Difference between revisions of "Lithuania"
Revision as of 19:25, 29 March 2013
Lithuania (Lietuva) is a Baltic country in Northern Europe. 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.
Lithuania is an active member of the European Union (since 1 May 2004) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (since 29 Mar 2004). Lithuania is the only Baltic country with more than eight hundred years of statehood tradition, while its name was first mentioned one thousand years ago, in 1009. Wedged at the dividing line of Western and Eastern civilizations, Lithuania battled dramatically for its independence and survival. Once in the Middle Ages (15th century), Lithuania was the largest state in the entire Europe, where crafts and overseas trade prospered.
In 1579, Vilnius University, an important scientific and education centre of the European scale, was opened. In the 16th century, Lithuania adopted its First, Second and Third Statutes. Not only the Statutes were the backbone of the legislative system of the country, they had a major impact on legislation of other European states of the time. Despite losing its independence, Lithuania managed to retain its Third Statute in effect for as many as 250 years, which was instrumental in preservation of national and civic self-awareness of the public. The Constitution of Poland-Lithuania together with the French Constitution, both adopted in 1791, were the first constitutions in Europe (Polish-Lithuanian constitution was adopted few months earlier).
Transitional, between maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters and summers.
Lowland, many scattered small lakes, fertile soil. The fertile central plains are separated by hilly uplands that are ancient glacial deposits. The highest point is Aukstojas Hill 294 m (967 ft), about 24 km southeast of Vilnius and lies just off the main highway to Minsk and within sight of the Belarus border. 30% is covered in forest.
Lithuania, first formed in the middle of the 13th century, was a huge feudal country stretching from the Baltic to the Black sea in the middle ages and in 1569 entered an union with Poland to form a commonwealth.
Lithuania was part of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Polish Partitions in the 18th century when it became part of the Russian Empire.
Modern Lithuania gained its independence from Russia in 1918 following World War I and the dissolution of the Czarist monarchy. However, in 1940 Lithuania was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but this proclamation was not generally recognized until September 1991, following the abortive coup in Moscow. The Soviet Union recognized Lithuania's independence on 6 September 1991. A constitution was adopted on 25 October 1992. The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently has restructured its economy for integration into Western European institutions.
Regional differences of Lithuanian culture reflect the complicated historical development of the country. Since the thirteenth century five ethnographic areas, or regions, have historically formed in the current territory of Lithuania:
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.
Gilvis 17:18, 29 November 2012 (EST)Gilvis
Lithuania is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.
Most airlines arrive at main Vilnius international airport  and smaller seaside Palanga airport , while no-frills carriers (Ryanair) land in Kaunas international airport  Kaunas airport also has direct link with [Riga] with AirBaltic.
Majority of flights are operated by Ryanair .
For destinations in Northern Lithuania Riga airport is an attractive option.
Major "Via Baltica" road links Kaunas to Warsaw and Riga/Tallinn. The Baltic road, which links Vilnius to Tallinn, was just reconstructed. It is a very easy and pleasant route. Overall, the major roads between the cities are of decent quality. Be extremely cautious when getting off the main roads in rural areas, as some of them may contain pot holes and general blemishes which could damage a regular car if you go too fast. While driving between cities there are usually cafes and gas stations with bathrooms and snacks.
Litrail has services to major cities in Lithuania as well as to some small towns and villages which are difficult to reach by other public transport (e.g. popular holiday/weekend destinations in Dzūkija and Aukštaitija National Parks, Neris Regional Park and, for example, Kretinga town, a final stop for those who are traveling to Palanga seaside resort by train). Fares are low compared to Western Europe: Vilnius-Kaunas ~17 Litas (5 Euro), Vilnius-Klaipeda ~50 Litas (14,5 Euro), Sestokai (Lithuanian-Polish border) - Kaunas ~20 Litas (5,8 Euro).
Many of the long distance trains have compartments which can accommodate six seated passengers or four sleeping passengers. The headrest can be lifted up to form a very comfortable bunk bed, which can be used while people are seated below. The seats themselves form the other pair of beds. As some journeys are quite long (about 5 hours in the case of Vilnius-Klaipėda), it is common to see people sleeping on the upper bunks during daytime journeys as well.
Generally the railway network is not considered as an alternative to the road network as it does not exactly duplicates the roads. As a result some places are more convenient to reach by train, some other places by bus, even if the railway and the highway are not far apart. Examples of the destinations which are more convenient to reach by train: Ignalina, a main point where the trip to Aukštaitija National Park begins; Kaunas' eastern part around the dam where several recreation areas and tourist objects are situated (one have to get off at Palemonas suburb). This makes the question "which one is better, train or bus?" rather hard to answer because it depends on the nuances.
