban settings and historical legacy have made it a popular location for international film productions. The city is well known for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts, public transportation networks and a high quality of living.


Most famous attractions of Berlin
Layer upon layer of Berlin’s urban history is located in Alexanderplatz, interweaving centuries of social, political, and architectural history and repeatedly the subject of public debate and urban design competitions.more»
Berliner Dom
The Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), completed in 1905, is Berlin’s largest and most important Protestant church as well as the sepulchre of the Prussian Hohenzollern dynasty.more»

Friedrichstadt-Palast(Externer Link)
Experience Berlin's biggest Show in Europe's largest Show Palace, "Yma - too beautiful to be true". Can you fall in love with a show? Yes, with this one, you can.more»(Externer Link)
Brandenburger Tor
The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most important monuments – a landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history.more»
Checkpoint CharlieCheckpoint Charlie, along with Glienicker Brücke (Glienicker Bridge) was the best known border-crossing of Cold War days.more»



The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989


Berlin had been politically divided since the end of World War II, with the eastern portion of the city serving as the capitol of German Democratic Republic. The two parts of the city were physically divided in 1961 with the construction of the Berlin Wall, the most visible expression of the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall was opened on November 9, 1989 it marked for many the symbolic end of that war.

To find the cause of the fall of the Berlin Wall, one must look, not in Germany, but in the Soviet Union. The change began when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union in 1985. He tried to make changes in the state bureaucracy and in the Communist party by restructuring the economy’s production and distribution system, a plan now known as perestroika. In addition, Gorbachev also allowed for the policy of glasnost, or public criticism of the communist party. Gorbachev’s reform contributed to the breakup of the centralized structure of the USSR. During this time some states such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania declared their independence. In 1989, Gorbachev shifted his policies toward the satellite states of the communist block in Eastern Europe, including Germany.

In effect, the politics in Germany also began to lead toward the destruction of the wall. In the fall of 1989, there was an antigovernment demonstration in East Germany. In mid-October 1989, the Politburo forced the resignation of Erich Honecker, the leader of the GDR (German Democratic Republic). In this way, Erich Honecker was ousted from office, and others soon followed. By the first week of November, the entire Politburo and all of the members of the East German cabinet resigned.The new Prime minister, Hans Modrow, announced plans to decentralize the economy and an easing of travel restrictions. This allowed the East Germans, from the communist sector, to cross the border into the west, the Allied sector.

At this point, East Germany began to reform. Then on November 9, 1989, the leader of the East Berlin communist party, Gunter Schabowski, announced that the border with West Berlin would be opened for "private trips abroad." Masses of people started to use hammers and chisels to knock out pieces of the wall. Shortly thereafter, on November 10, 1989 and later on December 22, 1989 checkpoints were opened at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenberg Gate. On March 18, 1990, free elections in East Germany took place for the first time in 58 years.By July 1, 1990, the wall tumbled down and Germany was completely united. As a result, a massive emigration from East to West began, which has left economic and emotional scars that can only be healed by the hard work and understanding of generations to come. But on the day that the wall fell will stand out in all of history, as a day when friends and family and an entire nation were reunited, while tears of joy were being shed by all.


The wall came down in 1989

Brothers and Sisters torn apart
Longed for each other with pain in the heart
Mothers in tears held their arms toward the sky
"Where are my children, who took them and why"
A wall stood between them and gave them no rest
The wall in Berlin, between East and West.
Thousands tried passing, were caught and would fall
She claimed her victims, the cursed wall
But their longing and pain was stronger than fear
As they tried to come home year after year.
Their country divided, that's why they tried
And their hope for reunion never died.
East Germans, West Germans all felt the same
Through tunnels and over the Wall they came.
Many were captured, suffered torture and shame
Still they fought that wall again and again.
At Last their pain gave birth to a cry
"Free us! Unite us! before we all die"
Against their oppressors their outrage they hurledAnd their plea found an echo all over the world,
Then they marched, like in battle, with tools in their hand,
And attacked the concrete that divided their land.
Each chip that fell, fell toward victories crown
And they never stopped till the wall was down
Through blood and through tears, through sorrow and strife
East Germany kept her dream alive
And today, 1990, October three
There's no East, there's no West, they are one, they are "Free!"

by Ruth Carlson

Category : Blog archive

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Stronger German-Lithuanian ties

President Dalia Grybauskaite met with members of the German Bundestag’s Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the Baltic States in a meeting that focused on issues relevant for the whole of Europe and key priorities of Lithuania’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union, reports ELTA.

“Germany is a very important partner for Lithuania and for our entire region. The dialogue of our countries has notably intensified over the past few years. Germany’s support to our aspirations for energy independence is particularly significant for Lithuania. Lithuania also appreciates Germany’s support in preparations for the presidency of the EU Council,” the president said.

Category : News

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From Strasbourg to

Benelux and England

Tour guide, writer and photographer: Aage Myhre



VilNews is on its way around Europe!
Throughout May/June you are all invited on a
journey from north to south, from east to west. Some
articles will dwell with history. Some with Lithuanian contact
points in various countries. I have travelled across Europe with
camera and notepad for nearly 40 years and hope you will enjoy seeing
and reading about some of my experiences. Today's tour starts in Alsace,
France, and continues through Benelux to Oxford, England. Have a nice trip!

Our today’s trip starts here in fantastic Strasbourg at the French-German border.
From here we go north-west, briefly visiting Germany, then through the
Benelux countries, crossing the Canal into good old England
to visit London, Cambridge and Oxford.

Strasbourg and Alsace

Strasbourg centre is built on an island. Fantastic waterways, excellent riverside restaurants...
Photo: Aage Myhre

Getting to Strasbourg is for me like coming home. It was here I lived one year to study architectural psychology in the 1980s at Université Louis Pasteur, after my architect studies back home in Norway. Strasbourg is an architectural gem, and a city full of life, sounds, smells ... Fantastic food, good wine, good beer. The best of German and French culture in perfect harmony. This is a city I love!

Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking, explaining the city's Germanic name. In 2006, the city proper had 272,975 inhabitants and its urban community 467,375 inhabitants. With 638,670 inhabitants in 2006, Strasbourg's metropolitan area (aire urbaine) (only the part of the metropolitan area on French territory) is the ninth largest in France. The transnational Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau had a population of 884,988 inhabitants in 2008.

Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of the European Union. The city is the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine.

Strasbourg's historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is fused into the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

Economically, Strasbourg is an important centre of manufacturing and engineering, as well as of road, rail, and river communications. The port of Strasbourg is the second largest on the Rhine after Duisburg, Germany. In terms of city rankings, Strasbourg has been ranked third in France and 18th globally for innovation.

The Strasbourg Cathedral is 142 m high

Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg is a Roman Catholic cathedral. Although considerable parts of it are still in Romanesque architecture, it is widely considered to be among the finest examples of high, or late, Gothic architecture. Erwin von Steinbach is credited for major contributions from 1277 to his death in 1318. At 142 metres (466 feet), it was the world's tallest building from 1647 to 1874, when it was surpassed by St. Nikolai's Church, Hamburg. Today it is the sixth-tallest church in the world. Described by Victor Hugo as a "gigantic and delicate marvel", and by Goethe as a "sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God", the cathedral is visible far across the plains of Alsace and can be seen from as far off as the Vosges Mountains or the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine. Sandstone from the Vosges used in construction gives the cathedral its characteristic pink hue.

The European Parliament is situated in Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament. The institution is legally bound to meet there twelve sessions a year lasting about four days each. Other work takes place in Brussels and Luxembourg City. Also all votes of the European Parliament must take place in Strasbourg. "Additional" sessions and committees take place in Brussels. Although de facto a majority of the Parliament's work is now geared to its Brussels site, but it is legally bound to keep Strasbourg as its official home.

The Parliament's buildings are located in the Quartier Européen (European Quarter) of the city, which it shares with other European organisations which are separate from the European Union's. Previously the Parliament used to share the same assembly room as the Council of Europe. Today, the principal building is the Louise Weiss building (left), inaugurated in 1999.


Lithuanian members in the European Parliament – they are there for you!

Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ

Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ
Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)MemberLithuania Tėvynės sąjunga - Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai

Zigmantas BALČYTIS

Zigmantas BALČYTIS
Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European ParliamentMemberLithuania Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija


Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European ParliamentMemberLithuania Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija

Leonidas DONSKIS

Leonidas DONSKIS
Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for EuropeMember of the BureauLithuania Lietuvos Respublikos liberalų sąjūdis


Europe of freedom and democracy GroupMemberLithuania Partija Tvarka ir teisingumas


Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)Member of the BureauLithuania Tėvynės sąjunga - Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai


Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)MemberLithuania Tėvynės sąjunga - Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai

Rolandas PAKSAS

Rolandas PAKSAS
Europe of freedom and democracy GroupVice-Chair/Member of the BureauLithuania Partija Tvarka ir teisingumas

Justas Vincas PALECKIS

Justas Vincas PALECKIS
MemberGroup of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European ParliamentMemberLithuania Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija


Member Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)MemberLithuania Tėvynės sąjunga - Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai


Member European Conservatives and Reformists GroupMember of the BureauLithuania Lietuvos lenkų rinkimų akcija


Member Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for EuropeMember of the BureauLithuania Darbo partija

Alsace – the land of amazingly aromatic white wines...

The eastern side of the river Rhine south of Strasbourg is German territory. On the western side lies Alsace. My favourite town here is Riquewihr, a romantic little medieval town at the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. This is the village of wine. Not far away are the picturesque towns of Colmar, Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, Eguisheim and Kaysersberg. Alsace has changed between being German and French five times since the 1800s. The unique combination of history, culture, nature, food and wine makes Alsace one of Europe's most attractive destinations.

The name "Alsace" can be traced back to the Old High German Ali-saz or Elisaz, meaning "foreign domain". An alternative explanation derives it from a Germanic Ell-sass, meaning "seated on the Ill", a river in Alsace. The region was historically part of the Holy Roman Empire. It was gradually annexed by France in the 17th century under kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV and made one of the provinces of France. Alsace is frequently mentioned in conjunction with Lorraine, because German possession of parts of these two régions (as the imperial province Alsace-Lorraine, 1871–1918) was contested in the 19th and 20th centuries, during which Alsace changed hands four times between France and Germany in 75 years. Although the historical language of Alsace is Alsatian, today all Alsatians speak French, the official language of France. About 39% of the adult population, and probably less than 10% of the children, are fluent in Alsatian. There is therefore a substantial bilingual population in contemporary Alsace.

The fantastic Alsace wines, which for historical reasons have a strong Germanic influence, are produced under three different Appellations d'Origine Contrôlées (AOCs): Alsace AOC for white, rosé and red wines, Alsace Grand Cru AOC for white wines from certain classified vineyards and Crémant d'Alsace AOC for sparkling wines. Both dry and sweet white wines are produced, and are often made from aromatic grapes varieties. Along with Austria and Germany, it produces some of the most noted dry Rieslings in the world, but on the export market, Alsace is perhaps even more noted for highly aromatic Gewürztraminer wines.

Riquewihr is the most romantic...

Riquewihr (France), maybe the most romantic medieval city in Alsace, is hidden among vineyards and Vosges mountains
The wine village Riquewihr is the most romantic medieval city in Alsace, hidden among vineyards and the Vosges mountains. Riquewihr looks today more or less as it did in the 16th century.

Want to get a taste of Alsace in Vilnius?
The "Balzac" restaurant in Vilnius Old Town is owned and run by Thomas Teiten from northern Alsace, living in Lithuania already for several years. His restaurant was recently voted the best restaurant in Lithuania.
French cuisine, and more than 40 kinds of selected French wines. A bientôt ! More info


From Choucroute to Madame Tussauds

Place Gutenberg is one of my favourite squares in Strasbourg. Here I sit a beautiful autumn day, behind the glass windows of one of the many restaurants around the square. I eat ‘Choucroute (sauerkraut)', an

Alsatian specialty consisting of salt pork, sausages, cabbage and potatoes. With a lot of mustard – and a large tankard of beer from the Kronenbourg brewery in the city outskirts, established in 1664.

Johann Gutenberg (1398-1468), the man who is credited with the invention of the printing art, lived here in Strasbourg for 10 years. But his first printing press he built after moving from here, back to his hometown

Mainz in Germany. Without Gutenberg, Martin Luther hardly been able to implement his reformation plans 150 years later. At least not with such far-reaching effects.

Choucroute (sauerkraut).
Madame Tussaud,
self-portrait in wax.

I had long planned a journey to England. So here I sit. Reading. I find that the very symbol of London, wax queen Marie Tussaud (1761-1850) was born under the name Anna Maria Grosholtz here in Strasbourg. Soon I follow in her

footsteps to London where her wax museum had its modest beginnings in 1835.

Fun to drive on the other side of the road, I think when we drive up from the ferry port of Dover. We come to London, the city you simply can never get tired of. We visit Cambridge and Oxford. Seeing two of theworld's leading student

cities. Watching a student rowing competition. Proceed to the 'Lake District' and to Liverpool. Green, rolling hills outside the car windows. We like the English.

But not their food so much.

