My 3,293-kilometer journey through the Baltics has given me a good idea of what the three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have to offer a traveler. My journey began and ended in the Latvian capital Riga.
There are no spectacular nature experiences to do here, but you have a lot of forest that you can walk in, rivers to paddle on and a long coastline that can offer both swimming and wonderful solitude. Cultural life also has a lot to offer.
What attracted me to explore the three countries was to visit the sights that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, such as the old districts of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius, the Curonian Spit with its mighty dunes (Lithuania) and Kernave (Lithuania) with their archaeological remains (Lithuania). But I also wanted to come to places like the “Cross Hill” in Lithuania where there are over 100,000 crosses placed by pilgrims, walk among the city of Sigulda Castle, to visit ancient villages, in particular, Lithuania and the mighty castle of Lithuania which played an important role during Sweden’s heyday.
Anyone who is interested in architecture, old urban environments, places with historical connections and ancient villages has a lot to look at in these countries.
I liked traveling in the Baltics for the cities with the old urban environments, the beautiful architecture, the old villages and that it is often still a slower pace here than at home in Sweden.
What was less pleasant on this trip was that it seemed as if very many Balts mentally still remain in “the old Soviet society”, which shows in the fact that people are rude, rude, buffalo and quite unhelpful.
An example of helplessness was what I came across in the small Latvian village of Mazirbe, where a clerk refused to describe the road to a sight because SHE did not think it was anything to see!
The worst unpleasantness I encountered during the trip was the meeting with the tourist-hating policeman Gintautas Stepanafas at the entrance to the national park on the Kuriska headland in Lithuania. First he fined me for driving over a solid line that does not exist and then he showed that he wanted to cut my throat and “all tourists”. I was very surprised by his behavior because the only thing I did was stop to pay the fee to the national park! I have saved his police report as a “souvenir” from Lithuania. The first day I was in Lithuania, my umbrella was stolen from my backpack at the market in Klaipeda. Cheers Lithuania!
I have never had so few contacts with the locals during a trip like this! Though I’m not particularly sorry about that given how unpleasant many Balts were!
In the very near future I will have visited 90 countries, all over the world, and have been lucky to meet many nice people, with the people in the Baltic as an exception. Regretfully I met a lot of very rude, unpolite and unhelpful people during this trip. The worst one was the Lithuanian policeman Gintautas Stepanafas who fined me for crossing a line that does not exist !!! It seems, regretfully, that many persons still act as they did during the “Soviet period”. They should consider that they left this era and are now members of Europe! My first day in Lithuania someone stole my umbrella from the backpack. Lithuania, I love you!
Lithuania history in brief
Lithuania history, older
According to commit4fitness, researchers assume that the land area that today constitutes Lithuania was populated around 9,000 BC. About 2,000 BC, Baltic tribes settled around the southeastern Baltic Sea. The Baltics are mentioned in the Roman chronicles and in 1009 AD the name Lithuania is mentioned for the first time in a chronicle in the annals of the Prussian city of Quedlingburg.
Around the year 1200
German knights expanded their power in Lithuania and the rest of the Baltics
1236 – 1263
The Lithuanian tribes united under King Mindaugas to protect themselves from the ongoing policy of conquest, thus avoiding being oppressed and enslaved under German landlords like their neighbors.
13th and 14th Centuries During the following two centuries, states of war prevailed between the pagan Lithuanians and the Knights of the Order in Prussia and Livonia, now Estonia and Latvia, with constant raids into the enemy’s territory. At the same time, Lithuania expanded to the east. Important parts of ancient Kiev, areas of present-day Belarus and Ukraine, recognized the supremacy of the Lithuanian princes. This laid the foundation for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
1316 – 1341 Grand Duke Gediminas reigns
1323 The capital Vilnius is founded
To avoid a two-front war, with the German Knights to the west and the expansive Muscovite Grand Duchy to the east, Lithuania entered into a personnel union with Poland. This happened when the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila married the Polish queen Jadwiga. At the same time, the Roman Catholic faith was adopted
Lithuanian and Polish armies jointly defeated the Germans at the Battle of Grünwald-Tannenberg, on Lithuanian Zalgiris, ending the medieval German expansion to the east
1385 – 1430
Under Vytautas the Great, Jogaila’s cousin, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania reached its greatest extent, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The kingdom was ruled as an independent state, and Vytautas the Great has become an important symbol of Lithuanian independence.