Narrow Gauge Railway in Anykščiai  offers short trips to a near-by lake. In summer it runs on regular schedule, rest of the time tours must be booked in advance.
Hitchhiking in Lithuania is generally good. Get to the outskirts of the city, but before cars speed up to the highway speeds. The middle letter on the older licence plates (with Lithuanian flag) of the three letter code usually corresponds with the city of registration (V for Vilnius, K for Kaunas, L for Klaipeda, etc.). Newer licence plates (with EU flag) are not bound to city of registration in any way.
In Lithuania it is easy to move by buses and in practice, all the bigger even a little places can be reached with buses. The buses usually run more slowly than where a Western has got used due to if it is not a question of Ekspresas, the bus stops at every stop exactly. To be more precise, there are two types of bus lines (see below) and three types of the bus stops: "red" stops for "Ekspresas" buses (very few, the journey with "Ekspresas" is quick), "yellow" stops for the regular intercity buses, and the "blank" stops for suburban buses (very frequent, the journey is slow). The color is a color of a road sign for the bus stop. For example 40 km the trip by suburban bus can last thus an hour. Some buses are old cars that have mainly been brought from the Nordic countries, some are new ones, it is not predictable which one you will get. There is usually its own bus company on every town (district centre) and more than one company in the largest towns, and the best are Kautra, the TOKS of Kaunas, Vilnius and mini bus company, Transrevis, which will drive turns between Kaunas and Vilnius. A company to avoid is worthwhile is Busturas, they drive the old buses to Siauliai and are in a weak economic situation, but if you travel, the alternative is not always. Practically, when you travel the time is most important factor and the best decision is to take the closest bus which runs in the right direction.
The bulk of Lithuania's bus routes and turns have been listed in an address from which you also can reserve the tickets for certain routes. However, pay attention to the fact that the payment system supports only some of the Lithuanian banks for the present and the credit card at the moment does not suit.
The list above is only for the intercity buses, which generally is sufficient. There are two types of bus lines in Lithuania: intercity (tarpmiestiniai) buses and suburban (priemiestiniai) buses. This is reflected in the structure of the bigger bus stations, for example Vilnius bus station has two sections, a suburban "blue" one (blue color dominates in the timetables, destination plates on buses are written in blue) and a intercity "red" one (red colour dominates in the timetables, destination plates on buses are written in either blue or red). Thus, for example, "Trakai" direction has two platforms, a "red" one where intercity buses leave directly towards Trakai, and a "blue" one where suburban buses leave to Trakai but run different routes, zig-zagging from village to village and finally arrive to Trakai. Similarly, at the Trakai bus station there are two platforms for "Vilnius" direction: blue one and red one. It is important to know that the "red" (intercity) bus always is faster. At the same time, intercity bus does not stop everywhere, for example the bus stop near the Hill of Crosses is for suburban buses only, if you wait there you can see many buses passing by but they won't stop there, you have to wait for a "blue" (suburban) bus. Schedules for suburban buses usually are put up separately from the schedules for intercity buses.
Buses operate regularly between the main centres as well as the regional centres. Kautra  operates a number of routes out of Kaunas with the cost of ~20-30 Litas for most journeys. Other companies with intercity routes worth to mention are Toks  (from Vilnius) and Busturas  from Siauliai. For students with Lithuanian student id, bus companies grant 50% discount around the year with the exception of July and August. For students with ISIC (international student card), bus companies grant 50% discount.
For buses and trolley-buses on routes within towns and cities it is usual to buy the ticket in advance from a kiosk, board the vehicle using the middle door and stamp the ticket using one of the ticket punches. These were historically located near the middle door, but with the introduction of electronic ticketing, there is often a single ticket punch located just behind the driver's seat. Tickets bought from the driver, rather than kiosks, are more expensive and may also generate an off-handed response if the bus is late or crowded and you don't provide the exact change. Inspectors periodically check tickets and will issue a fine if you cannot produce a correctly punched ticket. The bus is exited by the middle door and it is important to head for the door before the bus has stopped - it can be impossible to leave once people have started boarding.
Some towns fully introduced electronic ticketing and terminated the sale of paper tickets in the kiosks, visitors have to board the bus and buy the ticket from driver. Such ticket, after stamping in the punch, is valid for the one ride. Also there are different regulations in different towns which door to use when boarding the vehicle, just look how other people do and follow them.
