Lithuania, one of the Baltic States, features a wide variety of natural, historical and cultural attractions. It has a Baltic Sea coastline in the west and surrounded by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east, Poland to the southwest, and Russia (Kaliningrad) to the west.
Regional differences of Lithuanian culture reflect the complicated historical development of the country. Since the 13th century five ethnographic areas, or regions, have historically formed in the current territory of Lithuania:
Aukštaitija - literally Highlands, northeastern and eastern region
Žemaitija - Samogitia, literally Lowlands, north-western region
Dzukija or Dainava - south-eastern region
Suduva or Suvalkija - southern and south-western region
Lithuania Minor - sea-coast region
These ethnographic regions even today differ by dialects, ways of life and behaviour styles, while until the turn of the last century there were pronounced differences in dress and homestead styles as well as village planning.
Lithuania is justly proud of its unfailing treasures of folklore: colourful clothing, meandering songs, an abundance of tales and stories, sonorous dialects and voluble language. This ethnographic heritage is nourished by ethnographic and folklore companies and barn theatres. Recent years have witnessed the revival of ethnographic crafts and culinary traditions. Folk craft fairs and live craft days are organized during many events and festivals.
Things To See
Vilnius has a vibrant arts scene and many historic buildings. These include the Old Town, built between the 13th and 19th centuries, Gediminas Castle, Archcathedral Basilica, St. Ann’s Church, St. Peter and Paul’s Church and Three Crosses Hill. It also contains the world’s only statue of Frank Zappa.
The ancient capital of Trakai contains many historic buildings and art galleries.
The Dzukija National Park is known for its wild forests, mushrooms, berries and the local villages.
Gruto Parkas is a Soviet theme park, with many educational exhibitions of the Soviet era. It includes Soviet paintings and sculptures that reflect the personality cults of Lenin, Stalin and Brezhnev. Fragments of concentration camps and guard towers can be seen. Uplifting Soviet tunes play over the concentration-camp style loudspeakers. Other Soviet attractions in Lithuania include the Soviet Aviation Museum, (formerly) top secret military bases and missile silos.
The convent of Pazaislis contains the Camaldulian Mother of God statue, which is claimed to have miraculous powers.
The Hill of Crosses, at Siauliai, attracts Catholic pilgrims from around the world, and was a centre of Lithuanian patriotism during the Soviet occupation.
Driving in Lithuania
Lithuania has a good quality, well developed road system. Liability insurance is compulsory. You can enter Lithuania via Western Europe, Latvia, Kaliningrad or Belorussia. Lithuanians drive on the right side of the road. It is compulsory to have a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and warning triangle. Those on a driving vacation should remember to adhere to speed limits and drink driving law in Lithuania.