Trier – where witches were burned

A common witch-hunting method was ‘swimming’ or ‘ducking’, whereby the accused was tied hand and foot and immersed in deep water. If the accused witch floated, the water (God’s creature) had rejected her and she was deemed guilty; if she sank (and drowned), she was deemed innocent. The accused could also be pricked all over with a sharp instrument (known as “pricking”) in the search for insensitive spots where the Devil had (visibly or invisibly) marked them. Other, more traditional, tortures were also used to elicit confessions and accusations against accomplices, including thumbscrews, leg vices, whipping stocks with iron spikes, scalding lime baths, prayer stools furnished with sharp pegs, racks, and the strappado (hoisting on a pulley to pull the arms from the sockets).Execution by burning, especially the particular form commonly called “burning at the stake” in which the condemned were bound to a large stake surrounded by burning faggots of wood, had a long history as a method of punishment for crimes such as treason and heresy. It was also used as a punishment for witchcraft during this period, although it was actually less common than hanging, pressing or drowning.

The ducking stool was a common method of interrogation and punishment during witch trials
The ducking stool was a common method of interrogation and punishment during witch trials (from


The Witch trials of Trier in Germany in the years from 1581 to 1593 was the perhaps biggest witch trial in Europe. The persecutions started in the diocese of Trier in 1581 and reached the city itself in 1587, where it was to lead to the death of about three hundred and sixty eight people, and was as such the perhaps biggest mass-execution in Europe in peace time. This counts only the executed within the city itself, and the real number of executed, counting also the executed in the entire witch hunts within the diocese as a whole, was thereby even larger. The exact number of executed have never been established; 1000 in total have been suggested but not confirmed.

Trier, today a beautiful city in western Germany was historically called in English Treves. The city is located on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC. Trier lies in a valley between low vine-covered hills of ruddy sandstone in the west of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border with Luxembourg and within the important Mosel wine region.

Luxembourg – richest in Europe

Luxembourg is by far the richest country in the European Union in terms of gross domestic product per capita, five times more affluent than Lithuania.

The European Union's statistics office Eurostat says GDP per capita measured in purchasing power standard (PPS) was 283 in Luxembourg in 2010, against the euro zone average of 108 and 58 for Lithuania.

The wealth of Luxembourg is partly due to the large number of people from neighbouring France, Germany and Belgium who work, but do not live in Luxembourg, therefore contributing to GDP but not being counted for the division of the wealth. The Netherlands was the second richest country in the EU, with GDP per capita less than half of Luxembourg's at 134 PPS. Denmark and Austria came in third with 127 PPS.

Central and eastern European countries remained at the bottom of the wealth table -- Romania was second poorest with 45 PPS, Latvia third from the bottom with 52, Lithuania fourth with 58 and the region's biggest country, Poland, fifth poorest with 62 PPS per capita.

GDP per capita in countries outside the EU: United States - 146 PPS, Switzerland - 146 PPS, Norway - 181 PPS.

File:Luxembourg Fortress from Adolphe Bridge 02 c67.jpg
Luxembourg City.
Photo: Wikipedia.

Luxembourg is a landlocked country, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland ("good country") in the south. Luxembourg has a population of over half a million people in an area of approximately 2,586 square kilometres (998 sq mi). A representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, it is ruled by a grand duke. It is now the world's only remaining sovereign grand duchy. The country has a highly developed economy, with the world's highest GDP (nominal) per capita according to the IMF. Its historic and strategic importance dates back to its founding as a Roman era fortress site and Frankish count's castle site in the Early Middle Ages. It was an important bastion along the Spanish Road when Spain was the principal European power influencing the whole western hemisphere and beyond in the 16th–17th centuries.

Luxembourg is a member of the European Union, NATO, OECD, the United Nations, and Benelux, reflecting the political consensus in favour of economic, political, and military integration. The city of Luxembourg, the largest and capital city, is the seat of several institutions and agencies of the EU.

Luxembourg culture is a mix of Romance Europe and Germanic Europe, borrowing customs from each of the distinct traditions. Luxembourg is a trilingual country; German, French and Luxembourgish are official languages. Although a secular state, Luxembourg is predominantly Roman Catholic.

The sub-marine Netherlands


NETHERLAND > Nether – Land, Nether = Neder (Dutch) = Low, Land = Land (Dutch) = Land; = LOWLANDS

The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. The country capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government is The Hague. The Netherlands in its entirety is often referred to as Holland, although North and South Holland are actually only two of its twelve provinces.

The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 25% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and 50% of its land lying less than one metre above sea level. This distinct feature contributes to the country's name in many other European languages (e.g. German: Niederlande, French: Les Pays-Bas, Italian: Paesi Bassi and Spanish: Países Bajos, literally mean "(The) Low Countries"). Significant land area has been gained through land reclamation and preserved through an elaborate system of polders and dikes. Much of the Netherlands is formed by the estuary of three important European rivers, which together with their distributaries form the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta. Most of the country is very flat, with the exception of foothills in the far southeast and several low-hill ranges in the central parts.

The Netherlands was one of the first countries to have an elected parliament. Among other affiliations the country is a founding member of the EU, NATO, OECD and WTO. With Belgium and Luxembourg it forms the Benelux economic union. The country is host to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in The Hague as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. This has led to the city being dubbed "the world's legal capital".

Maastricht in southern Netherlands – birthplace of EU and EURO...

The Maastricht Treaty (formally, the Treaty on European Union or TEU) was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands. On 9–10 December 1991, the same city hosted the European Council which drafted the treaty. Upon its entry into force on 1 November 1993 during the Delors Commission, it created the European Union and led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro.

Lithuania originally set 1 January 2007 as the target date for joining the euro, as per the Maastricht Treaty, but the application was rejected by the European Commission because inflation was slightly higher (0.1%) than the permitted maximum. Lithuania has later expressed interest in a suggestion from the IMF that countries who aren't able to meet the Maastricht criteria should be able to "partially adopt" the euro, using the currency but not getting a seat at the European Central Bank.

Amsterdam – canals and red lights…

Amsterdam is an amazing city, filled with impressive architecture and beautiful canals that meander throughout the city. This is the capital of the Netherlands, and is a very popular travel destination for tourists from all over the world. There is literally something for every type of traveller, whether they may have a preference for history and culture, a vibrant night life, or simply the calming charm of an old European city. Amsterdam is the largest city in Netherlands and is considered to be the creative and cultural centre of this region of Europe.

Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,158,592. The city is in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 7 million. Its name is derived from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city's origin: a dam in the river Amstel. Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city center. Amsterdam's main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops draw more than 3.66 million international visitors annually.

Rotterdam – Europe’s largest port

Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam on the Rotte river, built in 1270, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre. Its strategic location at the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta on the North Sea and at the heart of a massive rail, road, air and inland waterway distribution system extending throughout Europe deliver the reason that Rotterdam is often called the Gateway to Europe.

Located in the Province of South Holland, Rotterdam is found in the west of the Netherlands and at the south end of the Randstad. The population of the city proper was 616,003 in November 2011. The population of the greater Rotterdam area, called "Rotterdam-Rijnmond" or just "Rijnmond", is around 1.3 million people. Rotterdam is one of Europe's most vibrant and multicultural cities. It is known for its university (Erasmus), its cutting-edge architecture, and lively cultural life. A striking riverside setting, Rotterdam's maritime heritage and the Rotterdam Blitz should also be added to the list.

Along the centre of Rotterdam, one can experience the thriving river with lots of traffic, a freeway on water if you wish, connecting its huge, modern port with the hinterland of Europe. The largest port in Europe and still one of the busiest ports in the world, the port of Rotterdam was the world's busiest port from 1962 to 2004, at which point it was surpassed by Shanghai. Rotterdam's commercial and strategic importance is based on its location near the mouth of the Nieuwe Maas (New Meuse), one of the channels in the delta formed by the Rhine and Meuse on the North Sea. These rivers lead directly into the centre of Europe, including the industrial Ruhr region.
Rotterdam is famous for its innovative architecture. Its impressive skyline can be seen from afar, enhancing the city’s imposing appearance characterised by such landmarks as the Euromast observation tower and the swan-like curve of the Erasmus Bridge. Photo: www.trendcocktailcom


Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466 – 1536) is quoted as stating;

“I congratulate this nation [Lithuania] which now, in sciences, jurisprudence, morals, and religion, and in all that separates us from barbarism, is so flourishing that it can rival the first and most glorious of nations.”

Erasmus, a.k.a. Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, (1466 -1536) was a Dutch humanist and theologian. He was born Geert Geertsen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Erasmus died in 1536 in Basel, Switzerland. One of the most famous and amusing quotes from the noted scholar and translator Erasmus was, "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

The Erasmus Programme (EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students), a.k.a. Erasmus Project is a European Union (EU) student exchange programme established in 1987. It forms a major part of the EU Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013, and is the operational framework for the European Commission's initiatives in higher education.

The Hague – the city of justice

The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants it is the third largest city of the Netherlands. The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State, but the city is not the capital of the Netherlands which constitutionally is Amsterdam. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands lives at Huis ten Bosch and works at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague. All foreign embassies in the Netherlands and 150 international organisations are located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which makes The Hague one of the major cities hosting the United Nations, along with New York, Vienna and Geneva.

The Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Radovan Karadžić (born 1945) is a former Bosnian Serb politician. He was detained in the United Nations Detention Unit of Scheveningen, accused of war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats during the Siege of Sarajevo, as well as ordering the Srebrenica massacre.

He was a fugitive from 1996 until July 2008 after having been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The indictment concluded there were reasonable grounds for believing he committed war crimes, including genocide against Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat civilians during the Bosnian War (1992–95). While a fugitive he worked at a private clinic in Belgrade specialising in alternative medicine and psychology under the alias Dr. Dragan David Dabić. He was arrested in Belgrade on 21 July 2008 and brought before Belgrade’s War Crimes Court a few days later. He was extradited to The Hague, and is in the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

In August 2008 Karadžić claimed there is a conspiracy against him and refused to enter a plea, therefore the court entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf to all 11 charges. He called the tribunal, chaired by Scottish judge Iain Bonomy, a "court of NATO" disguised as a court of the international community.

In 2009, Karadžić filed a Motion challenging the legal validity and legitimacy of the tribunal, claiming that "the UN Security Council lacked the power to establish the ICTY, violated agreements under international law in so doing, and delegated non-existent legislative powers to the ICTY", to which the Prosecution response was that "The Appeals Chamber has already determined the validity of the Tribunal’s creation in previous decisions which constitute established precedent on this issue", therefore dismissing the Motion.

Wanted poster for Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladic.

Belgium – home of EU and NATO

Prince Lorenz of Belgium Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Princess Astrid of Belgium, Queen Fabiola of Belgium, Queen Paola of Belgium, King Albert of Belgium, Prince Philippe of Belgium, Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Princess Claire of Belgium and Prince Laurent of Belgium pose in front of a Christmas tree at the Royal Palace on December 16, 2009 in Brussels, Belgium.
Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Princess Astrid of Belgium, Queen Fabiola of Belgium, Queen Paola of Belgium, King Albert of Belgium, Prince Philippe of Belgium, Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Princess Claire of Belgium and Prince Laurent of Belgium pose in front of a Christmas tree at the Royal Palace on December 16, 2009 in Brussels, Belgium. 15 December 2009 - Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images Europe.

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.

Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi), and it has a population of about 11 million people. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups, the Dutch-speakers, mostly Flemish (about 60%), and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons (about 40%), plus a small group of German-speakers. Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region. A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in the political history and a complex system of government.

Antwerp – the port city that got famous for diamonds…

port house antwerp 2 Antwerp Port House | Zaha Hadid architects
Wow… The Zaha Hadid architects recently won a competition
for a new port house – headquarters of the Antwerp Port Authority.

Welcome to Antwerp, the world’s diamond city, and the second largest port city of Europe (after Rotterdam in Holland, a few kilometres away).

The Antwerp Diamond Center covers one square mile, housing 1500 diamond companies and 4 diamond bourses. In this highly protected quarter, thousands of highly skilled diamond workers are active to keep up the international quality label ”Cut in Antwerp” based on a tradition of 5 centuries. Millions of diamonds are literally passing through their hands. The Antwerp diamond companies have the best polishers in the world.

On 10 November 2011 a new container train route between China, via Klaipeda Sea Port in Lithuania, to Antwerp, opened. On first trip it was transporting computer-aided equipment by transit from the Chongqing city of China via Lithuania to the second-largest port in Europe.


Brussels – the ‘capital’ of Europe

File:Grand place Brussels.jpg
Photo: Wikipedia.

The Grand Place in the centre of Brussels is the lively and very attractive meeting point for any visitor to Europe's most international city! The huge square is surrounded by the city tower and a range of beautiful 300 year old buildings. In the evening, characterised by bright lumination, it is simply ravishing. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas. Have a "gaufre de Liège-Luikse wafel" here (Belgian waffle with caramelized sugar)—the best ones are available from the little shops off the northeast corner of the Grand Place...

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union (EU). It is also the largest urban area in Belgium, comprising 19 municipalities, including the municipality of the City of Brussels, which is the de jure capital of Belgium, in addition to the seat of the French Community of Belgium and of the Flemish Community. Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. The metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million, making it the largest in Belgium. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a main centre for international politics. Hosting principal EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the city has become the polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants. Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became increasingly French-speaking over the 19th and 20th centuries.

President Grybauskaitė’s five years in Brussels

Dalia Grybauskaitė (born 1 March 1956) is the President of Lithuania, inaugurated on 12 July 2009. Often referred to as the "Iron Lady" or the "Steel Magnolia", Grybauskaitė is Lithuania's first female head of state.