In addition to common buses, there are minibuses which usually operate express routes. For schedules, consult
Taxis are run on a meter and can be booked by the phone numbers shown on the door of the taxi. Taxis are relatively cheap compared to western Europe. Beware however, some companies may not be as safe as others, common sense will keep you safe in this regard. "Taking the long way round" used to be common but had nearly been irradicated, western Europeans may still find themselves taking the scenic route, don't worry though, the maximum that this will add is a few litas. It is customary to give a small tip at the end of your journey.
It's usually cheaper to order a taxi by phone instead of taking one in the street, especially in bus stations or airports.
Recently (spring 2009) taxi prices, especially in Vilnius, have dropped dramatically from previous level during the boom years. If you don't need a fancy ride, taxi can be as cheap as 1.25 litas (37 euro cents) per km.
Cycling in Lithuania is quite popular, however it depends on the exact location as in major cities pavements usually will have a bicycle pathways with numerous signs, although getting around by bicycle in rural areas might become a bit of a challenge. Two international EuroVelo cycle routes across the country, EuroVelo No. 10 and EuroVelo No. 11 equipped with quality signs, bikepaths are of excellent quality.
Just as it is in Western Europe, it might be dangerous to leave your bicycle outside alone for more than a few hours without locking it.
The international bicycle project BaltiCCycle may provide you with information and help.
Lithuanian traffic moves on the right and, as with most of the world, all distances are posted in km.
The road network in Lithuania is fairly good, especially the motorways. The quality of road surface on minor roads can vary. The improvement work hampers traffic in many places. The Via Baltica road goes through Lithuania from Estonia to Poland. Another important road is the A1 from Vilnius to Klaipeda.
Unlike many European countries, but similar to North American practice, turning right at a red traffic light is allowed where indicated by a "green arrow" (square white sign next to the red light, containing a green arrow indicating the permitted direction), provided that it does not endanger other traffic. Be aware that the absence of such a sign means that turning right on red is not allowed, and the police will stop any driver seen breaking this rule.
Many bigger junctions have a separate green light for traffic turning left, but no red light. The green light for the other directions shows arrows going straight and to the right, but you need to look closely to make them out.
On two- or three- lane roads, it is polite to move out of the right-hand lane (if safe to do so) when you intend to travel straight ahead; this keeps the right-hand lane clear for right-turning traffic. When moving back to the right hand lane watch out for fast-moving vehicles approaching from behind.
On the motorways the u-turn is possible. The motorists do not observe traffic regulations so especially the pedestrians must be exact as conscientiously as elsewhere in former Soviet countries. Moving domestic animals and roe animals may cause dangerous situations on the roads and motorways.
Roundabouts are a feature of the Lithuanian road network, particularly in the cities. Visitors from countries where this type of junction is uncommon or not used at all, may find the Wikipedia article on roundabouts useful.
The alcohol limit is 0.4 in Lithuania's traffic. The alcohol limit is being lowered to 0.2.
Fixed speed cameras are frequent along country roads and motorways, usually near crossroads or pedestrian crossings, and in cities. These are usually announced by a sign. Many of them appear to be designed to be turned around from time to time, watching the opposite direction.
The official language of Lithuania is Lithuanian, making up one of only two languages (along with Latvian) on the Baltic branch of the Indo-European family. Despite the kinship of Lithuanian to many other European languages, the archaic nature of its grammar makes it hard for foreigners unfamiliar with the language to form even basic sentences.
Foreigners interested in reading English news can access the Lithuania Tribune, which is an online news portal providing news about Lithuania in English.
Russian is spoken as a second language by about 80% of the population according to European Union statistics, clearly making it the most useful non-Lithuanian language to know. The younger generation is becoming more and more proficient in English, but still only 32% of Lithuanians can speak it. Polish and, to a lesser extent, German are also spoken in some places for historical reasons. Lithuanians are always eager for an opportunity to practice their English, but those who learn a few basic phrases of the local language are always amply awarded with good will and appreciation for their efforts.
In Samogitia (Western Lithuania), most people talk in Samogitian, which is somewhat different from Standard Lithuanian and is sometimes called an independent language.
Remember that you are in Lithuania, not in a Russian colony and no longer in the Soviet Union: Lithuanians do not want to hear their language being 'almost Russian' because it is not and they do not like to be associated with Russia.
Lithuanian and Latvian are the last living languages of the Baltic language family. Local people greatly appreciate even small attempts to speak Lithuanian.
