24 February 2018
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Travel Lithuania!

Praise for Lithuanian railways

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Despite dire warnings from local Lithuanians and diaspora visitors, I courageously decided to travel from Vilnius to Warsaw and back on Lithuanian Railways, this Easter.

It was a great experience. Firstly, Vilnius railway station is very pleasant. The information and booking staff were extremely friendly and efficient. The booking agency staff in particular were very nicely uniformed and charming. I was booked in 2nd Class from Vilnius to Sestokai. The train left right on time, and whilst the train itself was not new, it was very clean and well maintained. The crew on board were friendly , very well dressed, and informative. The seats were comfortable. The journey allowed me to see the awakening spring of the Lithuanian countryside. Farms, farm animals, farmers ploughing fields a picture unseen by airline passengers. In the forests, the deep green of fir and pine trees were pleasing to the eye. I was so lucky to see a few deer, and amazingly a fox. Many of the farms were blessed with stork nests, and storks.
On arrival at Sestokai, we were transfered to Polish Railways service to Warsaw. Polish Railways was also good.

The return from Sestokai to Vilnius, was as pleasant as the forward journey. I would like to thank Lithuanian Railways for a safe and memorable journey.

As we all know, great service, efficiency and friendliness starts from the top. Therefore Congratulations to Mr. Stasys Dailydka, the Director General of Lithuanian Railways and his team for presenting such a fine product to the travelling public, especially foreign tourists.

Balys Stankunavicius
Vilnius – Melbourne

Category : Travel Lithuania!

Birutė Hill in Palanga

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 A place of Lithuanian history, legend, mythology culture and worship

In as late as 1965 a sculpture called “For you Berutė” was set on the base of the hill. What gets your attention about the sculpture is not only that it was set here more than 550 years after her death but the name of the stature also is intriguing. The inscription on the sculpture reads in Lithuanian “Tau Birutė”. The word “tau” in Lithuania translates to “for you” but the Lithuanian language contains formal and informal nouns. “Tau” is informal. To say “for you” in the formal, you would say “jums”. What is quite striking and sheds light on how people nowadays feel about Bitutė is that by using the word „tau“ they are addressing her as a close friend.

When in Lithuania, it would be highly recommended that you visit the beautiful sea side resort area of Palanga. Any time of year it is a pleasure to walk to sandy beaches with the waves of the Baltic Sea gently splashing onto the shore on one side and pristine pine forests on the other. While you are there, you should also get some smoked fish offered by many of the vendors. They offer many varieties and the taste is simply out of this world. Aside from the maritime treasures Palanga has to offer you should also take some time to visit the Palanga Botanical Garden and Park. The park features a rose garden, greenhouse, rotunda, a sculpture of Eglė, the Queen of Serpents, a Holocaust memorial, ponds, and gazebos; during the summer it hosts concerts and festivals. While in the warmer months the Park and Garden offer a multitude of blossoming flowers, a visit during the dead of winter will still reward you with the peaceful grandeur this area has to offer.

In addition to the beauty of nature the Park has two other places of interest. One is the Amber Museum. This is definitely worth a look inside. It is positively fascinating to learn of all the different types and variations of amber (gintras in Lithuanian). As you leave the museum, take the path on the right side of the building. It will lead you to a place that is a combination of Lithuanian history, legend, mythology, culture and worship. It is called “Birutė Hill”.

To explain Birutė Hill we should start by telling who Birutė was. Birutė was the second wife of Kęstutis, Grand Duke of Lithuania and the mother of Vytautas the Great. There is very little known about Birutė's life but after her death, in 1382, a strong bond developed with this lady among Lithuanians, especially in the area of Samogitia (Latin)/Žemaitija (Lithuanian).

