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LITHUANIA
 

Vilnius

Bizarre, beautiful and bewitching, Lithuanian’s capital seduces visitors with its astonishing Old Town charm. Its chocolate-box baroque skyline littered with the spires of Orthodox and Catholic churches are intoxicating, decadent and fragile – so much so that Unesco has declared this, Europe’s largest baroque old town, a World Heritage site. But there’s more to this devilishly attractive capital than meets the eye. There is an underlying oddness that creates its soul.

Kaunas
 
Kaunas the second largest city in Lithuania, is a thriving cultural and industrial centre with an interesting Old Town. Legend has it that Kaunas, 100km west of Vilnius at the confluence of the Nemunas and the Neris Rivers, was founded by the son of tragic young lovers. Beautiful maiden Milda let the holy Eternal Flame go out while caring for her lover Daugerutis. They were sentenced to death by vengeful gods, thus they fled to a cave and gave birth to Kaunas.

Druskininkai

Nineteenth-century spa town Druskininkai on the Nemunas River is Lithuania’s oldest and most chic. During the days of the USSR, the old and ailing flocked to this famous health resort in search of miracle cures for all sorts of ailments that its vast dinosaur sanatorium treated. Today, as investments flood in, Druskininkai is sheding its fusty old grey-haired image. Chic weekend spa breaks for young, hip and wealthy Lithuanians seeking a quick detox from city life is that makes Druskininkai tick these days.

Salty mineral water aide, Druskininkai was the home of romantic painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis. Around the corner is the Baltics’ only Soviet sculpture park.

Klaipėda
 
Klaipeda is Lithuanian’s third-largest city, with a population of 200,000, and is the main transport hub for the whole of the Lithuanian coast, giving access to the beaches of the Curonian Spit and Palanga. A small, easily, digestible, yet energetic city, it’s worth a stop-off in its own right, thanks to an atmospheric Old Town, a handful of worthwhile museums and lively year-round nightlife-scene.
 
Palanga
 
Palanga is Lithuania’s favorite beach resort and summertime playground, a self-contained empire of ice cream and candy floss visited by everyone from bucket-and-spade-wielding families’ drink-fuelled party animals and the Vilnius-based social and cultural elite. On summer evenings you can see all of them parading up and down the bar-lined central strip, Basanavičius.
This erstwhile fishing village was first developed as a resort by Polish-Lithuanian aristocrat Josef Tyszkiewicz (1835-1891), who invited the doyen of wooden architecture, Stanislaw Witkiewixz, to Palanga to build a Kurhaus, and though the building no longer stands, Witkiewicz trademark style, full of spindly balustrades, pointy gables and fanciful turrets, can still be seen in many of the town’s older villas.
 
Nida
Nida - the ancient fishing village of NIDA, has been the main focus for tourism on the spit ever since the mid-nineteenth century, when the first German visitors were drawn here by the promise of unspoilt seaside rusticity. The Germans were quick to rediscover the place in the early 1990s. and it’s now Lithuanians and outsiders. Despite some ugly Soviet architecture at its heart, it still possesses an impressive stock of traditional timber houses, many of their reed thatched roofs sporting the wooden, horse-head crosspieces characteristic of Curonian homes.
Some of the prettiest of Nida’s houses are to be found just south of the main square, along narrow streets like Lotmiškio and Naglių. Here you’ll find neat lines of wooden fishermen’s houses, attractively painted in a variety of maroons, yellows and blues, their tidy, picket-fenced gardens packed with flowers and fruit trees.