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Lithuania

Trakai

 

Lithuania is Northeastern European country and the southernmost and largest (65.3 thousand km²) of the Baltic States (including Latvia and Estonia).  It is a unique country combining Scandinavian character (clean, natural, stable) with Eastern European mentality (live, vibrant and growing). Lithuanians are regarded as more emotional, expressive and temperamental than their Northern neighbours, and, therefore, they are sometimes called Northern Italians.

In 1989, scientists of National Geographic Institute of France gave the description of the European geographic centre and, applying the scientific method of gravitation centres, appointed that this centre is located in the North from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius (26 km).

Key Milestones

1009 – Lithuania first mentioned in the Quedlinburg Chronicle.

13th century - the Grand Duchy of Lithuania established by Mindaugas, the first and only King of Lithuania (crowned in 1253).

1387 – Lithuanians officially adopted Christianity and was the last pagan state in Europe to do that.

1392-1430 - Lithuania was one of the largest states in Europe extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The territories of present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia belonged to Lithuania, and not because of conquest, but because of diplomacy and inclusiveness.

1569 - Under the Lublin Union, Lithuania and Poland merged into a commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita), and remained in existence until 1795.

1795-1915 - The major part of Lithuania annexed by Russia.

February 16, 1918 - The Lithuanian Council proclaimed the independent Republic of Lithuania.

1921 – Admission to the League of Nations.

1940-1990 - Soviet Union occupation.

March 11, 1990 - Lithuania declared the re-establishment of its independence.

1992 - Membership of the United Nations.

2001 – Entrance to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

2004 – Acceptance to the NATO alliance and the European Union.

2007 – Schengen area membership.

2009 – Millennium Celebration.

National Government

The State of Lithuania is an independent democratic republic. In Lithuania the powers of the State are exercised by the Seimas (the Parliament), the President of the Republic, the Government, and the Judiciary. The scope of powers is defined by the Constitution.

Population

3.2 million. Population in the capital city of Vilnius is ~ 554,000. The other major cities are Kaunas (~337,000), Klaipėda (~178,000), Šiauliai (~121,000), and Panevėžys (~109,000).

Lithuanians make 83.5% of the population, Polish – 6.7%, Russians – 6.3%, Belarusians – 1.2%, and others – 2.3%. Lithuania is home to as many as 115 ethnic groups.

Lithuanians are one of the best-educated people in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). More than 90 percent of the Lithuanian population has secondary or higher education. This is one of the highest figures in the EU, the average in the EU-27 being around 70 percent. 30 percent of the Lithuanian population holds higher education degrees, compared to the EU average of 24 percent. And even 40 percent of 25 - 34 year olds have a higher education, which is almost twice as high as the EU-15 average.

National symbols
flag

Flag


Vytis

State Emblem - Vytis

One of the oldest coat of arms in Europe – Vytis, the coat of arms of the Lithuanian state – is a white armoured knight on a red background, with a shield on his left shoulder, riding on a white horse, with his sword lifted up for a stroke. The symbolic expression of the coat of arms was taken up from portrait seals of medieval dukes, since a rider was the symbol of Lithuanian rulers.

Religion

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

Language

The Lithuanian language is the most archaic living Indo-European language, which is closely related to Sanskrit. It is possible to compare Lithuanian and Sanskrit in such a way that even those who have not studied linguistics may observe the similarities.

ENGLISH: God gave teeth, God will give bread.

LITHUANIAN: Dievas davė dantis, Dievas duos duonos.

SANSKRIT: Devas adadat datas, Devas dat dhanas.

Lithuanians are one of the most multilingual people in the region of CEE. 90 percent of Lithuanians speak at least one foreign language: only 10 percent do not speak Russian, almost 40 percent speak English, around 20 percent speak German, and Polish is much more widespreadin Lithuania than in any other EU country.

Currency

The Litas (LTL or Lt), which has been pegged to the Euro since 2002 at the rate of 3.4528 LTL/EUR. 100 cents = 1 LTL. This helps to avoid currency fluctuations when dealing with major European markets, and ensures full convertibility between the Litas and the Euro.

Time

Time is 2 hours from Greenwich in summer and 3 hours - in winter, according to East-European time zone system.

