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Lithuania

Lithuania, located on the east coast of the Baltic Sea, is dominated by thousands of lakes, its largest being the formidable Lake Druksiai. It is also a land of dense forests and picturesque castles. Its capital, Vilnius, has at its centre, the beautiful Gediminas Square. Its standout landmark is the classically-built Cathedral, but this is only part of the fascinating architecture that creates an intimate, historical atmosphere.

Culture

Food is central to every celebration and is also seen as a sign of hospitality and wealth. The role of the host is to ensure that not a single guest leaves unsatisfied. The most important meal of the year; is kučios. Served on Christmas Eve, sometimes the host will even rest the table cloth on a layer of hay, recreating Baby Jesus' crib. Dinner guests might also share symbolic Christmas wafers. These are believed to help unite families. The meal is also an opportunity to remember and celebrate the life of a family member who has passed away during previous year. This tradition gives the family members the opportunity to invite the person's spirit to the meal and spend one last family occasion with them.

Food and Drink

Lithuania' food is dominated by pork and beef, the later often prepared in a similar way to schnitzel. Fish are also a favourite, and are enjoyed pickled, baked and fried and this. Main courses are eaten with potatoes prepared in many different ways. Fresh fruit and vegetables are widely enjoyed, although pears are one of the few types that grow natively. Gira, (made from rye-bread) and kisielius are some of the traditional drinks enjoyed countrywide, by locals and visitors alike. Those looking for a stronger alternative can sample locally-brewed beers and mead.

History

Lithuania was frequently invaded up until the early middle ages. In the 1300's a Lithuanian empire was established and a century later Lithuania and Poland became allies and had one ruler. By the 1800's it had become part of Russia. During the First World War, Lithuania was occupied by Germany but by the end, Lithuania had become an independent state. In 1944 it was back under Soviet Rule. It was not until the early 1990's that Lithuania was once again independent and it joined the United Nations in 1991. Thirteen years later, in 2004, it joined NATO and in May of the same year, became a member of the European Union.

Did you know?
Mindaugas was Lithuania's one and only king. He was crowned in 1253 and at the height of his power and influence ruled over between three and four hundred thousand people.
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