Lithuania joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, and Grybauskaitė was named a European Commissioner on the same day. She initially served as European Commissioner for Education and Culture, a position she held until 11 November 2004, when she was named European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget within the José Manuel Barroso-led Commission.

In November 2005, Grybauskaitė was named "Commissioner of the Year" in the European Voice Europeans of the Year poll. She was nominated "for her unrelenting efforts to shift EU spending towards areas that would enhance competitiveness such as research and development." She commented:

“I don't usually participate in contests, so this is a very pleasant surprise for me. I consider it a distinction not for me personally, but for all the new EU Member States, both small and large, as an acknowledgment of their bringing a new and fresh perspective to the EU. I think that it’s also a prize for having the courage to speak the often difficult truth and to point out the real price of political rhetoric in Europe. As for results, we still have to wait for them. An agreement on the budget for 2007–2013, which Europe really needs, is most important.”

As Financial and Budget Commissioner, she strongly criticized the EU budget, stating it was "...not a budget for the 21st century." The majority of the EU budget was spent on agricultural programmes. Grybauskaitė presented a 2008 EU budget in which, for the first time in its history, spending on growth and employment constituted the highest share of the budget, exceeding that of agriculture and natural resources. She frequently criticised the Lithuanian Government, headed by Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, for its lack of response to the approaching financial crisis.

Calais – Dover

On a clear day you can see the cliffs of Dover (right) from Calais (left).

We have come to the end of our Benelux journey. Now we are standing at the ferryboat port in the French town Calais, trying to see over to the cliffs of Dover on the British side of the busy waters in front of us. The Strait of Dover is the strait at the narrowest part of the English Channel. The shortest distance across the strait is from the South Foreland, 6 kilometres (some 4 miles) northeast of Dover in the county of Kent, England, to Cap Gris Nez, a cape near to Calais in the French département of Pas-de-Calais, France. Between these two points lies the most popular route for cross-channel swimmers as the distance is reduced to 34 km (21 mi). On a clear day, it is possible to see the opposite coastline and shoreline buildings with the naked eye, and the lights of land at night, as in Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach".

Great Britain is green & glorious
Laugharne Castle in Wales.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are three devolved national administrations, each with varying powers, situated in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh; the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies. The United Kingdom has fourteen overseas territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories. The UK is a developed country and has the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state of the UK as well as of fifteen other independent Commonwealth countries. The monarch itself is symbolic rather than political, and only has "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn". The United Kingdom has an uncodified constitution, as do only three other countries in the world. The Constitution of the United Kingdom thus consists mostly of a collection of disparate written sources, including statutes, judge-made case law and international treaties, together with constitutional conventions. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and "constitutional law" the UK Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the political power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change.
Queen Elizabeth II.

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The Palace of Westminster, seat of both houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.



I'm on my way to London from Dover, in my own car. A bit weird to drive on the left side of the road. But London is fantastic, one of my absolute favourite cities in the world. . This is the city to visit for business, culture, shopping and much, much more. The special light. Lavishly decorated stores on Oxford Street. Good smell from every street corner. A pint at The White Lion in Covent Garden...


Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s home.

River Thames.
Photo: Aage Myhre

London is made up of buildings from many different architectural styles. Most were built after the great fire of1666. Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and some Tudor houses are fine exceptions. The famous architect Christopher Wren (1632-1723), was responsible for many great buildings after the fire. 500 churches, among others. In the 18th and 19 century, known financial institutions grew up, not least the Royal Exchange and Bank of England. From the early 20th century, it is worth mentioning the Old Bailey (criminal court for England andWales). In 1960, the Barbican Estate was erected. Lloyd's 80-century skyscraper and 'the Gerikin' from 2004 are exciting new additions.

A walk in the park next to The Mall, on our way to Buckingham Palace.


The White Lion pub in Covent Garden.
Photos: Aage Myhre.

Trafalger Square and the Nelson's Column that is guarded by four lion statues at its base.
Photo: Aage Myhre.

River Thames.
Photos: Aage Myhre

Lithuanians in the UK

Following Lithuania’s Independence and especially after European Union and NATO membership more and more Lithuanians have chosen to live and work in the United Kingdom. There are more than 100,000 Lithuanians in London and over 200, 000 in the UK. The largest Lithuanian communities can be found in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Bradford, and in Scotland. As a result of this, there are numerous Lithuanian organisations (such as a Lithuanian newspaper, schools and Lithuanian Churches) working in the UK. If you are interested in practicing your Lithuanian or just would like to meet Lithuanians, to know more about our culture and traditions, or even to participate in some cultural events, why not try looking at these two websites: – this is the Lithuanian Embassy’s page on cultural events in the UK. This is the best place to look for information on various events. - Headley Park estate belongs to the Lithuanian community and is the hub of all cultural activities. So, if you want to experience St. John’s Day, Christmas or any other celebrations Lithuanian style you should contact them and ask for more info. Headley Estate also has a hotel, a Lithuanian food restaurant and a camping site with a lake full of fish nearby which is ideal for a summer weekend break. - official website for Lithuanian association in the UK. - this is a Lithuanian community site for Lithuanian speaking people in London, UK and Ireland. The site is available in both Lithuanian and English.

Lithuanian Communities in the UK - Lithuanian Youth Community in the UK - Midlands Lithuanian community Lithuanian community in Birmingham - Lithuanian community in Manchester - Lithuanian chamber of commerce in the UK

Lithuanian Schools in the UK

Religious Organisations

Lithuanian church in London:

Londono lietuvių Šv.Kazimiero bažnyčia
21 The Oval, Hackney Road, London E2 9DT. Tel: 020 7739 8735
E-mail: Website:

Religious and cultural hub in Nottingham, lead by Lithuanian Marian fathers:

Lithuanian Marian Fathers, 16 Hound Road
West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 6AH. Tel.: 01159821892


Lithuanian folk group, Saduto

Saduto was established in 2005. Group members gather every Friday evening at 8:00pm in St. John‘s church, Stratford, London. Everyone is invited.

Rock group, Vital Mission

Lithuanian Scouts in the UK

The Lithuanian scouts movement in the UK started back in 1948. The first camp was organised in 1950, Darley Moor, Derbyshire.It currently has about 50 members ranging from 8 to 70 years old. They meet every second month and have a camp in Headley Park during summer months.

Lithuanian scouts have their magazine 'Budėkime' which is published three times a year.

Lithuanian Basketball Team in the UK

The Lithuanian basketball team, Gintaras,english/

Currently, Lithuanian BC (playing in London Metropolitan Basketball League) is on the top of the Men’s Premier League 2008-2009 table. Results can be viewed here:
Lithuanian City of London Club

Lithuanian City of London Club is a members-only non-profit organisation established in late 2006 under the honorary patronage of H.E. Vygaudas Usackas, the Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania.

The members of the Club are Lithuanian professionals (or professionals with ties/interests in Lithuania) based in London from a wide array of careers and pursuits, predominantly from the City.

The Club members get together for social networking, sporting and charitable events as well as for a wide array of topical discussions with business, political and other leaders from Lithuania and UK to foster professional and intellectual interaction between Club members and Lithuanian society. The Club is also building links with other organisations in the UK and actively participates in a number of initiatives and events in the Lithuanian community in London. Currently the Club unites close to 200 members and partners who get together on a regular basis. LCLC Pub Social drinks are every last Thursday of the month. For more information about the Club and our activities, please email

The Club's President: Daumantas Mockus,

The Board: Rasa Balsytė, Darius Daubaras, Raminta Dereškevičiūtė, Ieva Šatkutė

LCLC Newsletter

You are welcome to read the 2nd issue of LCLC’s Newsletter! With this publication, the Club aims to keep members, alumni, friends and other stakeholders abreast of LCLC's latest developments, news and adventures. And there have been aplenty! For those who missed the 1st issue - a small recap.


Image: Cutting the ribbon in the wonderful photo above is Dr. Oskaras Jusys, the Lithuanian ambassador to the UK.

Aer Lingus launched services to Vilnius from its London Gatwick in 2011. Cutting the ribbon in the photo is Dr. Oskaras Jusys, the former Lithuanian ambassador to the UK.

Cambridge University is consistently ranked one of the top ten in the world

The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about 50 miles (80 km) north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the city. Cambridge is well known as the home of the University of Cambridge, which has been consistently ranked one of the top ten universities in the world. The university includes the renowned Cavendish Laboratory, King's College Chapel, and the Cambridge University Library. The Cambridge skyline is dominated by the last two buildings, along with the chimney of Addenbrooke's Hospital in the far south of the city and St John's College Chapel tower in the north. According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, the city's population was 108,863 (including 22,153 students).


Cambridge University Lithuanian Society [CULS]

Cambridge University Lithuanian Society is predominantly Lithuanian, but also welcomes everyone from any background. The society goal is to promote Lithuanian culture as well as to take part in cultural interchange. We have several meetings each term and organise social events for broader audience. We are looking forward to seeing you.


Robin Hood and the Sherwood Forest

When we continue north to the city of Leeds a road sign with the name of Nottingham shows up, I decide

to take a detour into the Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood's famous habitat. Sherwood Forest is a Royal Forest in Nottinghamshire that is famous through its historical association with the legendary outlaw archer who took from the rich and gave to the poor here, right in the heart of medieval England. This very attractive forest lands attracts 500,000 tourists annually, including many from around the world. Visitor numbers have increased significantly since the launch of the BBC's Robin Hood television series in 2006.

The park hosts the annual Robin Hood Festival for a week each summer. This event recreates a medieval atmosphere and features the major characters from the Robin Hood legend. The week's entertainment includes jousters and strolling players, dressed in medieval attire, in addition to a medieval encampment complete with jesters, musicians, rat-catchers, alchemists and fire eaters.

The New Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed in Lithuania

The New Adventures of Robin Hood is a 1997-1998 live action TV series on Turner Network Television. It was filmed in Vilnius, Lithuania and produced and distributed by Dune Productions, M6, and Warner Bros. International.

First Season

Robin Hood was a heroic outlaw in English folklore. A highly skilled archer and swordsman, he is known for "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor", assisted by a group of fellow outlaws known as his "Merry Men". Traditionally, Robin Hood and his men are depicted wearing Lincoln green clothes. The origin of the legend is claimed by some to have stemmed from actual outlaws, or from ballads or tales of outlaws.

Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the medieval period continuing through to modern literature, films and television. In the earliest sources, Robin Hood is a yeoman, but he was often later portrayed as an aristocrat wrongfully dispossessed of his lands and made into an outlaw by an unscrupulous sheriff. In popular culture, Robin Hood and his band of Merry men are usually portrayed as living in Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire, where much of the action in the early ballads takes place. So does the very first recorded Robin Hood rhyme, four lines from the early 15th century, beginning: "Robyn hode in scherewode stod." However, the overall picture from the surviving early ballads and other early references suggest that Robin Hood may have been based in the Barnsdale area of what is now South Yorkshire (which borders Nottinghamshire).

Leeds has England’s most romantic castle
Leeds Castle, acclaimed as the most romantic castle in England.

Our journey north continues. We arrive in Leeds, a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while the entire city has a population of 798,800 (2011 est.), making it the 30th-most populous city in the European Union. Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial heart of the West Yorkshire Urban Area, which at the 2001 census had a population of 1.5 million, and the Leeds-Bradford Metropolitan Area, of which Leeds is the integral part, had a population of around 2.3 million, making it the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom. In addition, the Leeds city region, an economic area with Leeds at its core, had a population of 2.9 million. Leeds is the UK's largest centre for business, legal, and financial services outside London, and its office market is the best in Europe for value. Leeds is considered a Gamma World City, alongside cities such as Rotterdam, Phoenix, St. Petersburg and Valencia.


From Leeds to Lithuania for mushy pea beer

My grandparents came from Kowno (now more often known as Kaunas) in Lithuania. I have long wanted to visit Lithuania, and recently I did. Programs and wars have all but erased the culture I tasted as a child in Leeds, and my grandparents knew in Kaunas, but I did manage to see mead being made, and to sample the richly honeyish, herbal result. The old brewery building still stood, a tiny brick tower that may be unique in Lithuania, but would not look out of place in the Black Country. It is at Stakliskes, between Kaunas and Vilnius, the capital. Its product is simply called Lithuanian Mead (Lietuviskas Midus).

Read more at:


Manchester hosts the oldest Lithuanian club in the UK

From Leeds our trip goes west, to Manchester. Here we find that there is a Lithuanian club with own premises in the city since the end of 1948, though the club as an organization has been in operation since 1925. It is the oldest Lithuanian organization in the UK.

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester began to expand "at an astonishing rate" around the turn of the 19th century, brought on by a boom in textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution, and resulted in it becoming the world's first industrialised city. An early 19th-century factory building boom transformed Manchester from a township into a major mill town and borough that was granted city status in 1853. In 1894 the Manchester Ship Canal was built, creating the Port of Manchester.

The city is notable for its culture, music scene, scientific and engineering output, media links and sporting connections. Manchester's sports clubs include Premier League football teams, Manchester City and Manchester United. Manchester was also the site of the world's first railway station.
1954 Members' Rule Book


Liverpool – birthplace of The Beatles

File:Albert Dock Liverpool 7.jpg
The Albert Dock is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Liverpool.

We have arrived in Liverpool – at the famous Mersey river and the shores of the Irish Sea on England’s western coast.