1569 The ties between Lithuania and Poland were strengthened by the so-called Lublin Union
15th, 17th centuries
Polish influence over Lithuania grew stronger, although Lithuania retained its own state apparatus and army. The empire was weakened by internal divisions and external interference, including from Sweden
1772, 1793 and 1795
Through three divisions, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Russian Empire were dissolved
1820s The Russian rulers tried to pre-Russian Lithuania
1830- 31, 1863
Two Lithuanian uprisings failed. Russian oppression increased and the existence of the Lithuanian language was threatened
A ban on printing Lithuanian literature with the Latin alphabet was introduced and Lithuanian was removed as the language of instruction in schools. However, the
policy of Russianization strengthened Lithuanian national self-awareness. Books in Lithuanian were printed in East Prussia, where many Lithuanians lived, and smuggled into the country
1883 The first magazine was published in Lithuanian, Ausra (Dawn)
Early 20th Century Around the turn of the century, many Lithuanians emigrated, mainly to North America
1914 – 18 Germany occupied Lithuania during the First World War
The German military, which provided support for anything that could weaken Russia, allowed a Lithuanian conference to be convened in Vilnius. Representatives of several Lithuanian organizations elected a 22-member strong council led by Antanas Smetona. The Council demanded Lithuanian independence
On 16 February, Lithuania declared its independence. However, the self-proclaimed independence did not become a reality until after Germany’s capitulation in November
The Red Army invaded Lithuania to support local communists who had proclaimed rule in Lithuania and Belarus, but the Lithuanians managed to drive them out of the country with some German support.
Poland, which claimed the Vilnius area, attacked Lithuania. The issue was raised in the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, where it was decided in favor of Lithuania. Despite the annexation of the Poles Vilnius and the Lithuanian government were forced to move to Kaunas, which became the capital during the interwar period
1923 Lithuania Occupies the German Memel Territory (Klaipeda)
Antanas Smetona, leader of a small nationalist party, seized power after a military coup. He introduced an authoritarian one-party dictatorship and retained power until the Soviet occupation in 1940.
In March incorporated returned Memelområdet with Germany
, when Germany and the Soviet Union through a non-aggression pact, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in April split up influence over Eastern Europe between them ended Lithuania first in Germany’s sphere of influence, but was later transferred to the Soviet
In October, Lithuania was forced to accept Soviet military bases on its territory. In return, Soviet leader Josef Stalin “donated” the Vilnius area to the Lithuanians after conquering it from Poland
In June, the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania under the pretext that the Soviet bases had not been adequately protected. Antanas Smetona fled abroad. The Soviet power staged elections for a people’s parliament that proclaimed the Soviet Republic of Lithuania. Adaptation to the Soviet Union began immediately
In June, many thousands of people were deported to Siberia.
When Germany attacked the Soviet Union the same month, Lithuania also came under German occupation. It lasted until 1944, when Soviet troops again occupied the country in the offensive against Berlin. Germany, with the help of Lithuanians, carried out massacres of about 200,000 Lithuanian Jews
Soviet troops again invaded Lithuania. The area became a Soviet republic where the Communist Party had all the power and the opposition was stifled
1949 – 1952
During these years, a forced collectivization of agriculture was carried out. At the same time, partisans, the so-called Forest Brothers, made armed resistance to Soviet power in a guerrilla war that claimed the lives of over 20,000 Lithuanians.
1940 – 1953
It is estimated that more than 130,000 people have been deported to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union.
