Exploring Eastern Europe: Lithuania
With a war raging in Ukraine, holidaymakers are wary of visiting Central and Eastern Europe. But many countries are perfectly safe to visit, such as today's insider tip Lithuania.
Vilnius: Pearl of the Baltic
Vilnius, the exciting, multicultural capital, has sidewalk cafes, pubs and bars with live music, picturesque lanes, a castle complex and a great number of churches. Its historical center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. One of the best-known sights in Vilnius is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Ladislaus, seen here.
Curonian Spit: A natural seaside paradise
Lithuania's best-known travel destination is the Curonian Spit, a narrow peninsula in the Baltic Sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a natural paradise, with long beaches, shifting sand dunes and pine groves. Its main attraction is the Parnidis dune, one of the highest sand dunes in Europe. Hikers can climb the fragile dune on designated paths.
Nida: In the footsteps of Thomas Mann
German writer Thomas Mann was fascinated by the Curonian Spit and spent three summers there with his family. He built his holiday home, from which he could see the water, on the coast north of Nida. He described the view as his Italian vista. Anyone wanting to enjoy it can visit the Mann family's house.
Klaipeda: Port at the mouth of the Neman
Klaipeda lies at the edge of the Curonian Spit. Every year, more than 7,000 ships dock here. The harbor is a tourist attraction, along with Theater Square, which regularly hosts concerts and festivals. A popular subject for photographs on the square is the bronze statue, Ann from Tharau, a figure from a German folk song of the same name.
Amber: Gold of the north
Amber has always been considered a mark of luxury and power. Stones with insects preserved in them are particularly valuable. The honey-colored fossilized tree resin is especially easy to find on the Curonian Spit, so it's little wonder that the world's largest amber museum, with nearly 30,000 exhibits, is in the Lithuanian seaside town of Palanga.
National parks: Getting close to nature
Lithuania has a total of five national parks, including the Curonian Spit. Lakes and rivers, dense forests, broad expanses and traditional villages shape these nature protection zones. Lithuanians also greatly value the preservation of their cultural heritage in these regions, especially in Trakai Historical National Park.
Trakai: Historical island castle
In the heart of Trakai Historical National Park lies the city of the same name, with its imposing island castle. It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, when Trakai was the capital of Lithuania. Now it houses an exhibition about the grand dukes and history of Trakai. In addition, it regularly stages medieval festivals, knights' tournaments and concerts.
Place of pilgrimage: Hill of Crosses near Siauliai
The Hill of Crosses near Siauliai is a fascinating place in Lithuania. It's covered with crosses, crucifixes, shrines and statues of saints and rosaries. Pilgrims have left them there to express wishes or gratitude. In 1961, the Soviet Union had all the crosses removed, but Christians and dissidents put up new ones. The hill became a symbol of national resistance.
Kaunas: City of little devils
Kaunas, Lithuania's second-largest city, lies at the confluence of the Neman and Neris rivers. Its historical old town is well preserved. A stroll past the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Jesuit church and the town hall is worthwhile. So is a visit to the world's only Devils' Museum, which contains about 3,000 sculptures and carvings of devils.
Purnuskes: Geographical center of Europe
Several places claim to be the center of Europe. In 1989, scientists at France's National Geographic Institute took on the challenge and determined that Europe's midpoint actually lies near the Lithuanian village of Purnuskes. A column and a compass rose set into the ground mark the spot. In the summer, visitors can even get a certificate proving that they've seen the center of Europe.
Lithuania: A place of refuge
Lithuania is one of the many countries where demonstrations against the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been taking place. Around 45,000 war refugees have already been registered. The Baltic country, a member of the European Union and NATO, supports households that take in a Ukrainian refugee with €150 (about $160) a month.