The most southern of the Baltic countries, Lithuania's historic heritage sets it quite apart from the other two. Visiting this small but colourful country today, few travellers might guess that this was once the largest nation in Europe. A few monuments remind of those golden ages, when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched out far into modern day Russia, Poland and Moldova, but even fewer are still inside the Lithuanian borders. The archeologic site of Kernavė, long ago a medieval capital, is now a World Heritage Site and has historic hillfort mounds as well as a museum. The Trakai Island Castle in Trakai is sometimes called "Little Mariënburg". It's located on an island and was one of the main strongholds in the prime days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Although it was severely damaged in 17th century wars with Muscovy, the castle was beautifully restored in the 20th century and is now a popular tourist sight. Kaunas Castle in Kaunas is even older, but only a fourth of the original building remains.
The country's lovely capital, Vilnius, is a small but pleasant place with a UNESCO listed historic centre. It's the perfect place to admire a range of architectural styles, as it boasts a mixture of gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical buildings. Stroll through the narrow streets and cosy courtyards and kick back for a coffee in one of the many cafés on Pilies Street. Then, walk down Gediminas Avenue, the town's main street lined with governmental buildings and theatres, towards the old neighbourhood of Žvėrynas. With some 65 churches, the famous Gediminas Tower, the Cathedral Square, the Royal Palace, the Presidential Palace and many other monuments and museums, you won't run out of things to see in Vilnius any time soon.
For a day at the sea, the popular seaside resort of Palanga is the place to be. Although it gets crowded in summer, it has some great beaches and beautiful sand dunes. Sand dunes overgrown with pine forest is also what you'll find at the almost 100 km long Curonian Spit, which separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. It's a World Heritage Site shared between Lithuania and Russia and is best explored from the large port city Klaipėda, though there is a possibility to stay on the Spit itself in one of the four fishermen villages. Not far from Klaipeda is the village of Juodkrante, which is famous for its Hill of Witches, decorated with sculptures from the country's legends and tales. Farthermost on Lithuanian half is the fishermen's town of Nida, it is praised for its shores, ancient ethnographic cemetery and high sand dunes in vicinity. Klaipėda is also a good hub to other sea side resorts on the Baltic Coast, less known but equally cosy, such like Karklė. Nice bicycle path stretches north and south from Klaipėda, as well as along all Curonian Spit.
A few kilometres from the northern city Šiauliai you'll find the remarkable Hill of Crosses, which is an extraordinary and popular pilgrimage site. Over a 100.000 crosses - small, huge, simple and exuberant - have been placed here by faithful from far and wide. On the other side of the country, in the very south, you'll find the popular and classy spa resort town of Druskininkai, surrounded by largest pine forest in the country.
Like it's Baltic neighbours, Lithuania has a lot to offer for nature lovers. Dense forests, hills, beautiful blue lakes and rivers are the main base. The forested Aukštaitija National Park  is perhaps the most popular of the country's national parks for its balanced diversity of natural and cultural values. Its forests are home to elk, deer and wild boar. Some of the pines you'll see here are up to 200 years old and the park is a safe haven for many plants and birds that are endangered in the rest of the country. The 126 lakes and countless streams in between them make the park a great place for water sports activities and the villages in the park have some interesting wooden churches. South east from the national park lies a one of the largest forests, famous Labanoras Forest, which is a part of Labanoras Regional Park - and there is more rare plants, more rare birds, including Black Stork, Capercailye, Crane and few species of eagles, more rare animals like Lynx and Wolf, 285 lakes (70 of them swimmable), mysterious swamps and numerous rivers and streams suitable for canoeing. No surprise that its popularity among holidaymakers exceed even popularity of its neighbour Aukštaitija National Park. Another favourite regional park, especially among the birders, is theNemunas Delta. The vast wetlands around the place where Neman River reaches the Baltic Sea are a popular eco-tourism destination and an important bird habitat.
Major parks and gardens
20th century military heritage
Lithuania was a part of Russian Empire and bordered Germany. Various small fortifications are sparsely scattered across the country, but most of them are concentrated in two places: around Kaunas and in Zarasai (Novo-Alexandrovsk at the time) - Ignalina area.
Pagan heritage: sites and artifacts
Concerning religion, Lithuanian rulers were very flexible. Some tended to Catholicism, others to Orthodox, and some were changing religions like clothes depending on trend. Finally, on 19 April 1389, Pope Urban VI recognized the status of Lithuania as a Roman Catholic state. A direct consequence of this was that German Orders lost any legal reasons to continue their crusades to Lithuania. Some say that Lithuania was forced to accept Christianity, some others can say that Christian Europe was forced to recognize Lithuania, but if the measure of progress is human life, then it was a victory for all.
