Lithuania

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WorldBalticNorthern EuropeEastern EuropeLithuania
Lithuania
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Lithuania
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Flag
Capital Vilnius
Language Lithuanian
Currency Litas (abr. LTL)
Time zone EET (UTC+2) , DST: EEST (UTC+3)
Calling code +370

Lithuania is landlocked on three sides with only its western border formed by the Baltic Sea. This border, stretching only118km, gives access to Lithuania’s sole port and maritime border control station at Klaipèda. The most notable feature of Lithuania’s sandy coast line is the Curonian Spit, an 80 km long wooded sand spit which stretches northwards from the Russian town of Zelenogradsk in the Kaliningrad enclave. Within the sheltering arm of the Spit lies the Curonian Lagoon. Separated from the city of Klaipèda by only a narrow channel, which forms the entrance to the lagoon, the northern half of the Spit and lagoon is Lithuanian territory whilst the southern section belongs to Russia. The border is clearly delineated by a set of small yellow buoys stretching across the lagoon 200 metres north of the actual border and, on land, by a series of clearly marked stakes placed in a tree-free corridor. In 2000 the Curonian Spit was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site as an object of cultural landscape.

The population of Lithuania is approximately 3,765,000 and the area of the country some 65,000 sq. km.


History

Lithuania, like its neighbouring Baltic countries, has been fought over for centuries. The struggle between Prussia, Russia and Sweden to exert control over the Baltic Sea area has resulted in many changes in the borders of the countries in that area.

Following early Viking conquests, German influence over the area known as Lithuania Minor, i.e. the coastal areas of Prussia eastwards through Köningsburg (present day Kaliningrad) and the Curonian Spit and onwards to Riga was established. In 1252 the Bishop of Kuršas signed an agreement with the Livonian order. Teutonic Knights initiated the building of Memelburg castle at the Danè river estuary. Soon thereafter, Klaipeda was admitted to the Hanseatic League, Europe’s most powerful trading association.

In the following century the Curonian Spit and Klaipèda were transferred to the German Order of Prussia, later to be incorporated in the Prussian Duchy.

The Middle Ages in Europe was the period of enlightenment and reformation. Lithuania did not avoid this and during the Reformation in Prussia, in 1525, the Lithuanian Protestant Church was established. .

As Sweden, a powerful 17th Century state on the opposite side of the Baltic Sea expanded its European empire Lithuania Minor witnessed many of the struggles between Sweden and Prussia-Brandenburg. Fortunately, wars come to an end as did the warring between Sweden and Prussia-Brandenburg but Lithuania Minor’s troubles did not end there. The following, 18th century was a period of enlightenment but also of darkness as the bubonic plague, known as The Black Death, ravaged Europe between 1709 and 1711. Half the population of Klaipèda and its environs lost their lives to the plague. The King of Prussia, Frederich Wilhelm I, sought to revive the economy of his devastated lands and encouraged settlers from Salzburg to settle in the area. As a result, a language division arose between German speakers and Lithuanian speakers.

Still reeling from the ravages of the plague, other misfortunes assailed Lithuania Minor as the Prussians retreated from Klaipèda castle during the Seven Year War with Russia. Lithuania Minor found itself under Russian military rule.

The latter part of the 18th century was an enlightened period. Trade bloomed and the port of Klaipèda became increasingly important. Lithuania Minor even surpassed Lithuania Major in terms of education and published periodicals. Klaipèda’s importance grew as in 1807 it, once again under Prussian rule, became the royal residence of the King of Prussia, Fredrich Wilhelm III and Queen Luise due to Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation of other parts of their kingdom.

After the defeat of Napoleon, the English way of life started exerting its influence upon the burgers of Klaipèda. English was widely spoken and the British way of life imitated. A considerable number of English and Scottish merchants settled in the port city of Klaipèda bringing increased prosperity to the area. This was enhanced by the Royal Navy’s need for timber during the period of the American War of Independence when large quantities were shipped from Klaipèda to Britain. Conditions in Klaipèda improved further during the Crimean War (1853-6) when, all Russian ports in the Baltic being subject to the Royal Navy’s blockade had been closed after the Battle of Copenhagen, all Russian exports and imports went through Klaipèda.

The map of Europe was again redrawn at the end of hostilities in 1918 and the following year the Klaipèda region was separated from Germany and placed under the control of the Entente States. Present day Lithuania became a homogeneous state following the 1923 uprising when, on 10th January; one and a half thousand Lithuanian soldiers marched into the Klaipèda region. Officially, as of 8th May 1924, with the signing of the Convention of the Klaipèda Region in Paris, French rule ended and Klaipèda joined the Republic of Lithuania which than became a coastal state.