National Holidays

January 1 - New Year’s Day

February 16 - Independence Day (1918)

March 11 - Restoration of Independence (1990)

Easter - (Sunday and the following Monday)

May 1 - International Labour Day

1st Sunday in May - Mother’s Day

1st Sunday in June - Father’s Day

June 24 - Midsummer Festival

July 6 - Coronation of Mindaugas, King of Lithuania

August 15 - Assumption Day

November 1 - All Saints’ Day

December 24 - Christmas Eve

December 25—26 - Christmas

Climate

Lithuania has a typical European continental influenced climate with warm, dry summers and fairly severe winters. January is the coldest month with daytime temperatures usually around -5°C, but in some cases winter months can be quite colder with temperatures far below zero, about -20°C or lower. In summer daytime temperatures reach 20-25°C, but sometimes quite higher, 30°C or more. July is the warmest month with an average Temperature of 18°C. Annual precipitation is about 400-600 mm.
Generally, the weather is best May-September, when days are warm and the nights are cool, although it rains more in spring than in summer.

Quality of Life

Lithuania has one of the highest qualities of life. In the International Living 2011 Quality of Life Index, Lithuania was ranked 36th in the world based on nine criteria: the cost of living, culture and leisure, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure, safety, risk, and climate. Lithuania was also listed among 43 countries with very high human development levels in the United Nation’s Human Development Report for 2011.
Lithuanians enjoy drinking water straight from the tap. Only the inhabitants of Australia and Denmark can enjoy water of a similarly high quality.
The inhabitans of the capital city Vilnius breathe Europe’s cleanest air. In the first European Green City Index released by Siemens AG and the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2010, Vilnius topped the category for Europe’s major cities breathing the cleanest air. In the overall ranking Vilnius was rated 13th and is the greenest capital among the new EU members.

Nature

Forests in Lithuania cover approximately 32% of Lithuania′s territory. Conifer forests are the most widespread. Lithuanian forests are good for picking mushrooms and berries, i.e. wild strawberries, bilberries,  cranberries etc.
There are 5 national parks and 30 regional parks filled with virgin forests and unspoiled marshlands in Lithuania. They are inhabited by protected wild animals and rare birds.
Lithuania has 22,000 rivers and rivulets and over 3,000 lakes. Fishing in the river or lake is great entertainment and a valuable catch! Hiking, swimming, canoeing and rafting on Lithuanian lakes and rivers - all entertainment is hard to enumerate. Relaxing in rural or ecotourism homesteads by a tranquil lake is another option. Furthermore, there are routes and paths for walking, horsebackriding, cycling and bird watching.

UNESCO Heritage

In 2011 Lithuania was listed as one of the world’s top 10 ethical travel destinations for the second time running by nonprofit organization Ethical Traveler.
Lithuania has four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The first one is the Old Town of Vilnius. Built in the Middle Ages, it has remained authentic until today.
The second site is the Curonian Spit, a long and narrow piece of land, which is locked in the waters of the Baltic Sea from the west, and the Curonian Lagoon from the east. It is a beautiful creation of both nature, and man.
The third site is the Cultural Reserve of Kernavė – a historic settlement that represents a unique culture and civilization no longer in existence.
The Struvė Geodesic Arc is the last site. It crosses a part of Lithuania, and extends through nine other European countries. The Arc is one of the greatest scientific and technological achievements of the 19th century. It manifests a
unique international connection of science and culture.
Also, two Lithuanian cultural traditions enrich the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Lithuanian cross-crafting and its symbolism has caught the world’s eye with its deep spirituality.
Another living tradition is the Baltic Song and Dance Festival. Over 20,000 singers, musicians, and dancers flood the city of Vilnius with an endless amount of music and joy every four years.

SPAs, Ski Arenas and Outdoor Activities

SPA centers in Lithuania provide high quality beauty and medical treatments, combining ancient and traditional methods of treatment with modern technologies. Druskininkai in Southern Lithuania is one of Lithuania’s oldest resorts. Mineral water springs were discovered here in the 18th century, and sometime later, some of the highest quality healing mud in Europe was also found here. It is popular not only among Lithuanians, but also among foreign tourists, particularly Russians, Poles, and Germans.
There are four ski resorts in Lithuania. The newest and the most modern Druskininkai Snow Arena is the only winter activities complex in the Baltic countries open for skiers and snowboarders all year round. The overall length of
the slopes in the Arena is more than 2 kilometres. All ski resorts rent equipment and use modern funiculars and are popular among tourists from Poland, Russia and other countries.
Tennis players are welcome to enjoy the game in modern indoor and open tennis courts in Lithuania, and golf lovers may choose from 5 outdoor golf courses, of a total length of more than 110 kilometres.

Cultural Life

Classical and jazz music festivals, folk, theatre and film festivals take place in Lithuania. Foreign theatre groups, opera and ballet companies, and popular music groups include Lithuania into their world touring schedules.
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was selected as the European Capital of Culture for the year 2009. Hundreds of cultural projects and events took place in the Lithuanian capital during the year, and a large number of them have
become a new tradition.