The popularity of The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and other groups from the Merseybeat era have made Liverpool famous, and contributes a lot to the city’s status as a tourist destination. Some may say that football also has played a role...

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880. As of 2001 Liverpool had a population of 435,500, and lies at the centre of the wider Liverpool Urban Area, which had a population of 816,216.

Historically a part of Lancashire, the urbanisation and expansion of Liverpool were both largely brought about by the city's status as a major port. By the 18th century, trade from the West Indies, Ireland and mainland Europe coupled with close links with the Atlantic Slave Trade furthered the economic expansion of Liverpool. By the early 19th century, 40% of the world's trade passed through Liverpool's docks, contributing to Liverpool's rise as a major city.

Inhabitants of Liverpool are referred to as Liverpudlians but are also colloquially known as "Scousers", in reference to the local dish known as "scouse", a form of stew. The word "Scouse" has also become synonymous with the Liverpool accent and dialect. Liverpool's status as a port city has contributed to its diverse population, which, historically, were drawn from a wide range of peoples, cultures, and religions, particularly those from Ireland. The city is also home to the oldest Black African community in the country and the oldest Chinese community in Europe.

Several areas of the city centre were granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2004. Referred to as the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City, the site comprises six separate locations in the city including the Pier Head, Albert Dock and William Brown Street and includes many of the city's most famous landmarks.

Liverpool is the home of two Premier League football clubs, Liverpool F.C. and Everton F.C.. Matches between the two clubs are known as the Merseyside derby.

File:The Fabs.JPG
Liverpool was the birthplace of the Beatles


Liverpool companies invited to Lithuania

Invest Lithuania was last October hosting a seminar at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce to introduce the advantages, opportunities and support available to UK companies interested in developing their business in Lithuania. It was a multi-sector seminar but particularly relevant to those working in IT, bioscience, financial services and manufacturing companies considering investing in R&D.

The seminar had a range of high quality speakers who introduced the Lithuanian market, its workforce and its competitive advantage as well as an overview of the support available to UK companies looking to invest in Lithuania. The speakers also gave detailed overviews of particular sectors and shared their experiences of working in Lithuania as well as giving the audience an opportunity to ask questions.

This seminar was part of a series run by CC Baltic on behalf of Invest Lithuania, who were also holding seminars in Aberdeen and Teesside. The seminars are directed to companies interested in finding out why Lithuania today is considered one of the best places in Europe to develop business.
Anatasia Zencika

Please contact Anatasia Zencika ( or the International Trade Team ( for more information.


The Beatles was discovered and managed by a Lithuanian Jew

Brian Epstein with The Beatles.

Brian Epstein (1934-1967) was the man who discovered the Beatles, and guided them to mega-stardom, making them the most successful musical artists of all time. Without Brian, the Beatles as we came to know them, simply wouldn't have existed. In 1965, both Paul McCartney and George Harrison, on being awarded their M.B.E.s by the Queen, said "M.B.E. stands for Mr. Brian Epstein."

Brian Samuel Epstein was an English music entrepreneur, and is best known for being the manager of The Beatles up until his death. In 1961 Brian Epstein saw the new band for the first time at The Cavern Club in Liverpool. After the concert he went to speak to them and offered to manage them. On 10th. December 1961 it was decided that Brian Epstein should be the manager of The Beatles, and a contract was signed on 24th. January, 1962. He secured a record contract for them with EMI, and, on the request of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, he sacked the drummer Pete Best so that he could be replaced by Ringo Starr. Brian Epstein remained the manager on The Beatles until his death. Epstein paid for The Beatles to record a demo in Decca's studios, which Epstein later persuaded George Martin to listen to, as Decca were not interested in signing the band. Epstein was then offered a contract by Martin on behalf of EMI's small Parlophone label, even though they had previously been rejected by almost every other British record company. Martin later explained that Epstein's enthusiasm and his confidence that The Beatles would one day become internationally famous convinced him to sign them. Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose at his home in London in August 1967. The Beatles' early success has been attributed to Epstein's management and sense of style. McCartney said of Epstein: "If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian". Epstein's family were Jewish, his grandfather, Isaac Epstein, was from Lithuania and arrived in England in the 1890s, at the age of eighteen. His grandmother, Dinah, was the daughter of Joseph (who was a draper) and Esther Hyman, who emigrated from Russia to England.

Regrettably, the man who did so much for the Beatles has become a comparatively forgotten man since his death.


Paul McCartney said he had the idea of "Let It Be" after a dream he had about his mother during the tense period surrounding the sessions for The Beatles (the "White Album"). McCartney explained that his mother—who died of cancer when McCartney was fourteen—was the inspiration for the "Mother Mary" lyric. He later said, "It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing 'Let It Be'." He also said in a later interview about the dream that his mother had told him, "It will be all right, just let it be."


Oxford – the dignified university city

We have come to our trip's final destination, to Oxford, home of the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Oxford city is the county town of Oxfordshire, and forms a district within the county. It has a population of just under 165,000, of whom 153,900 live within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles (80 km) north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through Oxford and meet south of the city centre.

Oxford has a diverse economic base. Its industries include motor manufacturing, publishing and a large number of information technology and science-based businesses.

Buildings in Oxford demonstrate an example of every English architectural period since the arrival of the Saxons, including the iconic, mid-18th century Radcliffe Camera. Oxford is known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of Oxford's university buildings.

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Keble College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford.

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Oxford skyline.

Oxford Lithuanian Society

Oxford University Lithuanian Society is circle of Lithuanian members of Oxford University's congregation. The aim of the Society is to unite Lithuanians and Lithuanian enthusiasts at Oxford University, to promote Lithuanian culture, spread the knowledge of Lithuanian history and modern state, improve contacts between Lithuania and the UK.

Contact Name: Juozas Vaicenavičius

My Oxford friend Mervyn Bedford, a teacher in love with Lithuania
Mervyn Bedford at one of the many
Oxford landmarks of higher education.

Because I know Aage Myhre and his wife and very much respect what he is trying to do for Lithuania, I offered to write of educational values for VilNews. The Baltic nations have a perfect opportunity to change the map of educational provision in ways that better fit the rapidly changing world of the 21st. century. Education is not about buildings. It is not about systems and organisations. It is not about tests and inspections. It is about people and the relationships between those who want to learn, or need to learn, and those who already know it. For almost 150 years State school systems have imposed a model of teaching and learning that has hardly changed while society has fundamentally changed and, recently, very rapidly. Those changes are racing unseen towards our youngest children.

Read Mervyn’s article at


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"Lithuania's austerity was too harsh and too sudden"

>From Baltic Business News:
Aage Myhre, 60, is the Norwegian architect, journalist and publisher whose community building skills have made him a small expat phenomenon in Vilnius. He is about to return to his home country after twenty two years in Vilnius, taking along his Lithuanian spouse and two daughters, but leaving his other object of admiration, Vilnius' Old Town, behind. 

news2biz met Aage to ask him to reflect on his Lithuanian stay that lasted much longer than he expected.
Q: In Norway, Lithuanians last year became the second biggest immigrant community. How do you feel about it?
What I don't like about Norwegian authorities is that they are discussing only what advantages (low-cost skilled labour) or disadvantages (crime) the Lithuanian immigrants create for Norway. I never heard somebody say, 'This is so bad for Lithuania that we take their best brains'. If this issue was discussed from both sides early on, the authorities could have become more focused on it and could probably come up with some solutions.
Obviously, many Lithuanians wouldn't have left their country if it wasn't for the Andrius Kubilius' Conservative government's austerity policy that started in 2008. It was like putting brakes on in a car that was already standing still. 
I personally urged Kubilius to write to Scandinavian prime ministers to seek some kind of assistance. For instance, to a country like Norway to support Lithuania would have cost very little. 
Later I met Norway's Conservative Party leader and asked if Kubilius ever asked for help and support to deal with the crisis or the energy prices pushed up by Russia. She said, no, never.
Read the whole interview HERE...

Related articles:

Opinion: JP
Hochbaum, Chicago
The austerity
trap of the


The economic argument is over, Krugman won

Lithuania’s former prime minister, Andrius Kubilius (left) is a staunch austerity advocate - for those who want to cut spending to reduce deficits and "restore confidence."

"Stimulus" spending, Paul Krugman (right) argues, would help reduce unemployment and prop up economic growth until the private sector heals itself and begins to spend again.

Greeks won, Lithuanians lost!
By Val Samonis

Before they realized what is going on and who was robbing them, the Lithuanian people got clubbered by PM Kubilius’ ambitious austerity policy and the younger ones started emigrating in catastrophic numbers, seeing no future in the country whose GDP was reduced (from a low post-Soviet level) by some 20% by the combination of the old nomenklatura rent-seeking policies and the global Great Recession. Lithuania is hollowing out, unfortunately.

Read more…

A far too bright picture of the present reality
By Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief

The above post from Val Samonis, where he compares “crisis-hit” Greece and a Lithuania supposed to be quickly recovering from the 2008 crisis, internationally praised for its austerity measures, calls for reflection.

The difference is that while the people of Greece protest and angrily demonstrate in the streets of Athens, people here only become more and more bitter, emigrate, begets crime in other countries, etc. 

Lithuania's elderly and disadvantaged people who have seen their minimum pensions drastically cut, and mothers seeing that the child benefits are completely removed as concept, they bow their necks and become even more active in growing potatoes on their garden spots outside the city instead of standing up against the government’s unfair measures against them... 

This country's politicians claim they have been the smartest in...

What is this country going to live on 20 years from now?

Palle Gravesen Jensen.
A Danish expat to Lithuania, owner of two manufacturing companies, Electronic House and Metalco Baltic. Member of the board of the Danish Chamber of Commerce (DCC) in Lithuania. His family was one of the three families founding the Vilnius International School.

There are a number of issues to discuss with regards to Lithuania of today, the country I made my own 16 years ago, moving from my homeland Denmark.

One particular question, however, comes to my mind again and again: What is this country going to live on 20 years from now. It is a big question. My concern is there will not be much at all if nothing is done immediately.
Category : Opinions

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Riga: The 15th Baltic Development Forum (BDF) Summit
May 29 — May 30, 2013
Riga Congress Centre, Riga, Latvia

The main focus of this year’s event will be on competitiveness, investment and business development and the role of the Baltic States in improving the Baltic Sea Region’s overall competitiveness and growth opportunities.
The agenda will focus on growth and competitiveness in the Baltic Sea Region, with the spotlight on investment projects, not least public-private co-operation. To become smarter and greener, public-private partnerships are essential. By improving framework conditions, these partnerships’ can for instance help to focus and optimize sustainable infrastructure investment, which is key to kick-starting wider economic growth in the Region, benefitting the European economy at large.


Category : News

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Vilnius: World Lithuanian Economic Forum
June 03, 2013 08:00 —
June 03, 2013 20:00

Litexpo Exhibition Centre, Laisvės avenue 5, Vilnius LT-04215, Lithuania

WLEF is an event that brings together leading international and local economic players across a range of industries. The main event idea is to deliver this unique dialogue with leading Lithuanians from around the world so that they will make connections and explore the opportunities that Lithuania has to create a powerful global community of Lithuanians overseas.
The forum will gather business leaders, entrepreneurs, creators and successfull personalities of Lithuanian origin from USA, UK, China, Russia, Estonia, Belgium, France and other countries. The event will attract over 1000 participants, seeking to share their global business and management experience.

Business and government leaders will search for answers how should Lithuanian economy compete in the world by using nowadays global challenges, opportunities in various fields of economy. International speakers will present macro-economic global and Lithuanian forecast, they will reveal answers how to grow business successfully, find global markets, how and where to invest.


Category : News

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Along the Riviera


Tour guide, writer and photographer: Aage Myhre



We have started our little tour of Europe.
Over the next few weeks you are all invited on a
journey from north to south, from east to west. Some
articles will dwell with history. Some with Lithuanian contact
points in various countries. I have travelled across Europe with
camera and notepad for nearly 40 years and hope you will enjoy seeing
and reading about some of my experiences. We start today's tour in Liguria,
Italy, through France’s Cotes d’Azur to the south-east of Spain. Have a nice trip!

Our Riviera trip starts here in the stunningly beautiful seacoast town
Portovenere in northern Italy. From here we go west, to the French
border. We follow the French Cotes d’Azur coast to Spain, then
through Catalonia all the way down along the Spanish coast,
till we hit Alicante... Driving distance from Portovenere
to Alicante is only 1.500 km (930 mi).



Portovenere is a hidden treasure tucked away in the north-western area of Italy, one of my favourite Mediterranean towns, dating back to at least the middle of the first century. The ancient town is a hidden treasure for tourists and even residents of Italy to discover. When people first hear of Portovenere, the natural comparison is matched against the world renowned Portofino, but when visited, the two places are completely different. In fact, it can be said that Portovenere is a much more inspiring experience because of the breathtaking landscape that has been naturally architected by mother nature and mankind together over time, which is rich history. The town, or “comune” as referred to by the Italian government, is located on the provincial coast of La Spezia, in the region of Liguria. Rocky horizons, lush forests and vegetation, completed with bodies of water supplied by the Mediterranean Sea, surround this area.

We start our Riviera trip here. But first we enjoy a wonderful filletto with a rich, deep red Barbera on the boardwalk Restaurant above.

