Learning about Lithuania

Our valiant voyagers, Norma and Rhys Rolfe, say goodbye to the Baltic States with a last look at Lithuania, a country as fascinating as those they have just visited.

Our three week visit to the Baltic States has come to an end, and what a remarkable journey it was: three countries with a legacy of oppression and depression.  The Grutas Park near Daugavpils in south eastern Lithuania tells a story: all 87 statues and memorials of 1Russian leaders and supporters in the country were placed in a forest. They were all pulled down in 1991.

A visit to the first nuclear missile site built by the Russians in 1960 was a thought-provoking reminder of The Cold War.  It was built in complete secrecy and remained active until 1978. Some of the missiles from this facility were sent to Cuba in 1962. The four 30-meter deep pods were dug by hand, and no machinery was used.

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Vilnius is an interesting city, similar in many ways to Riga and Tallinn; exploring the ghettos of the 1940s gave us lots to think about. So much work and restoration is and has been done in these countries, and a significant amount of effort seems to have come from the EU. In spite of a lot having been spent on their roads, our motor home suffered badly. Not only are the roads bad, but the driving is even worse, although the locals are good drivers.

We visited Trakai Castle which dates from the 14th Century; it was built by the grand duke of Lithuania. He was responsible for bringing 380 Karaite families to Trakai from the Crimea to serve as bodyguards. 60 remain today. The Karaite people living here studied the scriptures in both Hebrew and Arabic, and practised strict adherence to the Torah, rejecting the rabbinic Talmud.

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