Lithuania has many religious sites and especially many for people of Catholic faith. All of them are open for people of any religion and background. Some popular pilgrimage sites to visit include:
Lithuanian's are most proud of one thing. Basketball. To Lithuanians it was more than a sport. In order for a foreigner to understand he or she would have to read history. In summary, Lithuanians been oppressed by Russians for a while and they kept fighting to be independent. Lithuanians were first to declare independence from Soviet Union. Basketball finalized the independence when newly independent country, Lithuania, participated in Olympics, which took place in Barcelona. They barely managed to raise enough money to send the team to the tournament, but managed to come back as heroes because they came back with a bronze medal. At the medal ceremony, Lithuanian flag, which was independent only for 1 year has been raised high right next to American flag. It was great achievement because, the game for the bronze medal was against Russians. It was more than a basketball game. Lithuanians were oppressed by them for so long. They even had to represent Soviet Union in olympics. Actually, when USSR won gold medal in 1988 in Seoul, 4 out of 5 starters were Lithuanian. They carried the team, but the medal went to Soviet Union, instead of Lithuania. Therefore, that is why the win against Russian in 1992 was crucial. Also, Lithuania has most NBA players per person, which makes Lithuania one of the best basketball countries in the world. According to FIBA rankings, Lithuanian youth is ranked #2 and losing the #1 spot to USA. Although for a country of 3,000,000 it is very impressive.
Swimming is also a sport that is gaining a lot of attention, especially after Ruta Meilutyte won olympic gold medal in women's breaststroke.
Žydrunas Savickas is another person that Lithuanians are proud of. He is considered as the strongest man in the world.
Arvydas Sabonis is a legendary basketball player that earned a spot in Basketballs Hall of Fame .
Arturas Karnisovas is all time leading scorer for Lithuanian national team.
Knowing Lithuanian sports will definitely help you win their hearts.
Major sports venues
Major football stadiums
Lithuania has a lot of shopping malls for so few inhabitants. There isn't a big difference between Lithuania's shopping malls and those in other parts of Europe.
Vilnius recently became a shopper's paradise when plenty of massive shopping centres were opened all over the city. Akropolis (a chain of shopping malls in Lithuania) is one of them and definitely worth visiting if you are a shopping malls maniac, as it houses an ice skating rink, bowling lanes and a cinema.
Shopping centre Helios City in Savanoriu Ave offers to have dinner, to take a cup of coffee and to go shopping under the one roof. On the first and the second floors of the Helios City restaurants, cafes, small shops, beauty salon, dry cleaning and other service companies are located. The centre of the city or the Old Town and the new leisure and service centre are separated by less than 1.5 km. It is convenient to access the Helios City from any place of the city – either by public or proper transport.
Gariunai is the Baltic's largest open air market, located on the western edge of Vilnius. Thousands of merchants can be found there on a good weekend, from not only Lithuania, but also from as far away as Ukraine. Clothes, shoes, and even music and software can be bought there. Counterfeit goods are ubiquitous. A low price is guaranteed, quality is not.
Kaunas is also a city of shopping centres, and the centre of the city, Laisvės avenue is a pedestrian thoroughfare. The main shopping centers in Kaunas are: Akropolis, Mega, Molas, Savas, HyperMaxima, and Urmas shopping area. There is even that symbol of "mall culture", which is new to Lithuania, Akropolis. Actually, Mega has the biggest aquarium in whole Europe that could be find in a mall. It has more than 800 fishes from every ocean and various seas. It is more than worth seeing.
Klaipeda is a major shopping center for people from Latvia and Kaliningrad. The main shopping centers are: Akropolis, Arena, Studlendas and BIG. Many people coming to the city on cruise ships shop in Klaipeda, due to the good value and price combination.
Lithuanian dinners usually include meat, potato, vegetables and sometimes a curd sauce of some sort. Case in point: the cepelinai, or zeppelins, which are meat filled potato-starch based zeppelin-shaped masses traditionally slathered in a sauce of sour cream, butter, and pork cracklings. Pork is traditionally eaten, beef much less so. Needless to say, vegans will have a hard time eating out, although some large restaurant chains will have vegetarian dishes on the menu.
Some fast food in Lithuania, such as Kibinai, (from the Karaim people) small turnovers usually filled with spiced lamb, and Cheburekai (a Russian snack), large folds of dough with a scant filling of meat, cheese, or even apples, can be found around the city.