While no documentation has yet to be found to support this, it is generally believed that she was born near Palanga to a Samogitian or Curonian magnate family. The story of her marriage to Kęstutis is very romantic and has become a legend in Lithuania. It is documented in chronicles that Birutė was a priestess (vaidilutė) and had dedicated her life to serving the Pagan gods by guarding the sacred fire. Apparently this young lady was quite attractive and soon word spread near and far of a priestess in Palanga whose beauty was second to none in the universe. When Kęstutis heard of her beauty, he visited the area and asked her to marry him. She had to refuse because she had made a solemn promise the gods to guard her virginity until her death. Kęstutis, apparently being smitten by the charms of this fine lass had no intention of taking no for an answer. So basically what happened is once he figured out that all this sweet talk wasn’t going to work he took her by force to Trakai and threw a big wedding bash. End result is Birutė and Kęstutis had three sons and three daughters. Vytautas, their first son, was born around 1350 so this indicates suggests that the marriage took place around 1349 or a bit earlier.

Just as with her life, the exact circumstances surrounding Birutė's death are not entirely clear. Between 1381 and 1382 her husband Kęstutis waged a war against his nephew Jogaila, who would become the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Jogaila signed a treaty with the Teutonic Knights against Kęstutis. The result was that her husband was arrested and taken to Kreva Castle in the part of Lithuania which is now Belarus. A week later Kęstutis was dead and some chronicles hint that he was murdered. In one chronicle written by the Teutonic Knights, it is written that Birutė, for reasons of safety, was moved to Brest, Belarus, where she drowned in the autumn of 1382. Even after her passing the details of her death are still uncertain. Thirty-five years after her death, a Samogitian delegation to the Council of Constance denied she was murdered. It gets even more interesting in that a legend claimed that Birutė did not die in Brest. It claims that after her husband’s death she returned to the shrine where she had served earlier in Palanga, and resumed serving the gods until her death which in this case was in 1389.

Now that we have shared with you who Birutė was we can begin to explain Birutė Hill. Birutė Hill is the highest dune at the seaside resort of Palanga and now is a part of the Palanga Botanical Garden. Archaeological research shows that there was a village at the bottom of the hill in the 10th century. In the 13th century, when the Teutonic Knights and Livonian Order invaded, the villagers built a defense system with a tower. After an initial defeat, the system was rebuilt and made even stronger; it now had two towers and a wall surrounded the top of the hill. However, when this was burned in the second half of the 14th century, a pagan shrine and observatory was built in its place instead.

OK, so why is this dune, which is the highest in the Palanga area, called Birutė Hill you ask???
It is because legend has it that she was buried in Palanga at the bottom of this hill named in her honor. Some even say that it is at or near this hill that Kęstutis proposed matrimony to this lovely maiden. After her death, people began to come to this spot to pay tribute to this pagan princess. She was considered to be a goddess or the pagan equivalent of a saint by the local people. Since it was believed that she was buried somewhere at the base of this hill it is only logical that people would come here to worship her. In 1989 archaeologists found evidence of a pagan sanctuary and observatory, which had existed on the top of Birutė Hill in the late 14th or early 15th century. It was likely built in Birutė's honor.

The fact that in the late 1300s or early 1400s the people of this area would have built a pagan sanctuary in honor of this woman they believed to be a goddess or a pagan saint is really not surprising. At this period of time Christianity was still quite new to Lithuania. Yes, Mindaugas was Baptised in 1250/1251 but then in 1261 he reputed Christianity. It wasn’t until Jogaila was Baptised in 1386 that Lithuania really began to become a Christian State. From this point on Jogaila’s court and his knights, which included his cousin Vytautas (Birutės son), were also Baptised and the people of Lithuania followed the religious direction of their leaders. Beginning in 1413, Samogitia / Žemaitija was the last ethnic region of Lithuania to become Christianized. In November 1413, Vytautas himself sailed the Nehman and Dubysa Rivers to the village of Dubysa, which at that time was in the far western part of Samogitia and is now in the Kaunas region, where he baptised the first groups of Samogitians. In 1416, the construction of eight first parochial churches was started. The Diocese of Samogitia was established on 23 October 1417 and Matthias of Trakai became the first Bishop of Samogitia. The cathedral was built in Medininkai around 1464.

