My big trip this year was two weeks in Lithuania, a destination that is either overlooked by many people or perhaps not even known. I’ve made multiple trips to Lithuania that started in 1988, before the country’s independence from the Soviets, up to this year, including additional family members as the years passed. I can vouch for it as an adventure destination, a place to spend with family, and a place to see history from the past few thousand years.
This year’s trip was focused on spending time with my kids and exposing them to a Lithuania they hadn’t seen before (they’ve all been on multiple trips there before, but are now of an age where it might make a greater impact). We rented a van and essentially drove the back roads, with an occasional highway jaunt and visits to the major cities, using them as bases for daily forays.
Once project I wanted to focus on was the myriad observation towers scattered around Lithuania. Often they are in out of the way places and seem to be a method of attracting visitors. For us, they gave a structure to the trip and also some daily exercise, as the endless staircases were the only way to the top (there was one tower with a lift for those needing it).
The second project I had planned was a visit to manor houses of varying condition. While Lithuania is a staunchly democratic nation, it once was feudal, and the remaining manor houses are a good reminder of how things once were. Once again, they tend to be in out of the way places, which gave us a broader view of the Lithuanian countryside. From ruins to beautiful renovations, it was a wonderful glimpse into a past way of life.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Cold War Museum, a former Soviet missile base located in Lithuania’s northwest corner. It seems like ancient history, so it was a good reminder that we once lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Another great find was the Paulavos Republic. This community was a small self-governing peasant microstate near the Merkinė Manor in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In a feudal time, it managed to be a place for the poor to own land with its own parliament, army, and laws. What remains now is just ruins, but it gives an idea of what they built and the way they lived.
For the trip, excepting a few nights spent at my parents, we used AirBnB to stay in places. It’s a great way to live like a local, though the lack of air conditioning was something we could have done without. It also allows you to get into neighborhoods that don’t contain hotels – Lithuania has hotels, but many are not typical of Western ideas.
Lithuania is a small country, largely agricultural, with some modern refinement found in the larger cities. It is Western-facing in ideals, economy, and is considered one of the most technologically focused countries around. With the additional allure of the beaches on the Baltic Sea, it’s easy to return again and again, finding new experiences each time. I’d like to return again and spend a week or two exploring the more physical adventures, like wakeboarding, stand up paddle boarding, cycling, sand sailing, and more.