Many restaurants have menus in English (usually in the Lithuanian menu) and to a lesser extent, Russian. Though use caution as sometimes menus in other languages may have inflated prices, although this is a rarity, and won't be found in Vilnius, or the better known chains such as Čili Pica (Chili Pizza).
If you are traveling to Lithuanian shore from the eastern part of Lithuania and you are passing through Karmelava you must try Cepelinai. The Restaurant is called Briedžių Medžioklė (address Vilniaus street 54, Karmėlava) and they have the biggest size Cepelinai in the whole country. Usually, 3 or 4 homemade Cepelinai call fill up a big person. To eat 2 Cepelinai at Briedžių Medžioklė is a huge achievement. Usually Lithuanians make the stop at Karmėlava because in their eyes a trip to shore is extremely long and across the country, even though it lasts only a little bit over 2 hours.
Lithuania is a beer drinking country, with the most famous brands being Svyturys, Kalnapilis, Utenos, Horn and Gubernija. A visit to a kiosk will show that there may be more than 50 different brands of beer in this small country. Alcohol percentages are displayed on the label, and usually range from 4 to 9.5 percent. Compared to other European countries, beer is usually affordable, in shops approx. 0.50 to 1 € per half litre, in bars approx. 0.75 to 2 € per half litre(beer is sold by the half or full litre, a full litre being found rarely). The beer tastes excellent, putting global brands to shame and it can be said that Lithuanian lager is of at least equal quality to Czech, Slovak, German, and Polish lager. A request for a Lithuanian beer always generates goodwill, even in a Chinese or other foreign-themed restaurant.
When you visit a bar or restaurant without intending to eat, try one of the bar snacks, which are very popular among Lithuanians. The most popular of these snacks consists of a bowl of pieces of garlic bread covered in cheese.
In addition to beer, rather cheap but high quality vodka (or "degtinė" in Lithuanian) is consumed, but not to the extent usually associated with this part of the world. Also, every region has its own home-made speciality of which "Samane" is most famous/notorious and is best avoided. The larger supermarkets have an incredible variety of vodka from all the main vodka-producing countries.
Lithuanian mead, or "midus" is a beverage produced exclusively under government control. It is commonly made from all sorts of Lithuanian flora, from leaves and berries to some tree bark. Alcohol percentages range from 10% to 75% (considered medicinal).
For tourists, quality sparkling wines, such as Alita or Mindaugas, and local liqueurs are popular choices to bring back home.
Keep in mind the law that came into effect from January 2009 that prohibits selling alcohol in shops between 10PM and 8AM (bars, cafes, restaurants etc. are exempt from this).
In shops and cafés different tea and coffee qualities are widely available. The selection in coffee ranges from northern European brands to French ones. In coffee houses, you should expect to pay up to 1.50 € for your coffee. Some cafés offer also a variety of special coffees with more or less special prices. Many cafes (kavinės) still make "lazy" coffee, which is simply coffee grounds and boiling water, unfiltered, with grounds at the bottom of the cup, often surprising the drinker - ask before you buy! Tea is usually sold at 50% of the price of coffee. Some of the wonderful drinks such as the Marganito are great for fun filled party drinks and rated one of the top kinds of wine in the country, perfect for weddings.
Unlike restaurants, or pubs aimed at tourists, bars (Baras) may be frequented by heavy drinkers and can therefore be somewhat rowdy. Nevertheless a visit may still be very rewarding, especially if you accept an invitation to participate in karaoke.
A law banning smoking in cafés, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, discotheques and other public establishments was passed in May 2006, and came into effect on January 1 2007. However, many nightclubs have internal smoking rooms, which have a degree of ventilation.
Tap water is suitable for drinking in many parts of Lithuania. In other areas, local people prefer to purchase bottled water or to run tap water through water filters. If you need to buy bottled water, a 5 litre bottle is not much more expensive than a one litre bottle. Where in doubt about the tap water, seek local advice.
Mineral water is also offered in restaurants, cafés and shops, although it's a bit more expensive than tap water. Some popular brands are Birutė and Vytautas.
The price of accommodation depends very much on the place. For instance, in Joniškis (Northern Lithuania), you can get a good hotel room for 25 euros whereas an equivalent room might be as much as 100 euros in Vilnius. Some hotels do not have home pages. Nevertheless, the Internet helps considerably in planning.
Throughout the country, homestays – sleeping "with the grandmother" – are typical. On main street of a town there are many elderly townsfolk offering spare beds in their extra rooms. These experiences are absolutely worth seeking out.