So in the early 1400s, the fact that people of the area were worshipping Birutė as a goddess could be considered understandable. However this is where it gets interesting and even to a degee mystifying though. The worshipping continued. The amount of worshippers of Birutė increased. Every year more and more people would come to the foot of the hill and pay their respects. This started to really become an uncomfortable issue in a country that was now considered to be a Christian country with Christian leaders. To discourage people from worshiping pagan gods and Birutė's grave or maybe just to make it look like the people were not worshipping a pagan goddess a chapel for Saint George was built on the top of the hill in 1506. In 1869 the chapel was re-built and to this day you can go to the top of Birutė Hill and visit the Chapel.

In spite of the Chapel and the concerns of the Church worshipping continued and the worshippers increased. In 1898 a Lourdes was built at the base of the hill. This photo of the Lourdes to Berutė was taken in September of 2010. As you can see from the prayer candles that are freshly lit, people to this day are visiting to pay their respects.

In as late as 1965 a sculpture called “For you Berutė” was set on the base of the hill. What gets your attention about the sculpture is not only that it was set here more than 550 years after her death but the name of the stature also is intriguing. The inscription on the sculpture reads in Lithuanian “Tau Birutė”. The word “tau” in Lithuania translates to “for you” but the Lithuanian language contains formal and informal nouns. “Tau” is informal. To say “for you” in the formal, you would say “jums”. What is quite striking and sheds light on how people nowadays feel about Bitutė is that by using the word „tau“ they are addressing her as a close friend.

The next time you are in Lithuania it would be well worth you time to go to Palanga. Explore the sandy beaches, stroll through the pine forests. I don‘t know what it is about the pine trees in Palanga but the sweet smell that they transmit is wonderfully strong and permiates the area in such a way that almost lifts you off your feet and floats you through the natural beauty of this seaside land of natural treasures. Absoulutely do not forget to indulge yourself on what is most likely some of the finest smoked fish you will find any where on this earth. You would also do well to make some time to experience Birutė Hill. When you go there you will more than likely see freshly lit prayer candles and observe people paying their respects to Birutė. As you watch these “worshippers” you may ask yourself are they paying their respects to the wife of Grand Duke Kęstutis, the mother of Vytautas the Great or the pagan princess guardian of the sacred fire. I guess the only way to know would be to ask but to interupt while some one is offering a message from their heart would be quite disrespectfull therefore I guess we will never know.

Su pagarbe
Vin Karnila

Category : Travel Lithuania!

Recovery for Baltic tourism sector

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Carnival in Vilnius.
Photo: Lithuanian State Department of Tourism

- It was something of a recovery period for the Baltic tourism industry in 2010, following a challenging 2009. In all three Baltic countries tourist arrival numbers fell in 2009. Latvia welcomed the most tourists (4.72mn), with Lithuania and Estonia both attracting just over 4mn. Latvia's position as the cheapest tourist destination of the three Baltic countries helped it maintain tourist numbers slightly better than its neighbours during the period of global economic uncertainty in 2009. The decision by the Latvian parliament in May 2010 to reduce the VAT rate on hotel accommodation from 21% to 10% further underlines the country's attractiveness compared to its Baltic peers.

Looking at trends in 2010, all three countries reported higher hotel occupancy rates over the summer months, which bodes well for full-year tourist arrivals figures. We estimate growth in tourist arrivals of 3% for Estonia, 5% for Latvia and 2.5% for Lithuania in 2010. Looking ahead, we are positive about the outlook for all three countries, with a slight preference for Latvia's potential growth in the next five years. Estonia remains the largest tourism market in terms of tourist revenues, generating US$1.42bn in 2009. Lithuania was second with US$870mn, with Latvia in third on US$674mn.

We are upbeat about the outlook for the Baltic region. Cruise travel in the region is continuing to grow in popularity, with Tallinn's status as a European Capital of Culture in 2011 also likely to draw in tourists from across the continent. Riga will be a Capital of Culture city in 2014. Arrivals from Russia should also continue to grow strongly throughout our newly extended forecast period to 2015 as a result of rising disposable income and increased flight services between Russian cities and the Baltic region, most notably by airBaltic.

In BMI's updated Tourism Environment Business Ratings for 2011, the Baltic countries are towards the middle of the table: Estonia is in joint sixth place with Turkey, while Latvia and Lithuania are in joint eighth place. This partly reflects the still developing nature of the region's tourism industry compared to its peers across Central and Eastern European.