For 17 years Lithuania struggled to integrate the Klaipèda region into the Republic but efforts were hampered by language barriers as well as the political aims of Germany. Lithuania’s aims were completely thwarted on 23rd March 1939 when the tolling of church bells announced the cession of Klaipèda to the Third Reich in accordance with an agreement signed between Lithuania and Germany the previous evening. Adlof Hitler, certain of the outcome of the agreement had previously embarked on the Deutschland, stepped ashore in Klaipèda the same morning to an enthusiastic welcome.

As the Second World War drew to a close and the outcome became increasingly apparent, Klaipèda felt the dangers of the approaching Soviet army and Germany began the evacuation of its citizens. Klaipèda fell to the Red Army on 28th January 1945 by which time the city was in complete ruin.

Once overrun by the advancing Soviet Army, the city of Klaipèda as well as the rest of Lithuania remained fettered to the Soviet Union until 1990 when the then Soviet Republic of Lithuania regained its complete freedom. The Lithuanian Constitution was adopted in a referendum in 1992. Power in the country is shared between the President, who is elected with a mandate period of five years, Parliament (the Seimas) consisting of 141 members who are elected every fourth year, the government and the courts.

Today, Lithuania’s attentions are directed towards unification with Europe. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 the Republic of Lithuania has become a full member in the European Union and NATO and is looking forward to being fully accepted in the group of Schengen States next year (Jan. 2008) when Lithuania’s borders to other Schengen countries will be completely opened.


Other useful information

The language of Lithuania is, unsurprisingly, Lithuanian which is very closely related to Latvian. These two languages belong to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language group. A third language belonging to the same group, Prussian, died out during the 18th century. Lithuanian, although sometimes mistaken for a Slavic language, is not part of that group of languages. Russian is widely (but not enthusiastically) spoken, particularly amongst those who grew up during the Soviet era. English is however now the favoured second language.

Legal tender in Lithuania is the Litas (abr. LTL). It is pegged at a fast rate of 3.4528 to the Euro. Foreign currency can be exchanged in banks, open from 08:00 to 17:00, or 18:00 in some cases. ATM:s are available in Klaipeda but otherwise are not a common sight.

Date and Time Timezone: GMT +2 hrs; summer time, GMT + 3 hrs. The form of writing dates in Lithuania follows the Scandinavian format, i.e. yyyy-mm-dd

Shopping hours Shop opening hours vary, but in general stores are open between 10:00 and 19:00 weekdays and 10:00 to 15:00 Saturdays. Some stores open on Sundays and grocery outlets are generally open until 22:00

Electrical supply The Lithuanian grid supplies electricity at 220v/50Hz. Plugs are of the standard western European type, i.e. those in use in Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands etc.

Power in the country is generated at the nuclear power plant in Ignalina. This plant, equipped with the same type of reactor as the ill-fated Tjernobyl nuclear power plant, is to be closed down in 2009: this being one of the conditions of entry into the EU imposed upon Lithuania. The three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have agreed to build a new nuclear power plant to meet their combined needs. This plant is also to be built in Lithuania and is due to be on-line in 2015. In the mean time, Ignalina is still merrily pumping out the power. In all fairness, it must be pointed out that western safety technology has been built into Ingalina resulting in claims that it is safer than Tjernobyl ever was.


Public toilets Public lavatories are thin on the ground in Lithuania but there are customer toilets in larger department stores, restaurants and cafes. Beware of the signage though! Ladies toilets are marked with the letter “M” or a “▲” symbol. Gentleman's lavatories are marked either with the letter “V” or a “▼” symbol. NB “M” does not mean MEN!

Telephones The International Dialing Code for Lithuania is +370

Useful phone numbers are:

Emergency services 112 Telephone information 118

Card operated public telephones are available. Cards can be bought at kiosks, post offices and supermarkets.

The Lithuanian mobile phone net permits roaming. Alternately, prepaid cards can be purchased which is a cheaper alternative for making local calls.


Smoking Smokers beware! As of the beginning of 2007, smoking became prohibited in Lithuanian restaurants, cafés, bars and other public places.


Transport Lithuania can be reached by sea, air, road and rail. Air: There are airports at Vilnius, Kaunas and at Palanga. Palanga airport is the most convenient for those joining or leaving vessels in Klaipèda. There are direct flights to Palanga from Riga, Oslo, Moscow. The airport is situated about five kilometres from the centre of Palanga. A transfer buss is available as are taxis. However, the most flights are provided by Ryanair to Kaunas and Vilnius.

Sea: Ferries abound by which Klaipèda is linked to Kiel and Sassnitz in Germany as well as Karlshamn, Sweden and Aarhus and Aabenraa in Denmark. The ferries are however orientated towards the transport of trucks and so passenger space is limited as is entertainment on board.