The next day the tour starts, along the Italian Riviera and the French Cote d'Azur. We travel to France's best preserved medieval town, not far from the Spanish border, Carcassonne! Phenomenal dinner, good

Languedoc wines. Next morning, we go to the village of Mary Magdalene and The Holy Grail. Later that day we pass the Pyrenees. After a few hours’ drive of ever new mountain pass, Paradise opens before us when we arrive at Spain’s Costa Blanca, the White Coast. And down there, below us, the the Mediterranean Sea in all its azure-blue splendour.


Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and good food. Liguria borders France to the west, Piedmont to the north, and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. The narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Some mountains rise above 2000 m; the watershed line runs at an average altitude of about 1000 m. The winding arched extension goes from Ventimiglia to La Spezia and is one of the smallest regions in Italy. Liguria is just 5,422 square kilometres, or 1.18% of all of Italy. Of this, 3524.08 kilometres are mountainous (65% of the total) and 891.95 square kilometres are hills (35% of the total). Liguria's Natural Reserves cover 12% of the entire region, or 60,000 hectares of land. They are made up of one National Reserve, six large parks, two smaller parks and three nature reserves.
The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. "The Five Lands" is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Photo:

Genoa (Genova in Italian)

Money flowed into the Ligurian port city made famous by Columbus and now it's a better place than ever to visit. Genoa has a fascinating aquarium, an interesting port, and a historic center said to be the largest medieval quarter in Europe, with a wealth of churches, palaces, and museums. In 2006, Genoa's Rolli Palaces were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Genoa is famous for pesto (basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmigiano cheese) usually served overtrenette or trofia pasta cooked with potatoes and green beans. Being a port city, Genoa also has some good seafood dishes such as the fish stewburidda.

Genoa is Italy's principal seaport and is located on the northwest coast of Italy in the region of Liguria, not far from the French border.

Panorama of the Piazza De Ferrari, Genoa
Piazza de Ferrari, Genoa.


Was Christopher Columbus from Genoa or from Lithuania?

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Christopher Columbus

King Wladyslaw III

Will Lithuanians be able to add another page to their already epic history? Will the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame (NLAHF) have yet one more candidate for induction? Daine Jablonskyte-Marquez and Jon Platakis, members of the NLAHF, tracked down historian Manuel Rosa at his job at Duke University, to enlighten us on his 20 plus years of research into the identity of Christopher Columbus.

Confidently, and with primary source documents to verify his assertions, Rosa states, “Columbus was a royal prince, son of a Portuguese noble lady and exiled King Wladyslaw III (a direct descendent of one of Europe’s greatest ruling dynasties, Lithuania’s Gedeminian dynasty). He was hiding his identity from the public at large but the courts of Europe knew who he was.” Pointing to documentation in his new book, COLON. La Historia Nunca Contada (COLUMBUS. The Untold Story) recently published in Spain, published May 2012 in Poland, that Columbus’ marriage in 1479 to a Portuguese noblewoman, who was a member of the Portuguese military order of Santiago, required the approval of the King of Portugal, a procedure reserved only for someone of major importance. “This new Portuguese document alone,” stated Rosa, “makes the entirety of Columbus’ Italian history false.” Rosa’s evidence appears irrefutable that Columbus, who had been housed in the palaces of the nobility, had access to royal courts, and married into nobility, could not be, as our history books tell us, the son of a poor weaver from Genoa.

So, who was Christopher Columbus, if not a poor weaver’s son from Genoa? Rosa believes that his true identity was Prince Segismundo Henriques which was concealed in order to protect his father. All of Rosa’s evidence points to Wladyslaw III, king of Poland and Lithuania as being the father of Christopher Columbus. Rosa suggests that there is proof the king survived the Battle of Varna in 1444 against the Ottomans and lived in exile on the island of Madeira under the name of “Henrique the German,” married to a Portuguese noblewoman.

Is this just another nutty conspiracy theory? Not according to leading historians based at the University of Lisbon, and St. Joseph’s University. Rosa utilized medieval documents and chronicles from multiple kingdoms to cross-reference historical events and personalities, plus ancient genealogy and heraldry. In addition, Rosa’s mastery of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, allowed him a more accurate interpretation of these primary source documents.

Members of the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame, lament the fact that there seems to be little interest from American, and our own Lithuanian historians and researchers, to either accept or contradict Rosa’s findings. According to Rosa, he has not yet had any success in finding a U.S. publisher for this history altering book.

It appears a certainty that Christopher Columbus was not the poor weaver’s son from Genoa. However, in the near future, it is hoped that Polish authorities will open the tomb of King Wladyslaw II, (Jogaila) the Lithuanian King of Poland, to obtain DNA evidence to prove that Christopher Columbus is a son of Lithuania who hid his royal lineage to protect the secret that his father had survived the Battle of Varna.

Read more in VilNews:



Ventimiglia is located on the Italian side, a few kilometers from the border with France, in the province of Imperia. It is divided into two zones: the upper part, medieval, perched right on the river Roia, and the lower part located, between the Roia and the Nervia, on the flat part of the coast. The old centre rises in an imposing position and is easily distinguished for all corners of the plain. The urban structure is characterized by the presence of several clusters of houses, which are built one to each other according to the different time frames of construction: Like in most of the centers of Liguria, due to the lack of space, the houses grow in height. The irregular arrangement of buildings, arches, canopies and religious shrines create always different angles and do not leave space for monotony.


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The Monte Carlo Casino.
Photo: Wikipedia.

We have come to Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco, a sovereign city state on the French Riviera. It is bordered on three sides by its neighbour, France, and its centre is about 16 km (9.9 mi) from Italy. Its area is 1.98 km2 (0.76 sq mi) with a population of 35,986 as of 2011 and is the most densely populated country in the world. Monaco boasts the world's highest GDP nominal per capita at $151,630. Monaco also has the world's highest life expectancy at almost 90 years (CIA estimate, 2011), and the lowest unemployment rate at 0%, with about 40,000 workers who commute from France and Italy each day. After a recent expansion of Port Hercule, Monaco's total area is 2.05 km2 (0.79 sq mi), with new plans to extend the district of Fontvieille, with land reclaimed from the Mediterranean Sea.

Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. The state's sovereignty was officially recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. Despite Monaco's independence and separate foreign policy, its defence is the responsibility of France.

Citizens of Monaco are called Monacans, while Monegasque is the proper term for describing someone who was born in Monaco.

Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo opened in 1858, and the casino benefited from the tourist traffic the newly built French railway system created. Due to the combination of the casino and the railroads, Monaco finally recovered from the previous half century of economic slump, and the principality's success attracted other businesses. In the years following the casino's opening Monaco founded its Oceanographic Museum and the Monte Carlo Opera House, 46 hotels sprang up and the number of jewellers operating in Monaco increased by nearly 500 percent. By 1869, the casino was making such a vast sum of money that the principality could afford not to collect tax from the Monegasques; a master stroke that was to attract affluent residents from all over Europe.

Today, Société des bains de mer de Monaco which owns Le Grand Casino still operates in the original building the Blancs constructed and has been joined by several other casinos, including Le Casino Café de Paris, the Monte Carlo Bay Casino, the Monte Carlo Sporting Club & Casino (Summer Casino) and the Sun Casino. The most recent addition to the list—the first casino to open in Monte Carlo in 75 years—is the Monte Carlo Bay Casino, which sits on 4 hectares of the Mediterranean Garden and, among other things, offers 145 slot machines.


Provence is the south eastern region of France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The traditional region of Provence comprises the départements of Var, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes and parts of Hautes-Alpes. The Romans formed this region into their Gallia Transalpina, the first Roman provincia outside the Alps. From thus, it derives its name today.

From the Alpine mountains down to the sand beaches of Saint Tropez, Cannes, Nice, the region is an important destination for tourist offering a favorable climate all year round. Perfumes, rosé wines, jazz and a distinct cuisine, the region has a rich culture, traditions and festivals. The Cannes Film festival, Nice Carnival and the Jazz festival are just a few of the highlights.


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Photo: Wikipedia.

Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of 71.92 km2 (28 sq mi). The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast. The city is called Nice la Belle (Nissa La Bella in Niçard), which means Nice the Beautiful, which is also the title of the unofficial anthem of Nice, written by Menica Rondelly in 1912. Nice is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département and the second biggest city of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. The area of today’s Nice is believed to be among the oldest human settlements in Europe. One of the archaeological sites, Terra Amata, displays evidence of a very early use of fire. Around 350 BC, Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement and called it Nikaia, after Nike, the goddess of victory.

Grasse (the world’s perfume capital) and a Lithuanian designer
Juozas Statkevièius (b. 1968 in Kaunas ) - Lithuanian fashion designer, theatre costume designer, hairdressing master, professional model. First Lithuanian designer presented in the magazines Vogue, L'Officiel, Elle, Harper's Bazaar. Has created his own perfume named "Josef Statkus.

Let me suggest that you drive a bit inland after Nice. Go to Grasse, a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department, atown considered the world's capital of perfume. It obtained two flowers in the Concours des villes et villages fleuris contest and was made "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" (town of art and history).

The Lithuanian-born designer Juozas Statkevicius, now based in Paris, has been designing fashions and theatre costumes since the 1990s, but first came to international attention after showing a perfume collection in Paris in 2002. His first perfume, titled simply Juozas Statkevicius Eau de Parfum, was launched in 2004.

Photo: Wikipedia.

Cannes is one of the best-known cities of the French Riviera, a busy tourist destination and host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. It is a Commune of France in the Alpes-Maritimes department. The city is also famous for its various luxury shops, restaurants, and hotels. This Riviera city on the Cote d'Azur hosts Europe's most famous annual Film Festival, and has long been a playground for sophisticated pleasure seekers. Cannes is noted for beautiful sandy beaches, most of which charge an entry fee to keep out the riff-raft. It's a far cry from the early 19th century, when this was a small fishing and agricultural village. But then the place was discovered by the aristocracy, who built exclusive holiday villas, and it was only a matter of time before Cannes became a seriously classy resort.


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Brigitte Bardot at St. Tropez, 1963.

Saint-Tropez is located on the French Riviera, west of Cannes, and is known today for its famous and extremely wealthy summertime guests. It has been dubbed the 'playground to jetsetters, fashion models, and millionaires', and it is most-enduringly known as the place where the iconic Brigitte Bardot was "discovered" and for its role in the liberation of southern France during World War II. Topless sunbathing is now a usual way for both men and women, from Pampelonne beaches to yachts in the centre of Saint-Tropez port. The Tahiti beach is "clothing-optional", but also nudists are going to private nudist lands, like that in Cap d' Agde. "Modest" clothing is basically seen in Saint-Tropez, because of the end of "illegal taste-era" and stars (but not everyone), that don't want their nude photos, made available next day on colour magazines, by paparazzi.


File:Pont Avignon.jpg

Let me suggest that you go a bit inland again, after the luxurious, expensive experiences you had in Saint-Tropez...

Let’s go to Avignon at the bank of the Rhône River, often referred to as the "City of Popes" because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic schism, it is currently the largest city and capital of the département of Vaucluse. This is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts, its historic centre, the palace of the popes, Rocher des Doms, and the bridge of Avignon. It was classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO under the criteria I, II and IV.

The bridge of Avignon, which today is only a half-bridge, has achieved worldwide fame through its commemoration by the song "Sur le pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon"). It goes as follows:

Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire Languedoc-Roussillon.

Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the 27 regions of France. It comprises five departments, and borders the other French regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes, Auvergne, Midi-Pyrénées on the one side, and Spain, Andorra and the Mediterranean sea on the other side.

This region was one of the earliest to be inhabited by humans and, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, was an extremely important trade route and passage.

The Roman history of Languedoc-Roussillon is long and has left some spectacular traces. The names of towns, the Catalan language, the region’s heady wines and olive-oil dishes all testify to the lasting influence of 400 years of occupation. It is also where the Romanesque art emerged in the early 11th C in its most impressive way ranging from little churches to large, important Cistercian abbeys. This is also a region where the “Cathars”, named after the Greek “katharos” or “pure”, fought the Catholic church of the time in the 13th C; it took many decades to exterminate this movement whose followers believed the visible world to be the work of the devil. Nowadays, many impressive fortresses perched on dizzying heights and the ancient villages still bear witness to a lost religion.

Sète – the Venice of France

Known as the Venice of Languedoc and the singular island (in Paul Valéry's words), it is a port and a sea-side resort on the Mediterranean Sea with its own very strong cultural identity, traditions, cuisine and dialect. It is also the hometown of artists like Paul Valéry, Jean Vilar and Georges Brassens.


Narbonne is a charming small city in the Languedoc, with wonderful historic attractions as well as a relaxing beach along the Mediterranean. Until I came to Lithuania I thought this was the city in the world with the most beautiful girls.

The heart of Narbonne, once a key port for the Roman Empire, is the dramatic Place de l'Hôtel de Ville. Also be sure to stroll through the village’s old town, where you can’t miss the main attraction: Cathedrale Saint-Just. The most dominant building in this neighbourhood, the 13th century church connects to the Palais des Archevêques, which has an ornately carved 130-meter keep. Narbonne lives up to its part in the deal. The weather never ceases to be perfectly cloudless with good, hot temperatures hovering around 90 to 95 Fahrenheit, (32 to 38 Celsius), low humidity and lots of boisterous, fragrant restaurants serving up mussels steamed in white wine, paella, platters of shellfish on ice, and gallons of chilled wines.