Note On Accommodation Data

BMI advises readers that the official number of accommodation establishments across the Baltic region has fluctuated wildly in recent years as a result of new builds and existing establishments choosing to register with government bodies and therefore becoming part of official data. This latter trend looks set to continue over the forecast period, which must be borne in mind when considering our projections through to 2015.

Estonian Air Back Under State Control

In May 2010, Scandinavian airline SAS Group announced that it wished to divest its 49% stake in Estonian Air as it concentrates on its home market. In September, a transaction was approved by the Estonian government, which provided EEK280mn via a rights issue to increase the airline's share capital. Following the rights issue, SAS saw its stake reduced to 10%, with the government now holding 90% of Estonian Air. According to SAS, the airline has an option to buy this 10% stake (and SAS has the option to sell the stake) at a 'fair market value' after four years. SAS has said it will continue commercial cooperation with the Estonian flag carrier.

Over January-August 2010, Estonian Air carried 383,271 passengers, down by 1.6% year-on-year (y-o-y). However, following a poor start to the year, there was a steady increase in passenger numbers in the last four months of this period, according to the airline.

Star Holidays Enters Bankruptcy

In October 2010, Lithuanian travel company Star Holidays (and its subsidiary Star1 Airlines) started bankruptcy proceedings. The company, which was only established in June 2009, had incurred debts reportedly in excess of LTL5mn by the time of its closure. The trigger for the bankruptcy was the decision by Dublin Airport in late September to detain Star1 Airways' only Boeing 737 aircraft following non-payment of aircraft leasing fees.

The collapse of the travel company was another blow to the Lithuanian aviation industry, which suffered the indignity of the former national flag carrier flyLAL going to the wall in early 2009. Star Holidays' failure also underlines the risks still prevalent across the global tourism industry as the world economy moves towards recovery.

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Bill Thompson

Category : Travel Lithuania!

Druskininkai makes you feel special!

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Druskininkai is the largest resort in Lithuania, located in the south of the country, 120 km from Vilnius and Kaunas. The resort is famous for its old sanatorium treatment traditions, wonderful nature and rapidly developing tourism services infrastructure. The resort has long been famous for its mineral waters and curative mud, which currently are combined with modern technologies and have a great value for health services. Druskininkai is the international resort for active recreation and treatment, which is aimed at the wide spectrum entertainment industry with its highly developed modern service infrastructure. The resort infrastructure is developed in these directions – sanatorium treatment, tourism, recreation, entertainment and commercial sporting activities. The wide range of available services is suitable for people of all ages.

Visit Druskininkai and you will be convinced of the exceptional nature of this resort and its calm aura. You will sense a harmony of body and soul or maybe you will spend your time very lively in active entertainment.

Health improvement in Druskininkai is a source of energy and good mood. Enjoy your life, care of yourself and remember – you are always welcome in Druskininkai!!!

Traditional treatment

Advantages for personal health in Druskininkai are mineral water, curing mud, and mild climatic conditions. These make this Southern Lithuania resort attractive to visitors and serve as a good background for sanative activity.

Drinking mineral water has positive effect on the mucous membrane of stomach and duodenum, reduces stomach acidity, stimulates bile formation, regulates gastro-intestinal motorics, exchange of electrolytes and hormones. When drinking or inhaling drinking mineral water, it causes variations in hormones, strengthens immune system.
Patients can drink mineral water of different mineralization and composition straight from the springs.

Druskininkai is rich in fields of therapeutic peat mud. It is the product of long decomposition of vegetative organisms with almost no exposure to oxygen taking place in low marshlands. Due to its physical, chemical and microbiological properties it is suitable for treatment with baths, applications and compresses.

Climate is the third remedial factor of Druskininkai health resort. The town is surrounded by coniferous woods and waters. There are no industrial companies, heavy transport or any other kind of pollution round the town.