If you want to rent the apartment, the prices will be usually from 200 euros a month. In the biggest towns there are companies which rent apartments "to the long-time tourist or working here". In these you complete on good conditions the apartment furnished and cleaned by the cleaner. From 300 euros.
If you are looking for an apartment for a shorter period (from a few days onwards), do a Web search for "trumpalaikė butų nuoma". This will give you some portals or sites of companies, though not all of them are available in English – some are, however, available in other languages such as German, Polish or Russian.
You will find the hotels of every town on their own interleaves. However, remember that this is the service maintained by the volunteers and you should not wait for current prices let alone that there would be all the possibilities listed.
An interesting accommodation alternative is a countryside accommodation or an own cottage. Countryside.lt offers the shining catalog for accommodation alternatives and you find nearly all the countryside targets and a reservation system from there.
Most large cities such as Vilnius or Kaunas have an abundance of hotel options from 60 litas and up. When traveling to a popular vacation spot in the summer (like Palanga or Druskininkai) make sure to book a room in advance because demand may outnumber supply. Additionally, some of the Cafes on the main highways between cities also have rooms to rent.
Lithuania has one of the best educational systems in the World. Many universities participate in student exchange programs. Most popular international college in Lithuania is Lithuania Christian College in Klaipeda . The best universities of Lithuania are Vilnius University (Vilniaus Universitetas), Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Vilniaus Gedimino Technikos Universitetas) and Kaunas University of Technology (Kauno Technologijos Universitetas).
One of the oldest Universities of Europe in that Finnish language also is taught is located in Vilnius.
In Kaunas there is the biggest technical university, KTU, in the country and a medical university KMU, sports academy LKKA, the veterinary medicine academy LVA, music and theatre academy LMTA, agriculture university LZUU and multidisciplinary University of Vytautas Magnus, VDU.
Klaipeda and Siauliai also has its own universities. In the country several lower educational institutions which go with the name kolegija (engl a college) also are found.
The course supply hangs very much from the university and there also are somewhere programmes for English. However, pay attention to the fact that Lithuania's official language is Lithuanian and in the law it has been prescribed that the Lithuanian student has a right to study in Lithuanian in Lithuania. Especially all the courses of the candidate level will be thus in Lithuanian and in the Master of Arts programmes in English the bulk of the courses is in English. Depending on the rules of the university the courses must have a certain number of foreign students before it must be in English (it touches courses in English) and if this limit is not exceeded, the lecturer may lecture, if desired, in Lithuanian. Because the employment of universities has been lowered last year about 20% and the addition which is paid for the courses in English in some universities to the lecturers was removed, many lecturers choose the easiest road preferably for them to themselves. Then the foreign students can take the course by writing either essays or based on personal meetings.
The grading system in Lithuania is generally 1-10 in which 5-10 correspond to the accepted performances. The local students usually have to keep their average very high and still a higher one in order to get the scholarship in order to guarantee free studies. There is no financial aid for studies.
There are now many work options in Lithuania. Any EU national can work and live in Lithuania. However, residence permits must be obtained, and employers must prove a lack of competent workers in Lithuania for such employment, which can be difficult. Also, Lithuanian law dictates that all business be conducted in Lithuanian language.
In Lithuania you need the residence permit and a registered address for the working. The immigration authorities will usually be fairly fluent in English, otherwise either Russian or Lithuanian is useful. One seldom manages working life without control of the language.
In Lithuania the worker pays 21% of an income tax 6% for health and unemployment insurance which is about 3%. The taxes take about 20% of the salary, irrespective of income. Minimum wage is about 300 Euros and average wage is approaching 850 Euros.
In general, Lithuania is not a very safe country. According to EU statistics, Lithuania leads the whole European Union in homicide rate per person. You should take basic safety measures:
If you are searching for some health treatment or recreation the best resorts for that are Druskininkai and Palanga. Neringa is a great option for a nice, calm holiday for becoming one with yourself.
Basketball is the national sport, and the nation is basketball mad, (comparable to the British with football and New Zealand with rugby). Lithuania is one of the most successful teams in international competition, winning medals in three out of four Olympic tournaments, (bronze), and finishing fourth in 2008. All this from just five Olympic appearances. Major domestic clubs are BC Žalgiris from Kaunas and BC Lietuvos Rytas from Vilnius. For this reason in almost every park and playground you will find a basketball court.
Be careful if some people challenge you to a basketball game. Common Lithuanians are very good in basketball, and you might just embarrass yourself.
Lithuanians are a Baltic nation; however, it's common for tourists to think that they are somehow connected with Russians.
