Lithuania, the southernmost of the three Baltic countries, is considered by many to be, with its modern history included, an Eastern European country. For a country located on the eastern side of the Baltic Sea, it feels natural to have this geographical epithet, but the fact is that according to calculations made by French scientists, Europe’s geographical center is in Lithuania, near the capital Vilnius. This is also reflected in the country’s history, in relation to other European history. Over the centuries, the country has been part of several unions and occupied by many foreign powers, but it has also had a period of great power as an independent state during the Middle Ages.
Whatever one thinks of Lithuania’s status as an Eastern European country, the fact remains that for most of the 20th century it was part of the so – called Eastern Bloc and the Warsaw Pact, with all that entailed. This has helped shape the country and its neighbors to what they are today, which is an exciting area with eventful history and a culture characterized by forward thinking and innovation. When Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence in 1990, a long-awaited era in the country’s history began, with high economic development. The country was, and still is, dependent on its giant neighbor Russia, in terms of trade and economy. However, the will to leave the past behind and look ahead is strong in the country, and in 2004 Lithuania became a member of the EU. This led to continued strong economic development in the country and before the financial crisis of 2009-2010, the country had one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. This is a pure reflection of the forward spirit in the country, a spirit that is expressed in many other ways. For example, the country has the world’s fastest internet connections, all private individuals combined. The financial industry is also successful, several of the major Scandinavian banks have built large office complexes in Vilnius during the latter half of the twentieth century.
However, Lithuania is a small country, both in terms of population and finances and in terms of surface area. An introduction of the European currency, the euro, has not been made, the domestic currency, the litas, remains and 100 Swedish kronor is approximately 40 litas. However, it is very cheap as a Swede to visit Lithuania. Compared to Stockholm, which is Sweden’s most expensive city, and Vilnius, which is Lithuania’s most expensive city, the price differences are large. A three-course meal at an average restaurant in Vilnius is about 70% cheaper than the equivalent in Stockholm. A beer at one of Vilnius’ many restaurants costs between SEK 10 and 15 and renting an apartment in a room and kitchen in the city center costs about 65% less than it does in Stockholm. Lithuania is a safe destination in terms of crime and healthcare. Crime in the country is low, Vilnius has a very low crime rate compared to other European capitals. The crime that exists is very rarely directed at foreign tourists, but as usual in larger cities, you should watch out for pickpockets.