A relatively flat and forested country with a colorful yet tumultuous history, Lithuania is situated at the geographical center of Europe. The country established Europe Park to mark this position, with outdoor sculptures and art installations by 100 worldwide artists. Other one of a kind sites of this former Soviet nation in the Baltic’s which continues to transition its post-Communist economy into a Western style market since gaining independence in 1990 are the Park of Soviet Sculptures and Hill of Crosses.
Just five miles from the spa town of Druskininkai, Grutas Park is an open air museum with about 50 Soviet sculptures, busts of leaders including Lenin and other grim Soviet-era relics placed along trails that wind through the woods. In the north near Siauliai is the inspiring Hill of Crosses, a hill in the countryside covered with more than 50,000 crosses and crucifixes of every shape and size. It has become a pilgrimage site and Pope John Paul II visited it in 1993.
The tiny yet modern capital Vilnius, founded in 1323, has a lovely collection of Baroque and Gothic architecture and one of the largest Old Towns in Europe. Protected by UNESCO, this romantic district has stylish cafes and narrow lanes. On the edge of Old Town are the Gates of Dawn, with a 17th century Virgin Mary icon in its chapel. Lithuania’s second city is Kaunas. The bizarre Devil Museum here exhibits 3,000 puppets, mannequins and ornaments. The IX Fort, an old Lithuanian prison turned into a concentration camp by the Nazis during World War II, is now a museum.
The popular beach resorts of Palanga and Neringa have spotless, white sand beaches, sloping dunes and pine forests. Palanga offers watersports, restaurants, bars, clubs and casinos, while Neringa is within Curonian Spit National Park, a narrow, sandy peninsula dividing the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Here is where the white Tiskevic Palace stands that contains the Amber Museum.