Carcassonne - France’s most genuine Medieval town

Photo: Wikipedia.

We drive from Languedoc's Riviera to France's best preserved medieval town, not far from the Spanish border.

Carcassonne! Phenomenal dinner, good Languedoc wines. Paté of crispy roasted toasts as starter, quails as main course. Castle towns around Europe are fantastic. The story lives around us Europeans. We are lucky to live and experience such as this...

No matter which direction you are coming from, you can’t miss the imposing silhouette of the City of Carcassonne which is encircled by a huge double row of fortified walls that run almost 2 miles long, accentuated by 56 watchtowers. During the 9th and 10th centuries B.C., the village of Carcas was already a very large and active agglomeration, about a mile south of Carcassonne. Its inhabitants migrated to the present location of Carcassonne around 600 B.C. At that time, the common way to protect a city was to dig a large moat and build a very tall reinforced wood fence all around it. The 3rd century A.D. was a particularly unstable period that saw incessant Barbarian invasions. This is when Carcassonne decided to update its defense mechanisms and solidify its ramparts, building the fortified walls that we can still admire today. Rattled by another period of invasions and insecurity, the inhabitants built a second exterior wall around 1230. It took several thousand soldiers to protect the city back then. The 2000-year-old city of Carcassonne still stands today as the most successful achievement in military architecture of that time in Europe. Nothing has really changed since the 13th century, and if you find yourself in the south of France, you should not miss the chance to be carried back to the heart of the Middle Ages and feel the magic of its glorious past.

carcassonne medieval city

Who were the Cathars?

The Cathars were an integral part of Carcassonne history. Catharism was a very active religion in Europe and especially in the area around Carcassonne. The middle of the 12th century was a prosperous period of French history, as well as one of great religious tolerance when Jews, Catholics and Cathars all lived in harmony. Cathars were Christians, but unlike the Roman Catholics, they believed that God had only created spiritual perfection and eternity, not the material world that they saw as the Devil’s creation. Therefore, they led very austere lives, refusing any earthly pleasure. They did not eat any fancy food such as meat. Sex and wealth were banned.


Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the “da Vinci Code”,

“the Holy Grail” and Vilnius University Library

Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have been married. The theory finds its basis in writings from the Gnostic Gospels, which were discovered in 1945 and whose authenticity religious experts still dispute.

The little French village Rennes-le-Chateau in Languedoc. Here, many believe, Mary Magdalene came after the death of Christ. And because of her influence, a whole order of fighting men, known as the Knights Templar, were created.

Here, under the floor boards of the Vilnius University Library, is where the Holy Grail was safely hidden when the university opened in 1579.

Read our VilNews story at:

The village Rennes le Château, 45 km south of Carcassonne, should definitely be part of your Riviera trail. Explore the village and its church which is dedicated to Mary Magdalene and shrouded in mystery. Followers of the Da Vinci code will be fascinated by the history surrounding the whole of this area. Here, many believe, Mary Magdalene came after the death of Christ. And because of her influence, a whole order of fighting men, known as the Knights Templar, were created.

In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a book by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln from 1982, the authors put forward a hypothesis, that the historical Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had one or more children, and that those children or their descendants emigrated to what is now southern France. Once there, they intermarried with the noble families that would eventually become the Merovingian dynasty, whose special claim to the throne of France is championed today by a secret society called the Priory of Sion. They concluded that the legendary Holy Grail is simultaneously the womb of saint Mary Magdalene and the sacred royal bloodline she gave birth to. The 2003 conspiracy fiction novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown makes reference to this book, also liberally using most of the above claims as key plot elements.

Wherever Mary traveled in France, she taught the skill of healing with oils. Few people realize the wisdom that the Magdalene presented to the world in the development of the use of essential oils. She was the mystical woman that anointed Jesus' feet. This demonstrates her skill in the use of essential oils.

Biblical references to Mary Magdalene include information that she was one of the women who accompanied Jesus after he healed her of possession by several demons (Luke 8:2, and Mark 16:9). She is also reported to have been one of the women at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56 and John 19:25), and one of the women to arrive at the tomb at first light on Easter morning (Mark 16:1, Matthew 28:1, Luke 24:10, John 20:1-3). The gospel of John says that she came alone to the tomb and encountered Jesus, at first believing him to be the gardener. She even reached out and embraced him when she recognized him, calling him "Rabboni," an affectionate form of the word Rabbi. Obviously this Mary, called "the Magdalene," was an intimate friend and companion of Jesus.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene moved to France and lived for several years. Her offspring became the kings of France, known as the Merovingian line. French history states that she was the sister of Lazarus, who sat at the feet of Jesus, absorbing his teachings (Luke 10:28-42), and who later anointed his feet with nard (spikenard, an essential oil) and dried them with her hair (John 11:2 and 12:3).

Part of the mystery about Rennes-le-Chateau is centered on the offspring of the Magdalene. The last French king in the Merovingian line was Dagobert II. He and his son Sigebert were supposedly killed. However, the young Sigebert was smuggled into Rennes-le-Chateau by his mother, and there, the whole mystery of the Templars was created to prove the birth rites of the lineage of the Magdalene. Because of this wisdom, alchemy in France became a reality. The Merovingians knew the mysteries that Jesus taught, like changing water into wine.

Around 1090, nine priests went to Jerusalem and searched around the temple of Solomon for proof of this lineage, and for a better understanding of the development of alchemy. Out of this search came the birth of the Templars. What they discovered while in Jerusalem is the true wisdom of alchemy. They found the instruments know as the Holy Grail. They learned how to use these instruments to change mind over matter (alchemy).

The Pyrenees

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Some Blonde d'Aquitaine on summer pasture near the Pic du Midi d'Ossau.
Photo: Wikipedia.

The Pyrenees, also spelled Pyrénées, is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain. It separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 491 km (305 mi) from the Bay of Biscay (Cap Higuer) to the Mediterranean Sea (Cap de Creus).

For the most part, the main crest forms a massive divider between France and Spain, with the tiny country of Andorra sandwiched in between. Catalonia and Navarre have historically extended on both sides of the mountain range, with small northern portions now in France and much larger southern parts now in Spain.


Catalonia is a part of a nation without state in Spain. Catalonia is also an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an official population of 7,535,251. Its borders essentially reflect those of the former Principality of Catalonia. It borders France and Andorra to the north, Aragon to the west, the Valencian Community to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east (580 km coastline). The official languages are Catalan, Spanish and Aranese (Occitan).

Figueres – the home of Salvador Dalí

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Dalí in 1972.

Figueres is the capital of the comarca of Alt Empordà, in the province of Girona, Catalonia, just south of the French border. The town is the birthplace of artist Salvador Dalí, and houses the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí, a large museum designed by Dalí himself which attracts many visitors. It is also the birthplace of Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol, inventor of the first successful machine-powered submarine. Also born here was Mónica Naranjo, one of the best selling Spanish singers of the 1990s and 2000s.

Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989), commonly known as Salvador Dalí, was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Spain. Dalí was a skilled draftsman,

best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in 1931. Dalí's expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

Dalí attributed his "love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes" to a self-styled "Arab lineage", claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors. Dalí was highly imaginative, and also had an affinity for partaking in unusual and grandiose behavior. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing public actions sometimes drew more attention than his artwork to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem and to the irritation of his critics.

File:The Persistence of Memory.jpg
The Persistence of Memory


File:Sagrada Familia 1.jpg
Sagrada Família church in Barcelona,
the masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926).

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,6 million within its administrative limits on a land area of 101.4 km2 (39 sq mi). The urban area of Barcelona extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of between 4,200,000 and 4,500,000, being the sixth-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Ruhr area, Madrid and Milan. About five million people live in the Barcelona metropolitan area. It is also Europe's largest metropolis on the Mediterranean coast.

Barcelona is today one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair/exhibitions and cultural-sports centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family), commonly known as the Sagrada Família, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.

Though construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style—combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família's construction progressed slowly as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the mid-point in 2010 with some of the project's greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026—the centennial of Gaudí's death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona's cathedral, over Gaudí's design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí's death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain's high-speed train could disturb its stability.

Describing Sagrada Familia, art Critic Rainer Zerbst said "it is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art" and Paul Goldberger called it 'the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages'.

Valencia Region


The Valencia region in Spain is an extremely beautiful and very fertile area known as La Huerta (Garden of Spain).

The famous Spanish song lyrics of the popular Spanish song Valencia proclaim that Valencia is the 'land of flowers, light and love' and this is very true, because Valencia is indeed full of flowers and well known for the amazing light which Valenciano painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida highlights in his paintings. It's also overflowing with romance and passion and as there are many romantic things to do in Valencia it's a popular choice for city breaks and holidays in the sun.

The Valencia Region of Spain is divided into 3 provinces. CASTELLON to the north, VALENCIA in the center and ALICANTE in the south.

These three provinces form the Comunitat Valenciana - Land of Valencia - the city and the provinces are all called Valencia. This lovely region of Spain has over 500 kilometres of stunning coastline which are full of some of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe.

Valencia City

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, and the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia, with a population of 809,267 within its administrative limits on a land area of 134.6 km2 (52 sq mi). It is the 15th most populous municipality in the European Union. The urban area of Valencia extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of between 1,175,000 and 1,564,145. Between 1,705,742 and 2,300,000 people live in the Valencia metropolitan area.

Altea – the old fishermen’s village at at Costa Blanca

Altea is an old fishermen’s village that has been turned into a tourism magnet the latest year, though still with the original flavours in place.


Photo: Wikipedia.

Benidorm is a coastal town and municipality located in the comarca of Marina Baixa, in the province of Alicante.

Prior to the 1960s, Benidorm was a small village. Today it stands out for its hotel industry, beaches and skyscrapers, built as a result of its tourist-oriented economy. According to the 2010 census, Benidorm has a permanent population of 71,198 inhabitants, ranking as the fifth most populous town in the Alicante province. It is one of the most important holiday resorts in Spain, with an area of 38.5 km² and a population density of 1,848.8 inhab/km². Due to the unique skyline formed by its numerous tall hotels and apartment buildings it is sometimes referred to as the "Manhattan of Spain" or "Beniyork", which is unlike any other on the Costa Blanca (White Coast). According to the Urban Age project, Benidorm has the most high-rise buildings per capita in the world. Benidorm itself is dwarfed by the 1406 m tall Puig Campana, which is one of the most impressive mountains of the Costa Blanca.


Esplanada and Carbonell House, Alicante.
Photo: Wikipedia.

Alicante is a the capital of the province of Alicante and of the comarca of Alacantí, in the south of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 334,329, estimated as of 2011, ranking as the second-largest Valencian city. Including nearby municipalities, Alicante conurbation was populated by 462,281 residents.[3] Population of the metropolitan area (including Elche and satellite towns) was 771,061 as of 2011 estimates, ranking as the eighth-largest metropolitan area of Spain.

Mediterranean beaches

From your very first glimpse, the views of the Mediterranean Sea make a dramatic and lasting impression. The climate in the Mediterranean area is very warm and pleasant, and has very nice hot and dry summers. These are the best conditions for wonderful summer holidays at the beach, but also for a high rate of water evaporation. The Mediterranean Sea looses in this way nearly one meter of its water height every year!

This evaporating water leaves all its salts in the remaining water. This is why you feel a lot lighter when you swim in the Mediterranean than when you swim in the ocean: the water of the Mediterranean contains more salt than the water of the Atlantic (36 to 38 grams per litre in the Mediterranean against 34.9 in the Atlantic).

Mediterranean waters

The origins of the Mediterranean waters

The origins of this water are:

· a small quantity coming from the rivers and the rain (1200 km3 per year);

· a very small quantity coming from the Black Sea (200 km3 per year);

· most of it comes from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Strait of Gibraltar (35 000 km3 per year).

It has been calculated by scientists that the Mediterranean waters need 100 years to renew themselves totally (through evaporation and water coming in through the Strait of Gibraltar).

The Strait of Gibraltar is not very wide (around 14 km at the narrowest point) and quite shallow (300 m deep). Therefore, there is a very strong current going through the Strait, coming from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean Sea.

Sailing in Mediterranean waters

The Mediterranean- it conjures up images of gorgeous coves, aqua water, cities spreading up hillsides, amazing food and friendly tanned locals. The Mediterranean lives up to its reputation- it is hugely varied, bordered by so many European, Middle Eastern and North African countries, and has an amazing climate.

Where you might go whilst sailing the med depends on what you would like to see or do. The French Riviera is a mecca for those seeking glamour, shopping and the celebrity lifestyle- think Monaco, Nice, St Tropez and Cannes. Here you can take your boat into the marinas and see the glitz and glamour of the cities, or anchor offshore and watch the world go by.

Mediterranean living

Styles, colours and beauty of living alongside the Mediterranean. The good life…

Mediterranean food & wines


The idea of the ‘standard Mediterranean’ ... is a modern construction of food writers and publicists in Western Europe and North America earnestly preaching what is now thought to be a healthy diet to their audiences by invoking a stereotype of the healthy other on the shores of the Mediterranean. Their colleagues in Mediterranean countries are only too willing to perpetuate this myth. The fact of the matter is that the Mediterranean contains varied cultures...