The key feature of pure air is negative (light) ions predominant in the air. The average temperature in summer is 18,2 °C, relative humidity is 45-59 %, while the average temperature in winter is 5 °C and relative humidity 85-90 %. Annual rainfall is about 600 mm, on a sunny day annually it amounts up to 200, southwest winds 2,9 m/s are dominating. It is the perfect background for treatment procedures, recreation and tourism.

In a tradition of two hundred years, the recreational health resort of Druskininkai proved its potential to stop illnesses exacerbation and progress, to reduce the dangers of disability, and of resort to increase the general quality of life. 

In 2003 Druskininkai resort was admitted to the International Climate Therapy and Hydro Therapy Association that unites about 60 members of various resorts in different countries worldwide.


Health improvement treatment

Physical and biological, and sometimes psychological conditions of the patient are actively affected in the resort. Promotion of an active and responsible for his own health person is one of the ways to propagate the health improvement effects of the resort here. Physical activity of people in various social and age groups is encouraged in order to satisfy their biological need for mobility.

The renewed infrastructure of the resort and warm attitudes of the personnel of health treatment centers attract more and more people from Lithuania and abroad successfully. Not only traditional treatment of illnesses is offered, but also the popular programmes for health strengthening, orientated on younger persons recreation and relax.

People from cities here are recovering in a few days time and are able to forget their everyday worries, stresses. They leave but come again because, they say, the pace of time in this beautiful place in Dzukija stops for them.

Besides, medicine specialists designed and supervised special programmes of different scope and intensity helping patients to loose weight, to relieve from the stresses, and to nurture their bodies.


Local places of interest

Druskininkai is situated in picturesque surroundings, encircled with interesting places to visit. Many places can be reached by riding on bicycle paths from the town center through the pine forests: the ethnographic Švendubrė village with a monument to nature – the Devil's Stone, and the legendary Raigardas Valley loved by M.K.Čiurlionis, the Museum of Soviet Sculptures "Grūto parkas", or just to see the Ratnyčia river as it meanders along its banks, and bath in its cascades. By bicycle you can reach the interesting surroundings of Latežeris and, along the way, visit the country house of the folk artist A.Česnulis (Naujasodės village). New bicycle and pedestrian paths are planned to Viečiūnai and Liškiava.

An excursion by boat will take you to Liškiava to visit a mound with the remains of the 15th  century castle tower, late baroque church and the Dominican monastery. We invite you to visit the Dzukija National Park, where you can see Dzukija's natural beauty and the local architecture, business and customs of the local inhabitants and sample the traditional food.

In the picturesque city centre, new tennis courts have been opened for those who enjoy physical recreation. 

The Raigardas landscape reserve

The Raigardas valley is a picturesque landscape valley located 9 km from Druskininkai on the road to Gardinas. There are many legends and folk stories about Raigardas. Supposedly, very long ago there was a great city, which was later swallowed up by the earth. From time immemorial it is considered that the slopes of the Raigardas trough together with the pine trees growing on the high and dry slope sink to the springy abyss. The valley has been growing every year. The name Raigardas came from old times, then a city in Lithuanian was called "gardas" and swamps – "raja". From these two ancient words the name Raigardas was coined. The Raigardas valley has been declared a landscape reserve. There are wide meadows with dunes and washes in the bed of the valley. The Raigardas Valley is protected as a rare landscape form. It was formed relatively recently (5000 years ago) and is still forming now. At the foot of the slope there are watery springs, which is the reason why the slope is still on the move.


Švendubrė is one of villages located in the Druskininkai forests near the Raigardas valley, 5 km from Druskininkai. It is an old street village, which has been declared an architectural monument of local importance. Especially interesting are the old dzukish homesteads with distinctive fenced yards. Around the village in an area of 20 sq km there are meadow seams with streams. Where the Nemunykštis river falls into the Nemunas river, there is a steep hill called the Black Mountain. In olden times it could have served as a defensive point. From the top of the hill there is a beautiful panorama: the blue waters of the Nemunas river, the Raigardas valley, covered with green carpet of grass. In the distance you can see the Užubalis hill, overgrown with pine trees and bushes. Supposedly, in ancient times a small wooden castle could have stood here, surrounded by swamps and bushes. To the north of the village there is a geological monument – the Švendubrė Stone, mentioned in many legends and folk stories.