Lithuanians form their own distinct ethnic group and speak their own language (Lithuanian), which is one of the oldest Indo-European languages, belonging to the Baltic (not the Slavic) branch of Indo-European languages (although Lithuanian and Latvian have some common similarities with Finnish or Estonian languages).
It is a notoriously difficult language to master, but learning how to greet locals in their own language can go a long way. They will appreciate your efforts in Lithuanian.
Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union from the end of World War II until 1991. You should also try to remember that the Lithuanian capital is Vilnius, not Riga, which is the capital of neighbouring Latvia, a common mistake for travellers and an annoyance to locals.
Because of war time occupations by Tsarist Russia in the 19th century, the Soviet Union in the 20th century and the territorial disputes with Poland in the early 20th century, conversations revolving around disputes with neighboring countries are not a good idea for those not from the region. Be careful when mentioning Lithuania in the context of the former USSR. Any praising of Soviet practices is very unlikely to be understood or appreciated by the Lithuanias. Talking about World War II or the Holocaust is not something to talk about either. This is because this is a very touchy subject to many Lithuanians.
Lithuanians may appear at times nationalistic; however, it is with good reason that they are a proud nation as they have fought to maintain their cultural identity through dark times, and this has kept them a unique and in general a warm and charming race. Although most Lithuanians officially are Catholics, native (pagan) Lithuanian religion is still alive in traditions, ethnoculture, festivals, music etc.
Lithuanians may appear sad, depressive (suicide rates in Lithuania are among the highest in the world), a little bit rude and suspicious, so talking about your good health, wealth, and happiness could be sometimes taken negatively. Smile at a Lithuanian in the street and most likely they will not respond in kindness. Smiling in Lithuania is traditionally reserved for friends; smile at a stranger and they will either think you're making fun of them and there's something wrong with their clothes or hairdo, or that you must be an idiot. Furthermore, an automatic Western smile is widely regarded as insincere.
Women in the entire former USSR area are traditionally treated with utmost respect. Female travellers should not act surprised or indignant when their Lithuanian male friends pay their bills at restaurants, open every door in front of them, offer their hand to help them climb down that little step or help them carry anything heavier than a handbag - this is not sexual harassment or being condescending to the weaker sex. Male travellers should understand that this is exactly the sort of behavior that most Lithuanian girls and women will expect from them, too.
In Lithuania, internal area codes consist of a zero mostly followed by 2 digits for the town, followed by 6 digits for the local subscriber number. Smaller towns have a zero and then 3 digits and the 5 digit local subscriber number. Vilnius has 7 digit numbers and just 05 as the city code. The national number's total length is always 8 digits if one excludes the initial zero (as one must, of course, when dialling from abroad).
To call abroad from Lithuania, the international access code is 00
International and roaming calls are expensive. To reduce your bill you can
Land line phones
There is monopoly operator for land line phones - TEO (now it belongs to "TeliaSonera AB"), a subsidiary of Sweden (Telia) and Finland (Sonera). Land line phones are easy to find in all country. Phones are used with cards, witch you can find in kiosks, "TEO" or newspaper stands.
Numbers begin 06nnn, where the three digits "n" indicate the original network provider. There are three mobile phone operators in Lithuania: Omnitel, BITE and TELE 2. About 97% of the country's surface is covered by the standard European GSM 900/1800 MHz network, the remaining 3% are non-walkable forests.
If you're bringing a laptop, Wireless LAN Hot-Spots are available in distinct places (mostly "Zebra" from - TEO), sometimes free, otherwise not very cheap. Best chances of finding one are at airports, railway stations, in cafés, shopping malls, universities, various places. You can ask in your hotel, but be prepared to pay. For those who need to connect at an Internet cafes, major cities do have internet cafes. You can get free wireless Internet in Kaunas main pedestrian street - Laisvės Alėja. Internet speed in Lithuania is actually better than American internet speed. Download speed reaches 26.2 Mb/s, while upload speed is 16.8 Mb/s. Keep in mind that the internet service that provide such speeds are not free.
With your mobile phone you can use: CSD, HSCSD, GPRS or EDGE, but the cost may be unattractive. UMTS is only available in some bigger cities. If your phone is not SIM-locked, you may consider purchasing a pre-paid SIM card designed for data access.
If you want to communicate with your friends or locals using internet, you'll need two programs Skype or ICQ. The most popular chatting program is Skype, all of which can be used in English as well. As well in Lithuania social websites are getting very popular. The most popular is ONE.lt, second popular (>600,000 users) is Facebook. Myspace exists, but it is not widely used.