Around 1975, under the impulse of one of those new nutritional directives by which good cooking is too often influenced, the Americans discovered the so-called Mediterranean diet.... The name... even pleased Italian government officials, who made one modification: changing from diet—a word which has always seemed punitive and therefore unpleasant—to Mediterranean cuisine.

Despite this, given the geography, these nation-states have influenced each other over time in both food and culture and the cooking evolved into sharing common principles. Mediterranean cuisine is characterized by its flexibility, its range of ingredients and its many regional variations. The terrain has tended to favour the raising of goats and sheep.

Fish dishes are also common, although today much of the fish is imported since the fisheries of the Mediterranean are weak. Seafood is still prominent in many of the standard recipes.

Olive oil and garlic are widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. It is widely believed that Mediterranean cuisine is particularly healthful; see Mediterranean diet.

Grilled meats, pita bread, hummus, and falafel are very popular forms of the eastern type of the cuisine.

Spain also makes paella, which is rice and mussels or other types of seafood.


Paella is an internationally-known rice dish from Spain. It originated in the fields of a region called Valencia in eastern Spain. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice. There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks. It may contain chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers. Saffron, the spice that also turns the rice a wonderful golden color is an essential part of the dish.


A good fish meal in Spain or Italy

is often made in Lithuania

Reidar Inselseth is General Director of the Espersen fish factory in Klaipeda, Lithuania,
where cod from the Baltic Sea and Arctic Ocean is converted into delicious fish fillets for southern European markets.

Every day, all year round, a truck drives out from the Espersen fish processing plant in the Klaipeda Free Economic Zone, fully loaded with over 20 tonnes of finished fish fillets for the south and west European markets. Not many days later, these fish products are to be found at a restaurant table in Spain, Italy and Greece as delicious dishes prepared by chefs who so often are amazing fish experts and know to appreciate the wonderful ingredients the Baltic Sea and Arctic Ocean have to offer. Because it is from these seas Espersen Lietuva gets its fish raw material, roughly 40 tonnes per day.

About 50% of the fish they purchase from the Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden and Denmark, while the remaining half is purchased from Norway, caught in northern Atlantic waters. Some of the fish is purchased fresh, some frozen. Fish products from the plant are eaten at present by people in the UK, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.
Fish products offered by Espersen, in Italy. See


Riviera wines
One of the key elements in the Mediterranean diet -- along with olive oil and bread --
is wine. Wherever the Greeks and later the Romans went in their efforts to conquer the
Mediterranean world, they took along wine and the grapes to produce it.

Even in recent years, wine has continued to play a strong dietary role. Ancel and Margaret Keys, in their 1975 book ``How to Eat Well & Stay Well The Mediterranean Way,'' write: ``... the use of wine at every main meal and as an aperitif now and then means that the average man gets close to 10 percent of his daily calories from alcohol.''

In the south of France, a radical change in direction has led to the planting of classy varietals such as chardonnay, merlot and cabernet in the Languedoc-Roussillon region that stretches along the Mediterranean shore west of the Rhone toward the border with Spain. Many wine shops and restaurant wine lists now carry wines from one or more small producers in the region and two large-scale efforts are producing wines of exceptional value. Look for Fortant de France or Reserve St. Martin, both of which offer cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier and syrah.

In Provence, if we include the southern Rhone Valley, a vast selection of red wine ranges from the pricey estate wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape to small producer and cooperative wines from various ``Cotes'' or ``Coteaux'' appellations with names such as Ventoux, Luberon, Provence, Aix-en-Provence, Baronnies and Rhone or Rhone-Villages. Among the most dependable and widely circulated wines from this area are those from La Vieille Ferme.

Crossing into Italy, one sees a good deal of white Gavi and red Cinqueterre on the Italian Riviera. Wines made to the south, along the west coast, may have charm but most are too ephemeral to export. The white wines of Orvieto are an exception, but the reds don't shine until we reach the southern peninsula. There, in Campania, the aglianico grape makes superior reds and the white fiano and greco di tufo wines stand out. The region's outstanding producer is Mastroberardino, whose labels include Lacryma Christi and Taurasi. In Apulia, to the east, grapes such as primativo, negroamaro and malvasia nera make dark, fruity wines, all too often robbed of character by overcropping. The outstanding red of Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture, is worth seeking out, however. Most of Calabria's wine is drunk there, but Sicily exports considerable wine to the United States, most notably Corvo.

In Spain, the most important region facing the Mediterranean, is the Penedes in Catalonia. It is the center of the country's sparkling wine industry and also produces very serviceable reds, whites and roses. The region's leading producer of still wines is Torres. To the south, inland from Alicante, some good wines are coming from vineyards at Jumilla.

Abbaye st hilaire wines in original gift boxes for Christmas
Languedoc - Roussillon wine, including the vin de pays labeled Vin de Pays d'Oc, is produced in southern France. While "Languedoc" can refer to a specific historic region of France and Northern Catalonia, usage since the 20th century (especially in the context of wine) has primarily referred to the northern part of the Languedoc-Roussillon région of France, an area which spans the Mediterranean coastline from the French border with Spain to the region of Provence. The area has around 700,000 acres (2,800 km2) under vines and is the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France's total wine production.
As recently as 2001, the region produced more wine than the entire United States.

Category : Blog archive

- Posted by - (5) Comment

Vilnius and Venice
are my favourite
European citites!

Dear VilNews Readers,

I hope you find interest in my 'travel reports' from around Europe, which I now present in VilNews. The letters and photos are based on my 40 years of travelling around in 'My Europe', always with camera and notepad ready…

As an architect, it is natural for me to focus on architecture as a backdrop for my letters, but for some places architecture is the very main thing, as is the case for my two favourite cities, Vilnius and Venice...

You can read more about Venice in my travel report at 
and about my dear Vilnius at
Kind Regards,
Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief

Comments from our:

Vijole Arbas 
I am simply surprised you have left out Kaunas -- the architecture there surpasses all.

Aage Myhre 
The architecture of Kaunas is much, much younger than the one in Vilnius, Vijole. Nevertheless, someone should write about the interwar architecture in Kaunas. Lithuanian functionalism as seen only in the Laisves Avenue ...

Vijole Arbas 
True, Aage. I just had to put in a word for my beloved city. I always believed architecture reflected how people live day in and day out, how their thinking patterns are affected, how the people worship (or don't) God. Well -- it is a discussion on its own.

Aage Myhre 
Well said, Vijole Arbas

Wyman Brent 
Aage, I do indded like your travel posts. I look forward to the day when we can meet again and discuss travel and architecture.

Susan Lucas Kazenas 
I have enjoyed your travel reports....thank you for sharing!
Category : Opinions

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Lithuanian in Copenhagen: Expat community helps business go more smoothly

Despite all the efforts to integrate Europe into one single market, divisions between national markets persist - of cultural nature at least. It is hardly surprising that when Lithuanian entrepreneurs find themselves doing business in a foreign land, they seek help of their compatriots.


Category : News

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Lithuania's Economy Minister sees no conflict of private-public interests in her actions and plans to stay on

Lithuania's Economy Minister Birutė Vėsaitė says she did not get into a conflict of private and public interests by flying to a business forum in Kazakhstan on an eight-seat business-class airplane chartered by Arvi company.


Category : News

- Posted by - (3) Comment 


Switzerland & Italy


Today we start our little tour of Europe. Over the next few weeks, I invite you on a journey from north to south, from east to west. Some sections will dwell with history. Some withLithuanian contact points in various countries. I have travelled across here with camera andnotepad for nearly 40 years, and hope you will enjoy seeing and reading about some of my experiences. We start today's tour in Switzerland, and then continue to the south of Italy. 

My daughter Cassandra tries, unsuccessfully, to fix the leaning tower of Pisa.

Tour guide, text and photos: Aage Myhre




The best known Lithuanian politician in Europea before 1916

I have come south in Switzerland, to the incredibly beautiful Lake Geneva. I sit on the lake bank in the picturesque Montreux town, knowing that only five kilometres from here lived the best-known Lithuanian political figure on the European scene 100 years ago. Juozas Gabrys (1880-1951) was his name. This extraordinarily active personality is today little known in Lithuania and other European countries, like many other thinkers who helped to shape today‘s Europe. Visionaries like Gabrys are often neglected by history, which would not have been the case had they become presidents of their countries. Historians remember Gabrys as the organiser of the four international conferences on Lithuania between 1916 and 1918 in Lausanne and Bern. He bought a farm here in the most romantic area of Switzerland, near the town Vevey five kilometres from where I’m sitting, a region where Victor Hugo, Dostoyevsky, Charlie Chaplain, Nabokov, and others also felt at home.
Juozas Gabrys

Vevey is, by the way, the town where Henri Nestlé in 1867 invented his now famous powdered milk and set up a company that was to develop into today‘s number one coffee and chocolate producer worldwide.

But back to Juozas Gabrys. In 1977, Alfred Erich Senn at University of Wisconsin, Madison, wrote a piece about him in the journal Lituanus, stating that Gabrys was a controversial figure in the history of independent Lithuania. He continues:  “Since he died in 1951, I never had the opportunity to meet him. In 1957 my father and I visited his widow in Vevey, Switzerland. She received us in friendly fashion, gave me copies of several of his books, and even presented me with a file of five issues of Gabrys' newspaper, la Lituanie Independante. 

On the other hand, she would not permit me to search through his papers. She looked through several files herself and insisted that the documents were too personal to turn over to me. Unfortunately, after her death, most of the archive was destroyed. Dr. Albertas Gerutis managed to save Gabrys' manuscript memoirs, "Tėvynės sargyboj," but the rest was lost. As a result, documentation of his career has to come from other sources.

Gabrys was undoubtedly the best known Lithuanian political figure on the European scene before 1916. He had been very active in Paris for several years, and he had established a number of friendships in French intellectual circles. He published memoirs, which appeared in French in 1920, described this phase of his work in detail, but one has to turn to his unpublished memoirs, now in Dr. Gerutis' possession, to get a clearer picture of his career after 1916 when he had begun to work with the Germans.

On August 1, 1919, Gabrys published the first issue of his newspaper La Lituanie Independante, which was aimed at discrediting Provisional Government in Kaunas. In the lead article, entitled "Our Aim," Gabrys proclaimed his desire to seek Lithuanian independence on good terms with all its neighbors. The keynote of the issue was his demand for the election of a Constituent Assembly. A report on the "Present situation in Lithuania" criticized the government as lacking "any support worthy of the name." Completing the first page was the text of an open letter to President Smetona, written in May, declaring that the government feared facing elected representatives of the people.

The issue continued with a "letter from Lithuania," decrying the power of German officials in the country and denouncing the subservience of the "Smetona clique." An anonymous report on "mass discontent in Lithuania" told of moves by the government against Vincas Bartuška and others of Gabrys' friends, and it declared that meetings of Lithuanian patriots were endorsing the sentiments of Gabrys' open letter to Smetona.

Gasthaus Leuen/Löwen, Zimmerwald
Elsigbach outside Bern, Switzerland.



Winter carnival

For many, Switzerland is probably more known as a winter wonderland than a summer destination. This is the country Lithuanians and many others prefer when they go on a ski holiday. 

One of my good winter experiences here took place some years ago when I celebrated 'Fasching (winter carnival)' in an inn outside the capital, Bern, in a half timbered ‘gasthaus’ with a large open fireplace, packed with partying Swiss this evening. 

All dressed in their national leather and homespun suits. High humidity. Much beer and powerful, heavy food. 

Switzerland is good in so many ways. Every season!


Montreux is beautiful! 

A stroll along the impressive lakeside promenade in Montreux at Lake Geneva.



Management for Presidents. Villa d’Este, Lace Como, at the Swiss-Italian border

I prefer classical architecture. Modern buildings in glass and steel rarely appeal to me. I see them as cold, sometimes almost hostile. The Renaissance style is the one I admire most. This I understood already in my school years, when I sat up three days and nights to write an essay about Michelangelo. The man and his work was simply so fascinating that I could not sleep.

Italian Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475 - 1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, was the very 'renaissance guru'; a painter, sculptor, architect, poet and engineer. Only Leonardo da Vinci can be compared. Strange, by the way, that so many of the contemporary geniuses of those days were multi-talented.

During my years as a business leader in Trondheim, Norway, I used some time to read about leadership and management. The course ended in May-June a year in the mid 1980s, and I set my course for Villa d'Este on Lake Como in northern Italy. I was going on one week's final course: 'Management Course for Presidents, a Concentrated program of study in professional management for chief executives.'

We were three persons from Trondheim arriving at Linate Airport in Milan that late May evening. Soon I was sitting behind the wheel of a rented car, a blue-black Lancia Gamma. On the motorway we were met by heavy lightning and thunder, the rain pouring. Police cars with flashing blue lights driving slowly on the highways around Milan to get other cars to take it easy. Not always easy in Italy... The weather improved when we an hour later, following the winding mountain roads, approached the hotel on Lake Como. Soon we come to a guard shelter with a turnpike. The guard checked our booking information, and not long after we parked outside one of the world's most beautiful hotels - in an incredibly stunning setting on the hillside above the lake. Later I was told that the reason for placing the guard a full mile before reaching the hotel, was that business people from Milan should be notified in time to get hidden mistresses away in case the wives came for a hotel visit...

Villa d'Este was originally a privately Renaissance palace, built in the 1500s, since 1873 a luxury hotel. We were here for a week, going through a busy course agenda and enjoying nature, luxury, in one of the world's
most scenic areas.
The Renaissance Palace Villa d'Este on Lake Como, between Italy and Switzerland,
is one of the world's finest hotels.

