Lithuania is situated on the
eastern Baltic coast and borders Latvia
in the north, the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation and
Poland in the southwest and Belarus in the southwest and east. The
highest point, the Juozapines Hill, raises 294 m above sea-level. The
country boasts 758 rivers more than 10 km long and about 3,000 lakes.
Forests cover about 30 per cent of the country's area. The climate is
maritime-continental. The average temperature in February is -4.9°C and
+17°C in July. Water temperature in August is 17-22°C. The best time to
visit Lithuania is June when days are longest and sunniest. July is the
hottest summer month with the highest temperature of + 34°C though rains
are likely during the first half of the month.
In 1989 the French National Geographical
Institute named a spot on the road to Moletai, 25km (15mi) north of
Vilnius, as the centre of Europe.
It's marked by a small, granite sculpture that has been vandalised, but
a new sculpture - a pyramid with all the European capitals and their
distances from the centre marked on it - is planned for the site. To get
there, turn right off the Vilnius-Moletai road at the 'Europas Centras'
The country has
5 national parks: Aukstaitijos, Zemaitijos, Dzukijos, Trakai
Historical and Kuronian Spit. The last was established to preserve the
unique natural beauty of the Neringa Peninsula which sometimes is called
the Lithuanian Sahara. Lithuania is situated midway between Eastern and
Western Europe. The shortest way from Germany to Russia crosses
Lithuania. The country borders with Latvia in the North, Belorussia in
the South, Russia (Kaliningrad Region) and Poland in the West.
Independent between the two World Wars, Lithuania was
annexed by the USSR in 1940. 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 of 1991 (following the abortive coup in
Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania
subsequently has restructured its economy for eventual integration into
Western European institutions.
city of Vilnius (founded 1323) is the capital of Lithuania.
Surrounded on three sides by wooded hills and situated in a picturesque
valley formed by the rivers Neris and Vilnia, the ancient yet modern
centre of the city lies on the southern or left bank of the river.
Unlike Tallinn and Riga in the other Baltic Republics, Vilnius is not of
Germanic origin, although like these other cities it has a large old
quarter which is gradually being restored. Vilnius lies 250km (155mi)
inland from the Baltic Sea on the banks of the Neris river. It's in the
southeast of Lithuania, just a stone's throw from the Belarus border.
The centre of the city is on the southern side of the river, and its
heart is Cathedral Square, an open square with the cathedral on its
northern side and Gediminas Hill rising behind it.
The New Town lies 2km (1mi) west of the Old Town and was mostly built in
the 19th century. City hall is situated here, as is the Museum of the
Genocide of the Lithuanian People, housed in the former Gestapo and KGB
building. The guides here are all former inmates and will show you round
the cells where they were tormented. South of the river there's a bronze
bust memorial to American rock legend Frank Zappa. Vilnius' Soviet-era
suburbs are north of the river. There are plenty of accommodation
options in and around the Old Town; this is also the best place to nose
out a good restaurant.
The Old Town, the largest in eastern
Europe, stretches south from Cathedral Square. A church spire can be
seen from every one of its winding streets, which, coupled with its
countless hidden courtyards, make it intriguing to explore. Other
landmarks include Vilnius University, the President's palace, an
observatory and the old Jewish quarter and ghetto. Restaurants, pubs,
nightclubs and cafés abound. Three Crosses Hill overlooks the Old Town
and is a long-standing landmark. Crosses are said to have stood here
since the 17th century in memory of three monks who were martyred by
crucifixion on this spot.