Soviet Heritage

While most of post-Soviet countries removed symbols from public places or destroyed them as they were reminding of the horrifying times, most sculptures and other symbols of the Soviet ideology were collected and preserved.
Grūtas park is the only theme park of it's kind in the whole world. Grūtas park is a place where you can look at pointless sculptures of soviet leaders and so on. In 2010 it was included into list of Top 10 Strangest World museums.
Museum of Genocide Victims is a unique museum of its kind where visitors are able to face the history and to find out the measure of Soviet Occupation that was made to Lithuanian inhabitants in 1940-1990.
The Green Bridge is one of the most obviously seen objects of Soviet heritage located very close to Vilnius city center. Once it was an object of discussions dividing society into 2 groups, but still it is a clear memorial of Soviet times in Lithuania.

Geographical information

Territory

Lithuanian territory is located on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and occupies 65.3 thousand square kilometres. Arable land and meadows make up 57%, woods and scrubs 30%, swamps 3%, internal waters 4%, other land 6% of the territory.

Border

The total length of the border of the Republic of Lithuania is 1735 km. 1042.8 km, or 60%, of the total border length is external border of the European Union.

  • Height/highest point - Juozapines kalnas – 293.8 m,
  • Longest rivers: Nemunas – 937 km (475 km in Lithuanian territory), Neris – 510 km (234 km),
  • Total length of rivers and canals in Lithuania is 76,800 km.
  • Biggest lakes: Drūkšiai – 44,8 km², Dysnai – 24,0 km²,
  • Deepest lake:Tauragnas - 60.5m
  • Number of lakes larger than 0.5 ha: 2,830 (total area 880 sq km).

Forests in Lithuania

Forests take up almost a third (around 31%) of area of Lithuania (i.e., approximately 2.13 million ha). Diversity of the country's forests is influenced not only by economic activities of the people, but also by natural factors – relief, climate, soils, etc. Conifer forests are the most widespread.

Lithuanian meadows

From the geographical point of view, Lithuanian meadows can be divided into two groups: water-meadows and dry ones. Water-meadows are of natural origin. They are not overgrown with scrubs or trees because of regularly repeating floods. Dry meadows appear on grazed and mown areas of cut forests, on drained swamps, on unbroken soils.

Lithuanian swamps

Due to land reclamation and peat extraction, over 70% of the swamps of the country were drained over the last few decades of the 20th century. Some of the lowland bogs, not touched directly by land reclamation, dried up significantly and experienced vegetation changes because of dropped overall levels of ground water. Communities of moss and grass started to give way to those of bushes and trees. The most natural plant communities were preserved in the biggest protected swamps (e.g., Čepkeliai, Kamanos, Žuvintas, Smalvos, etc.).

Lithuanian sand lands

Except for sea coast and river bank sand lands, Lithuanian sand lands are usually of secondary origin – i.e., formed as a result of human economic activity in areas of cut-down forests. The diversity of sand land communities in Lithuania is rather limited. All of them belong to two classes: white dunes and grey dunes, and continental sand lands. Most of sand land habitats are valuable from the point of view of biological diversity and are therefore protected. As many as 9 sand land habitats, found in Lithuania (such as rudimentary blown dunes, non-closed continental sand meadows, etc.) are included in the list of protected habitats of the European Habitats Directive. Special protected areas are established in the country for their preservation. Grey dunes are considered especially valuable habitats, therefore they should be protected in their entirety.

Distances to European cities

  • Vilnius - Reykjavík 2330 km;
  • Vilnius - Oslo 1050 km;
  • Vilnius - Stockholm 680 km;
  • Vilnius - Helsinki 620 km;
  • Vilnius - Tallinn 530 km;
  • Vilnius - Riga 260 km;
  • Vilnius - Saint Petersburg 660 km;
  • Vilnius - Moscow 800 km;
  • Vilnius - Athens 1880 km;
  • Vilnius - Budapest 910 km;
  • Vilnius - Warsaw 390 km;
  • Vilnius - Rome 1710 km;
  • Vilnius - Vienna 940 km;
  • Vilnius - Prague 910 km;
  • Vilnius - Madrid 2680 km;
  • Vilnius - Lisbon 3110 km;
  • Vilnius - Paris 1720 km;
  • Vilnius - Berlin 830 km;
  • Vilnius - Amsterdam 1370 km;
  • Vilnius - London 1730 km;
  • Vilnius - Copenhagen 850 km;
  • Vilnius - Oslo 1050 km.

Most common foreign languages:

English, Russian, and German.


 

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