Liškiava is mentioned in historical sources since 1044. Liškiava is located on the astonishingly beautiful left bank of the Nemunas river, 8 km from Druskininkai. People have lived in the Liškiava area since the second millennium BC. Liškiava has 4 archeological monuments: the Alka mound, the Church hill, a stone with a bull's heel and the so called "the stone of witches".

Liškiava is famous for its architectural monuments: the 14-15th century castle, the remains of its tower, the 17th century sacral ensemble (church, former Dominican monastery and outbuildings), the 18th century churchyard fence, the steps to the churchyard, the 19th century campanile, the memorial column with the sculpture of St.Agatha. Many works of art remain in the church from the 17th to 20th centuries. In the 6th century BC – 9th century AD there was a wooden castle on the mound. The wooden castle was built at the end of 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century and later abandoned after the battle of Grunwald (1410).

The Dzūkija National Park

The Dzūkija National Park is the largest national park in Lithuania, which occupies an area of 55,900 ha. The biologic diversity of the region, distinctiveness of flora and fauna made this territory an exception. Here you can find 147 kinds of flora and fauna written into the Red Book. There are many ethnographic and historical monuments and works of folk art in Naujasodė, Merkinė and Zervynos.


Merkinė is one of the oldest Lithuanian towns, located in the junction of Nemunas and Neris, Merkinė was mentioned in 1377 inthe Teutonic Order chronicles. It was the old capital of Dzūkija, encircled by beautiful landscape. It witnessed the Lithuanian battles with the Teutonic Order, old rulers of Lithuania and Poland and a stay of the Russian czar Peter I. An old tradition of black ceramics still lives in the neighborhoods of Merkinė. Many attractive ecological and ethnological tourist routes start here.

Museum "Grūto parkas"

In the shadows of pine and fir trees, soviet monuments whch were dismantled in 1989 are exhibited. This is a heritage of several decades of the Lithuanian monumental art. These idols were forced on the Lithuanian people in tragic soviet era and reveal the historic truth about the soviet occupation of Lithuania. The exposition aims to show to the people of Lithuania, visiting guests as well as to the future generations, the naked soviet ideology, which oppressed and violated the spirit of our nation for several decades. 

The Town Museum of Druskininkai

The representational villa "Linksma" build in the beginning of 20th century, where the Town Museum is located, is a beautiful architectural monument located on the shores of the Druskonis lake, in the centre of the town. Since 2001, the museum has a permanent exposition, hosts events, shows, chamber music concerts and lectures. During the holiday season, the museum terrace hosts the traditional concerts "Serenades of Druskininkai" and other town events.

The Memorial Museum of M.K.Čiurlionis

The museum was established in 1963, in the house of the parents of the artist and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), where he lived and worked from 1896 to 1910. In two family houses the authentic life has been recreated. In the other two buildings there are expositions of the art, biography and family history of the artist. The museum has a reading hall, which collects works on M.K.Čiurlionis, hosts concerts, events, evenings and shows films. The various expositions are organized in one of the halls of the museum.

V.K.Jonynas' Gallery

The gallery was founded in 1993 m. The gallery exhibits the works of the Lithuanian artist Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas (1907 – 1997), who worked for a long time in Germany and the USA, his drawings, graphics, paintings and stained-glass projects. Photographs and films show the most valuable interiors of churches and works of monumental architecture created by the artist. 

The gallery hosts art exhibitions from the National Museum of M.K.Čiurlionis and private collections. For schoolchildren and kindergarteners art lessons are organised in the gallery which has 15 easels. Also projects with V.K.Jonynas art school are organised. 

Forest Museum "Girios Aidas"

The museum was established in 1971. It has expositions of animals and birds. Witches and other legendary characters are hiding in the hollows of oaks, birds are singing and the forest sighs.

The following exhibitions are organized:
- wood art works, 
- jewelry works from amber, 
- black ceramics works, 
- works of folk artists, 
- expositions of photographic masters, 
- ethno cultural collections. 