Pisa, Central Italy 

File:Leaning Tower of Pisa.jpg
The leaning tower of Pisa. 

Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its Leaning Tower (the bell tower of the city's cathedral), the city of over88,332 residents (around 200,000 with the metropolitan area) contains more than 20other historic churches, several palaces and various bridges across the River Arno .

The city is also home of the University of Pisa, wooden has a history going back to the12th century and also has the mythic Napoleonic Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies as the best Superior Graduate Schools in Italy.



The three Renaissance Capitals of the World!






Did you know that throughout the Renaissance period, when Italy was a trading centre and a melting pot for the world’s greatest civilisations, Vilnius also became a Renaissance centre, competing with Florence and Milan?

The two great nations merged when Grand Duke Sigismund the Old (1467-1548) married the Princess of the Italian city of Milan, Bona Sforza, and returned to reign in and from Vilnius as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The royal couple created an Italian community within the court and, under the influence of the new Grand Duchess, Italian culture became the preoccupation of the Lithuanian’ elite.

This was at a time when Lithuania was Europe’s largest nation, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. See



District of Tuscany – city of Florence

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (English: Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the cathedral church of Florence. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.

The Palazzo Medici, also called the Palazzo Medici Riccardi after the later family that acquired and expanded it, is a Renaissance palace located in Florence. The palace was designed by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo for Cosimo de' Medici, head of the Medici banking family, and was built between 1445 and 1460. The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside, gradually rising until they were able to found the Medici Bank. The bank was the largest in Europe during the 15th century. 

The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") is a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. A curious fact regarding the words bank and bankruptcy is that they derive from the economic activity on Ponte Vecchio. The stand, or table, that held the merchants goods was called a "banco" (“bench”). When a merchant was no longer able to pay his taxes, his banco was literally broken or "rotto" into pieces, therefore creating the term "bancorotto" which translated into the word "bankruptcy" in English. 


A room with no view

A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by the English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the repressed culture of Edwardian England. Set in Florence and England, the story is both a romance and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985. Our hotel room in Florence faced a house wall, a room with no view, but my daughter Cassandra was able to take reading light.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and commune, with over 2.7 million residents. The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy. Rome's history spans two and a half thousand years. It was the capital city of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, which was the dominant power in Western Europe and the lands bordering the Mediterranean for over seven hundred years from the 1st century BC until the 7th century AD. Since the 1st century AD Rome has been the seat of the Papacy and, after the end of Byzantine domination, in the 8th century it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870. In 1871 Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, and in 1946 that of the Italian Republic.

The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy. Standing 26 metres (85.3 feet)
high and 20 metres (65.6 feet) wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one
of the most famous fountains in the world. 

The Colosseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering. Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started in 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian's reign (81–96). The name "Amphitheatrum Flavium" derives from both Vespasian's and Titus's family name (Flavius, from the gens Flavia).Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. 

One of many fantastic nights in Rome. My kids simply loved them. 

Gargano, South Italy, has the best beaches of the Mediterranean Sea!

Gargano is a historical and geographical Italian sub-region situated in Apulia, consisting of a wide isolated mountain massif made of highland and several peaks and forming the backbone of the Gargano Promontory projecting into the Adriatic Sea. The high point is Monte Calvo at 1,065 m (3,494 ft). Most of the upland area, about 1,200 km2 (460 sq mi), is part of the Gargano National park, founded in 1991. It is within the Italian Province of Foggia. My good friends are running a motel & camping close to the Adriatic Sea. A paradise for travellers!

The coast of Gargano is rich in beaches and tourist facilities. Vieste, Peschici and Mattinata are world-wide-famous seaside resort locations. The two major salt lakes of Lesina and Varano are located in the northern part of the peninsula. Monte Gargano is the site of the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the archangel Michael, Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano. Today tourism is thriving with several hotels and campsites, in particular along the seaside of Marina of Lesina, give the possibility of staying in this suggestive area. Tourist attractions include the cathedral, the episcopal palace, the Abbey of Santa Maria of Ripalta and the volcanic rocks dating back to the Triassic era, known as "Black Stones", as well as the Sanctuary of San Nazario.









I will always feel gratitude towards the Pacilli family here in Gargano. They have taught me important things about friendship, companionship, food, Italian wine and the joy of a long meal among friends when darkness falls... 


Santa Claus and Lithuania's Grand Duchess 
are buried in the same South Italian basilica

My years in Lithuania and my many visits to Italy have put a different and very special Christmas story onto my lap. Far south in Italy, a little south of Gargano, lies the city of Bari with its Cathedral Basilica di San Nicola, built between1087 and 1197. This church was erected over the remains of St. Nicholas (270-343). His relics were originally stolen from the city of Myra in today's South-west Turkey.

When Myra in the 1000s was occupied by the Saracens, the Catholic Church saw this as an opportunity to move the saint's relics to a more friendly place. 

According to the justifying legend which was created, had the saint himself,
Lithuania’s Grand Duchess Bona Sforza (1494-1557) and St. Nicholas (270-343).

during a voyage from  Myra to Rome, arrived at the port of Bari and then selected the city as his burial place. It came to great competition for the relics between Venice and Bari. The latter won and the relics were removed just below the nose of their Greek keepers and their Muslim masters. On 9 May 1087 the remains safely arrived in Bari. A crypt was immediately made for the remains of this important saint, and a new church was started built on top of the crypt. Pope Urban II was present at the consecration of the crypt in 1089. The church, which naturally carried the saint's name, was completed in 1197

460 years pass, and the Lithuanian Grand Duchess Bona Sforza, who is now the widow after Grand Duke Sigismund the Old, comes to Bari gets to collect the debt Spain's King Philip II has to her. Instead of receiving money as agreed, she was poisoned by the Spanish king's envoy and she dies here in Bari in the year 1557. Her sarcophagus was placed in the middle of the church. The Sforza family's role in Bari was very important, and it are no wonder that Bonas sarcophagus in the St. Nicholas Church to this day symbolizes and represents this role in a grand manner.

It was duchess Bona and her mother, Isabella d'Aragona, Princess of Naples, Duchess of Milan and Bari, who had undertaken the construction of the fort here in Bari. The fort still dominates today Bari's old town, but has now turned into a cultural centre in the midst of the imposing defensive bastions. The fort also houses a gallery of plaster casts and temporary exhibits of different character



File:Bari Basilica San Nicola.jpg
Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, South-Italia.
Photo: Wikipedia.

So here they lie, St. Nicolas who later became better known as Santa Claus, and Bona Sforza, the grand duchess who was also the mother of the last two representatives of Lithuania's famous Jagailo dynasty, Sigismund Augustus and Anna Jagiellon.

With them came the 300-year dynasty of the House of Gediminas to an end, and today the world knows very little about the country that was once Europe's largest, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

And ironically enough, the relics of the woman who was such a leading symbol of Lithuania's greatness is to be found, not in Lithuania, but here in southern Italy - along with the remains of the symbol of today's Christmas traditions...


Venice shows me that architecture first of all is about life


Venice is a perfectly beautiful city. The smells, the sounds, the narrow alleys, canals, bridges. Place suddenly, often unexpectedly, opens as you go. The music, The gondoliers’ songs, vaparettos, taxi boats. I feel well. It is as if I'm in the middle of the very architectural being.

I was once one of many who believed that architecture is primarily about buildings. Venice shows me that architecture first of all is about life. Our human life. How it is the architecture which gives us the framework and background for how best to walk, sit, eat, sleep, work, meet with others, experience beauty.

I understand that the spaces between buildings are as important as the houses themselves. That the widths, heights, depths and connections between everything we surround ourselves with are important. The relationship between them. Interaction. Venice makes me feel that the physical is in total harmony with life itself. Also the spiritual.

It is as if the body, intellect and spirituality converge. I feel an intense happiness. Maybe this town is the world's leading symbol of what an architect should strive to achieve in his work. Maybe it has something to teach us about ourselves. About how important it is to think holistically, holistic in the way we plan our environment and our lives.

"A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart," said the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Venice tells me that he is right. One does not become a good architect, no matter how much knowledge is acquired, without having talent and an inner inspiration that drives one to draw very good environment for real people interacting with each other. Empathy. Synergy. Proximity. Emotions. In a living symbiosis.


“Form follows function - that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union,” says Llloyd Wright also. He emphasizes that "Art for art's sake is a philosophy of the well-fed." "Get the habit of analysis -analysis goodwill in time enable synthesis two Become your habit of mind. All fine architectural values ​​are human values​​, else not valuable, "he concludes. Venice is to me proof of that. 

Venice taught me to look behind facades. It was here it first dawned on me that it is the human that
is good architecture's true nature. The architect's task is to create inspiring framework that promotes, 
does not conflict with or interfere with human activity. I start taking pictures of people 
and situations, more than of buildings.
Photo: Aage Myhre, 1974.



Venice is an outstanding symbol of life itself... 


My Venice is different from the tourists’ Venice.
I see the channel the city as a leading symbol of life itself.



Venice has been known as the "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". Luigi Barzini described it in The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man". Venice has also been described by the Times Online as being one of Europe's most romantic cities. The city stretches across 117 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. The saltwater lagoon stretches along the shoreline between the mouths of the Po (south) and the Piave (north) Rivers. The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.









Category : Blog archive

- Posted by - (5) Comment

Egidijus Aleksandravičius
(b. 1956) - Lithuanian historian, assistant Ph.D., professor.

New association for Lithuanians living here and abroad?

Dalia Cidzikaite
Too many things that concern us, Lithuanian citizens, are decided not by us but by Lithuanian government, says Egidijus Aleksandravičius. That is why he is proposing to establish an association which will try to know better Lithuanians living abroad. The idea was presented during the seminar at VMU Lithuanian Emigration Institute on May 17, 2013. I am sure we will hear about it more in the future.

Comments from our:

Linas Johansonas Don't we already have an "association" that represents Lithuanians abroad: World Lithuanian Community (Pasaulio Lietuviu Bendruomene)?

Dalia Cidzikaite As far as I can tell, the goal of a new association would be not to represent Lithuanians living abroad, but to know them better.

Vijole Arbas as it is the World Community does not pay taxes to Lithuania, thereby crippling the country. Do we really need to know more?

Linas Johansonas Vijole Arbas: while the world community doesn't pay taxes to Lithuania, it does give Lithuania lots of money via: visiting Lithuania, sending money to family, financially supporting various charity organizations, buying Lithuanian products ....etc.

Jon Platakis Vijole Arbas, I have no idea why you are so divisive when it comes to the world Lithuanian community. As Linas Johansonas so succinctly mentioned, take away our tourism, the money we send, and support of charitable organizations, and Lithuania would re...See More

Algimantė Danilaitė Vijole, some lithuanians in Lithuania does not pay taxes too. I don't care if some of lithuanians lives abroad, it's their personal choice. I really appreciate all the efforts to make Lithuania better country. Jon Platakis well said about working together. Sometimes I feel that some of lithuanians really likes to bite each other.

Vijole Arbas I am weary of the increasing burden. More responsible citizens lightens the load for everyone. I do get angry about that. The World Community demands privileges but does not carry any burden of responsibility.

Boris Bakunas Scolding people is an ineffective way of encouraging them to do what you want. Strong people resent being told what they must do. I believe Lithuanians have proved that during their centuries-long fight for freedom.

Lithuania has signed many conventions with other countries banning double taxation. They are readily available on the internet for anyone wishing to take the trouble of googling the key words "Double Taxation Lithuania."

And why should anybody pay taxes to a government rife with corrupt politicians? 

Almost all the Lithuanians I know have been sending money to their Lithuanian relatives since Krushchev allowed correspondence between Lithuanians at home and their families abroad. We thought of many ingenious ways of concealing the money so that it would not be stolen by corrupt postal officials. I won't reveal the methods used, because even today such theft occurs.

Instead of complaining, why not praise the work done by such organizations as Lithuanian Mercy Lift. Praise is a much better teacher than blame.
Category : Opinions

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Ukraine takes “active steps” to win the sympathy of Germany
Hopes to have an initial EU Agreement signed at the 28-29 November Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius

Ukraine is taking “active steps” to win the sympathy of Germany, the country most strongly opposed to the signature of a landmark association agreement with the EU in the absence of a solution to the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, diplomats told EurActiv this week.

As part of Ukraine’s campaign to win Germany’s sympathies, the country’s deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vilkul visited Berlin on 22-23 May, meeting with senior German officials in an attempt to highlight economic benefits the Association Agreement will bring to Germany and the European Union as a whole.

The association agreement, totalling more than 1,000 pages, was initiated more than a year ago but its signature is awaiting progress on conditions imposed by the EU, including the release from prison of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ukraine hopes to have the Association Agreement signed at the 28-29 November Eastern Partnership summit, held in Vilnius under the Lithuanian EU Presidency.

Lithuania, Estonia and other EU countries favour the signature of the agreement, in spite of the imprisonment of Tymoshenko, arguing that the Union should not lose Ukraine over the fate of one person.
Category : News


Have your say. Send to:

By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

* * *

Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

* * *

* * *
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius

* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
By Leonidas Donskis
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!

* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.

* * *
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
* * *

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
* * *
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

* * *

The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

* * *

Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

* * *

Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

* * *

It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

* * *
Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >

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