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Published: September 3rd 2014
Klaipeda and Palanga in Lithuania 2 September 2014
We crossed the Latvia/Lithuania border about 11.00am and reached Palanga which is a popular seaside resort at the Baltic sea. Palanga has a beach, but it is very crowded in summer, since all Lithuanians come to their short coastline. It was quiet when we got there as all the children had gone back to school and it was Tuesday. There was an amber museum which is prevalent in Latvia and Lithuania but we didn't visit it.
When we walked down the pedestrian mall, Basanavicius street which is the focal point of Palanga. Along this street can be found most of the town's bars, restaurants, nightclubs, funfairs and souvenir shops. It continues to the Pier on the beach. Just before the beach started, there were some bench seats positioned as if they were on a bus, and they were looking out to sea. There were all these people just sitting and looking towards the jetty and sea, enjoying the sunshine. It was really funny/unusual to see.
We had lunch and then drove further south to Klaipeda. This town is known as the third-largest city in Lithuania and a seaport, and a
stopover point for cruise ships. It has a big, busy port which had a lot of ore ready to be loaded into ships, so it is a deep harbour. For a couple of hours we walked around the town, again with our tourist map in hand. There were a lot of cobble-stoned roads, monuments, canals and busy people. We found a fantastic cafe and had a big coffee and chocolate muffin!!
Klaipeda is also a point where we caught a car ferry across to Curonian Spit which is a unique peninsula in the Baltic sea with sand dunes, seaboard forest, white sanded beaches and old ethnographic villages. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A third of the way along it, is the Lithuanian/Russian border (a separate little bit of land owned by the Russians), so we could only visit the northern section of the sand spit as our Russian visa had run out. We parked and walked over to the sand beach, through the forest which is also a popular spot for mushroom collectors. In the Russian Territory the sand dunes are the highest in the northern hemisphere.
We then headed for the capital of Lithuania,
Vilnus which is over 300kms (beautiful freeway all teh way) from the western coast. We drove about 120kms and parked for the night at a roadside stop. On the way, we saw that there were mushrooms for sale along the freeway so we bought some and used them in our chicken dish. The night was certainly cool but our motor home is lovely and warm.
A bit about the history of the country:
Lithuania is an active member of the European Union since 2004 but has retained its own currency (Lithuanian Litas 2.25 to $1AUD). Lithuania is the only Baltic country with more than eight hundred years of statehood tradition and its name was first mentioned one thousand years ago, in 1009. Wedged at the dividing line of Western and Eastern civilizations, Lithuania battled dramatically for its independence and survival. Once in the Middle Ages (15th century), Lithuania was the largest state in the entire continent of Europe, where crafts and overseas trade prospered.
In 1579, Vilnius University, an important scientific and education centre of the European scale, was opened. In the 16th century, Lithuania adopted its First, Second and Third Statutes. The Statutes were not only
the backbone of the legislative system, they also had a major impact on the legislation of other European states of the time. Despite losing its independence, Lithuania managed to retain its Third Statute in force for as many as 250 years, which was instrumental in the preservation of national and civic self-awareness.
Modern Lithuania gained its independence from Russia in 1918 following World War I and the dissolution of the Czarist monarchy. However, in 1940 Lithuania was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. 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 1991, following the abortive coup in Moscow. The Soviet Union recognized Lithuania's independence on 6 September 1991. A constitution was adopted on 25 October 1992. The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently has restructured its economy for integration into Western European institutions and are very proud to be non-Russian.
We are looking forward to exploring this country.
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