Train and Buss It is possible to travel to Klaipèda by rail and there are direct buss routes linking the city with other Lithuanian towns.


Amber, a word of warning: Lithuania is known for its amber. Amber is much sought after and is used in the making of jewellery. It is simply the fossilized resin from trees. Baltic amber comes from trees which grew in the tropical or sub-tropical conditions which existed in southern Scandinavia about 1 million years ago. Unlike the resin which remained on land, that which was carried by rivers into the Baltic did not decompose but hardened or fossilized. Sometimes, but rarely, the fossilized resin is found to contain an insect.

Generally thought to be amber-coloured, amber can, in fact, also be blue, black, green, red, violet or opaque. The variations appear to be endless, although most are in fact, amber! Colour variations depend upon the weathering of the amber or the content of iron sulphide or plant residue.

Cruisers considering purchasing amber should beware of buying it from a “babushka” wearing Wellington boots and a long woollen coat and sitting on an upturned bucket. Go to a reputable store instead and pay a little more for the real thing.

False “amber” is usually made from plastic, glass or sugar. Lick it! If it is sweet, don’t buy it unless your sweet tooth gets the better of you. If it smells like a nylon rope which you have heated in order to avoid putting on a sailmaker's whipping, don’t buy it!

Real amber smells like, well, resin. Anyone familiar with a sauna will know the smell and probably will also have seen resin oozing from the sauna’s pinewood walls as it is heated.

Now for the word of warning! Amber can be collected along the sea shore as it is washed up by the action of the waves. There is not a lot of it but you could be lucky and find some. Beware though for mustard gas! “Is this serious?” you may ask. It is DEADLY SERIOUS. Germany produced and stockpiled mustard gas which was it used as a weapon. Mustard gas, when heated, is a toxic gas which claimed the lives of many soldiers during the First World War. When at temperatures of under 14 degrees Celsius it becomes a yellowish, jelly-like semi-solid and a hard crust forms around it. Tons of mustard gas was dumped in the Baltic where, as long as it remains there, it presents no danger. However, lumps of mustard gas occasionally wash up on the beaches of the Baltic States where they remain on all but warm days and can be mistaken for amber. If this is then picked up and put, for example, into a warm pocket it becomes lethal. Beware! Serious burns and even deaths have resulted from inappropriate handling of mustard gas, If you believe you have come in contact with mustard gas, help and advice can be obtained by contacting the duty officer at the Swedish Coast Guard on +46 455 35 35 00.

Charts

Lithuania has no hydrographic office although the Lithuanian Inland Waterways Authority in Klaipèda produce a useful chart of the Curonian Lagoon. Note however that the symbols and abbreviations may differ from international hydrographic standards. The chart can be found and even downloaded at this link

For the Baltic passage and landfall on the Lithuanian coast the following British Admiralty should suffice

BA
2276 - Klaipèda and approaches
2816 - Baltic Sea Southern Part

Equivalent charts are published by other chart agencies

Weather

Lithuania's climate reflects its geographical position and can be deemed to be between maritime and continental i.e. wettish, with moderate winters and summers.

Ice in the Baltic can be a hinder to shipping although the southern Baltic has been ice free this past 15 or so winters. The port of Klaipèda is the northernmost Baltic port to remain ice free at all times.

Weather information for the Baltic is readily available from Danish, German, Finnish and Swedish meteorological offices.

The Swedish Shipping Forecast is available here

The Danish Meteorological Institute has a good forecasting site

Lithuanian weather forecast, based on European HIRLAM model

Yachts navigating in the Baltic area will find fitting a receiver for weather forecasts via radioteletype (RTTY) from the German National Weather Agency (DWD) a great advantage.

Passages

List popular passages/routes, timing, etc.

Islands

Lithuania's sand coast is devoid of off-shore islands.

The nearest island to Lithuania is the Swedish island of Gotland arround which there is an annual race. Yachts from Lithuania often participate in the Round Gotland Race.

Navigation

Add any navigation notes such approaches, dangers etc here. If this section does not apply remove it.

Communication

Add here VHF channel for coastguard, harbor masters. etc.

Also see World Cruiser's Nets

Entrance

Entry into Lithuania by private yacht Lithuania recently entered into the Schengen group of countries. Visas to the Schengen area are not required of EU-citizens nor of citizens of Australia, Canada, Iceland, and New Zealand. Norway, Switzerland, or the United States of America. Citizens of other countries should ensure that they conform to the current visa regime.