At the end of 2006, an Aqua Park - the biggest and most modern in the Baltics - was be launched in Druskininkai. It offers a large variety of entertainments for both adults and children as well as a wide choice of relaxation procedures.




Category : Travel Lithuania!

For ladies only

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A big group of managers, all women, from Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland are arriving for a seven day visit to Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn at the end of May. The tailor-made ‘Learning Baltic Tour’ encompasses a traditional tourism sightseeing programme, showing the female mangers some of the most beautiful European capital cities and landscapes. There will also be focus on Baltic culture, and the group will also meet local female managers to share experiences, and of course, to relax and have fun. The tour will provide excellent opportunities for networking and informal dinners, during which many topics concerning women of all countries.

There is no better time to experience northern Europe’s “best kept secret” than mid-summer. The weather is ideal, with generally perfect temperatures for enjoying the many outdoor musical and cultural activities that are celebrated all season long. Though having much in common, these three countries are distinguished by different language, history, ethnic origin, and cuisine. The capital cities of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, each with a unique character of cultural richness and beauty, have earned all three the designation as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. Experiencing the rich heritage of this region will be the highlight of the tour for the US ladies. The tour will include several interesting gatherings with local women who have an inspiring story to share. Such opportunities never fail to add a unique dimension to the travel experience, and profoundly enhance our cultural appreciation for one another.

Category : Travel Lithuania!

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This is our ultimate tourism guide that supports promotion of Lithuania and all that this country has to offer. Articles on a variety of topics, information about hotels, airlines, resorts, historic sites, events, museums, attractions and much more can be easily found here!
The main activities of the TRAVEL LITHUANIA Tourism section are the following:
Spreading knowledge about tourism services and destinations in Lithuania.
Informing about tourism investment opportunities Lithuania.
Fostering tourism relations with other countries.
Informing about tourism exhibits and fairs.
Fostering foreign media coverage of tourism in Lithuania.
Informing about workshops and meetings, conferences, seminars for professionals.
Planning to visit Lithuania? Here is some information for You:
Overseas residents must present valid documents on entering Lithuania; these include a passport and an entry visa.  No visa is required for residents of the United States, Britain, the EU and residents of many other countries who enter Lithuania for less than 90 days in a 12-month period.
There are arrangements with some 20 other countries, whose citizens are eligible to receive a visa to Lithuania without being in possession of an invitation from a Lithuanian body. Nevertheless, the visa is granted after proof is provided of the ability to finance the period of the stay in Lithuania; normally around 40 dollars a day is required.
For more about visa and Residence Permits see:
How do I get to Lithuania?
It’s very easy to reach Lithuania by car, ferry, railroad or by air. There are three international airports, all with good connections to Europe. The airports are located in Palanga, Kaunas and Vilnius.
A list of flights to Lithuania from popular destinations can be found here: flights
What language is spoken in Lithuania?
The official language in the country is Lithuanian which is said to be the most archaic of all the living Indo-European tongues. In tourist places and in bigger cities most people know English. Other languages that it may be possible to communicate in Lithuania are Russian, Polish; sometimes French, German.
Got interested and want to learn some Lithuanian? See:
What currency is used in Lithuania?
Legislation on the controls of cash entering or leaving the EU apply in all Member States. Any person entering or leaving the EU will have to declare the money that they are carrying if this amounts to 10,000 euro or more (including cheques, travellers' cheques, money orders, etc.). This will not apply to anyone travelling via the EU to a non-EU country, as long as the original journey started outside of the EU, nor to those travelling within the EU.
The official currency of Lithuania is Litas (Lt). Major credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines can be found in most banks and hotels. There are numerous currency exchange kiosks in the capital Vilnius and travellers' cheques can be cashed at some banks.
For more see: currency
What precautions should I take against muggers and robbers?
Petty crime, notably pickpocketing in bars and restaurants and especially in outside areas, is common. Take extra care of your belongings in busy, and particularly in outside, locations. Avoid carrying large quantities of cash. When confronted by a mugger or robber do not oppose resistance.
If you need to contact the emergency services in Lithuania call 112

Category : Travel Lithuania!


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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?

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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.

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* * *
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.

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Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >

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