1936 – 1974 During these years, the Lithuanian Communist Party was led by Antanas Snieckus
Under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s experiment with autonomous economic regions, Lithuania’s road network was expanded, as was the service sector. An industrial plan for the region was also drawn up. The electronic and mechanical manufacturing industries were advanced by Soviet standards. However, the area was still part of the centrally planned Soviet economy, and agriculture was focused on meat and dairy production for Russian cities. The forced isolation from the outside world left deep traces in society, both politically and economically and culturally
1960s – 1970s
During these decades, a dissident movement emerged in Lithuania, with the underground publication of writings. The most important was the chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church
Burned 19-year-old student Romas Kalanta to death in Kaunas. This led to the first major public demonstration against Soviet rule. The security police quickly knocked it down
Following the accession of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a social transformation towards greater political openness and economic liberalization began in the Soviet Union, which also affected Lithuania.
Dissident groups were allowed to demonstrate in the Baltic capitals. A year later, the Lithuanian People’s Front Sajudis was formed, which organized mass rallies. Music professor Vytautas Landsbergis became its chairman. Sajudis brought together a number of different political groups in cooperation for Lithuania’s independence
In March, Sajudis won 36 of Lithuania’s 42 seats in the Soviet People’s Congress Election
On the 50th anniversary, on August 23, of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, over one million people in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed a human chain from Vilnius via Riga to Tallinn with demands for freedom and independence
Sajudis succeeded in persuading the Lithuanian Communist Party to support the independence movement and the party’s new general secretary, Algirdas Brazauskas, in December pushed through a break with the Soviet mother party
Lithuanian history, modern
In January, Mikhail Gorbachev visited Vilnius and tried to persuade the Lithuanians to give up their freedom struggle. The attempt failed, however,
In the election of Lithuania’s highest Soviet, the parliament, in the spring (the first multi-party elections in the Soviet Union) won supporters of Sajudis and Kazimiera Prunskiene, was appointed head of government
On 11 March, Parliament adopted a declaration of independence. However, it was not recognized by the outside world, and Lithuania was subjected to an economic blockade by the Soviet Union.
In January, the TV tower in Vilnius was stormed by Soviet special forces. Of the thousands of unarmed people guarding the building, 13 were killed and hundreds were injured. The storm was a coup attempt to prevent Lithuania’s withdrawal from the Soviet Union, but was halted after protests from the West and from the leader of the Russian Soviet Republic, Boris Yeltsin.
In a referendum in February, a large majority of Lithuanians said yes to full independence.
Following a failed coup attempt in Moscow in August, Lithuania’s independence was recognized by the outside world, including the Soviet Union.
In September, Lithuania became a member of the UN
The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 and the centralized economy collapsed, leading to a decline in Lithuanian production and thus rising unemployment and inflation rapidly.
The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a decline in production, rising unemployment and inflation, which was reflected in the parliamentary elections when the reformed Communists, the Lithuanian Democratic Workers’ Party (LDDP), won over the ruling popular front.
In the presidential election won the former communist Brazauskas with a clear majority and a time of improved relations with Russia following
the government managed to initially turn the economy, but the situation deteriorated again with the banking crisis, bankruptcies, growing budget deficits and delays in the payment of pensions and public sector wages as a result
The economic problems and a series of corruption scandals within the LDDP caused the party to lose in the parliamentary elections, which became a revenge for Landsbergis and Fosterlandsförbundet. Gediminas Vagnorius was appointed Prime Minister and Landsbergis became Speaker of Parliament
The presidential election was won by environmental expert Valdas Adamkus, who became a symbol of Lithuania’s aspirations for EU membership and the NATO defense alliance
President Adamku’s conflict with Prime Minister Vagnorius resulted in his resignation and being succeeded by Vilnius Mayor Rolanda Paksas
Paksas left his post after just a few months, in protest that parts of the state oil company Mazeikiu Nafta would be sold without an open tender. The new Prime Minister was Andrius Kubilius