Private vessels carrying non Schengen-citizens, wishing to enter Lithuania are required to do present themselves at the border post in Klaipèda. It is required to notice the border control using VHF channel 9 and call sign "Impuls 3". The border control point is easily found: after entering the channel into the Curonian Lagoon (port of Klaipèda) the border control point is to be found to starboard immediately after passing through the breakwaters. A pontoon berth is to be placed there early next year for the use of yachts clearing-in. Surveillance at the entry of the Curonian Lagoon is very tight indeed. The Border Guard control station is fitted with state-of-the-art radar, remotely operated cameras and night vision equipment. Rest assured that if you miss the border control station the Border Guard will not miss you.

For regulations concerning entry and departure from Klaipèda please follow this link

Immigration & Customs

Submit details about customs and immigration procedures here.

Visas

Lithuania is now a full member of the Schengen group of countries and, as such, will follow the Schengen visa regime.

Health & Security

Submit any health warnings/information and any security details here.

Berthing

Ports

Klaipèda is Lithuania's only industrial port and point of entry for all craft. There are also a number of small harbours in the Curonian lagoon as well as a proposed harbour to be constructed north of Klaipèda, details of which are shown below:

Port of Šventoji
Šventoji is a port which does not exist, at least not yet anyway. The Lithuanian government has approved the development of the port which will lie just a short distance from Palanga. The restored port will serve coastguard vessels and SAR-units as well as pleasure boats. In 2011 the port has been opened with race from Klaipėda and back, which received many visitors and positive reflections for newly installed berths and other infrastructure. However, upon the race end, several boats has been stuck in the entrance to the port, due to narrow entrance canal. Furthermore, the port entrance has been completely filled with sand within the next 10 days, leaving at least one boat stuck and unable to leave the port. The port administration has received heavy criticism for not installing breakwaters and relying on inefficient annual canal cleaning duties, while, the administration has accused the contractor of failing to clean the canal up to required amount, and switched to another contractor. The new contractor has failed to finish the cleanup jobs during the sailing season of 2012 and as of now is closed.
Klaipèda'
Klaipèda is an extremely large commercial port, although all activity is concentrated to the northern side of the sound joining the Curonian Lagoon with the sea.

There is a yacht club situated on the southern side of the channel opposite berth 65 see harbour plan but note that the plan's orientation is southwards! the yacht club has two basins and can provide Internet access and laundry facilities. The yacht club also functions as a hotel. A cafeteria style restaurant is also to be found. Unfortunately, anyone wanting to visit the town of Klaipèda has to take a ferry.

Yacht berths also exist at berths 40 - 42 and in the adjacent channel entered at berth 27. This is known as the Old Castle Marina for it is adjacent to the site of the castle of Klaipèda, then know as Memelburg Castle.

Juodkrantė
Small, idyllic town located on the Curonian Spit. Provides mooring which is poorly protected from north, take care as shallow depths are usual.
Pervalka
Pervalka on the Curonian Spit offers a good anchorage although exposed to south-easterlies. Docking is possible in front of the pier, however extreme care must be taken, as depths are at around 1.7-1.5 meters.
Nida
At the southern end of the Lithuanian part of the Curonian Spit is an idyllic town much favoured by tourists (3rd or 4th most popular within Lithuania). The harbour is fairly large and secure for winds from all directions, although north-easterlies can cause a disturbance in certain parts of the harbour. There are, in fact, two harbours the northernmost of which is reserved for fishing vessels. Yachts berth in the southern harbour. The village of Nida is well suppplied with restaurants.
Dreverna
The small fishing village of Dreverna was already established in the 13th Century. Several old fishermen's cottages still exist.
Nemunas River
Opposite Nida, on the other side of the Lagon, is the delta of the Nemunas river. This river, with its source in Bella Russia, is navigable as far as Kaunas, where hydroelectric power plant is installed. For much of its path it forms the border between the Kaliningrad enclave and Lithuania.
Minija
Minija is a river and a village with a same name. On west side of the river is a sailing club Marių Burės, which supplies with water, electricity, car park and crane services. On the east side is a powerboat port and a restaurant. Further up the river is (warning: high voltage wires and a bridge, refer to charts) an idyllic hotel, restaurant and fish farm complex.
Rusnė
Is a largest island in Lithuania. Also it's a name for a small town there. The town is most famous for it's smoked fish supplies, which are in descent during last years. It can be reached from river Atmata, however it is limited by approx. 10 meter clearance bridge.
Uostadvaris
Once on the edge of the curonian spit, this over 100 year old lighthouse is a significant tourist stopping point. It has several berths, freshwater supplies and electricity.
Šilutė
Large powerboat port inside an old, medium sized German town. The port has a restaurant, water, electricity and a fuel station. The town can be reached using river Atmata and Šyša.

Transportation

List transportation (local and/or international.)

Friends

Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.

Forums

List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)

Links

References

  • Lithuania is covered by the British Admiralty's Baltic Pilot Volume II NP19.

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