THE BALTIC STATESIt’s a pleasure to speak to you about the Baltic States Cultural Tour 2011 covering Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.This corner of the globe is fascinating to visit.
DISCUSSION TOPICSHere is what we will cover.Picture: http://www.visiteurope.com/Discover/Where-To-Go/Baltic-States
BALTIC STATES – THE WORLD-- Most people know that the Baltic States are found in Europe. But where?
COUNTRIES AND THEIR CAPITALS The people comprising the Baltic States have together inhabited the region for millennia, although not always peacefully. Estonia was ruled for many centuries by Danish, Swedish, German and Russian factions. Latvia was also controlled for many centuries by different factions – including the Russian Empire of Catherine the Great (1729-1796). Lithuania was once a powerful force in medieval Europe but has suffered from the tragic impact of a German Invasion and almost 60 years of failed communist rule. In recent history all three countries were subsumed within the former Soviet Union during the Cold War (after WWII to 1991) and were “Russionized”.In 1991, the former Soviet Union released collapsed and released its grip on the Baltic States, thus separating the Communist Block from Northern Europe. The three countries promptly declared their independence and are now proud members of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
GENERAL INFORMATION-- Area of California is 164,000 sq miles (Baltic States total is 67,000 sq miles or 40% as large as California).-- Population of California is 37 million Vs 7 million (Baltic States has about 20% of the population of California).-- California’s Gross State Product is $1.8 trillion Vs. $1.1 million for the Baltic States. Baltic States (6% of California’s GSP). But, remember that California has the 8th largest economy in the world.
GOVERNMENT,CURRENCY, LANGUAGE AND RELIGION--All three countries are parliamentary democracies (i.e., the political power is held by an elected parliament representing the people) , which have unicameral parliaments that are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms In Latvia and Estonia, the President is elected by parliament.InLithuania, the President is elected by popular vote.-- Each state currently has its own currency. So, traveling from country to country requires exchanging money for local currency.-- The Estonian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages (close ties to the Finnish language).-- Latvian and Lithuanian languages belong to the Indo-European languages.-- The Russian language is spoken in all three countries as a consequence of these countries having been absorbed into the Soviet Union at one point. Between ¼ and 1/3rd of the population of Estonia and Latvia are Russian immigrants.-- German is spoken in Estonia and Latvia due to the long period of Germanic domination, starting in the Middle Ages.-- In Estonia and Latvia, Lutheran is the faith most widely practiced, followed by Catholic and Russian Orthodox. In Lithuania, Catholic is the predominant language, followed by Russian Orthodox and then Lutheran.
BRIEF RECENT HISTORYHere is a very brief summary of some important historical events in modern Baltic States history.Background--13th century – Invasion of crusaders from west ushered in Christianity and feudalism into Estonia and Latvia and the conversion from Paganism to Christianity in Lithuania.The Russian Empire gained control of most of the present-day Baltic states in the 18th century when the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned in three stages by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy, while western parts of Lithuania were incorporated into Prussia.Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became sovereign nations in the aftermath of World War I. They declared independence in 1918, fought independence wars against German Freikorps and Bolshevist Russia, and were recognized as independent countries in 1920.In June 1940, the Red Army occupied the whole territory of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and installed new, pro-Soviet governments in all three countries.Following rigged elections, in which only pro-communist candidates were allowed to run, the newly "elected" parliaments of the three countries formally applied to "join" the USSR in August 1940 and were annexed into it as the Estonian SSR, the Latvian SSR, and the Lithuanian SSR.The Soviet control of the Baltic states was interrupted by Nazi German invasion of the region in 1941. The German occupation lasted until late 1944 (in Courland, until early 1945), when the countries were re-occupied by the Red Army.In the late 1980s massive demonstrations against the Soviet regime, known as the Singing revolution began (non-violent protests). One of the most noted protests took place on August 23, 1989, when approximately two million people joined their hands to form a 600-kilometer human chain across the three countries in the event known as the Baltic Way.The three Baltic nations re-declared their independence in 1990 and 1991, and their independence was recognized by the Soviet Union on September 6, 1991.Feudalism:A system of landholding, common throughout Europe in medieval times, whereby freehold land was held or occupied in return for personal service to a lord or goods paid in kind, assured by oaths of homage.
VILNIUS, LITHUANIAVilnius is a stunning city.It once was the political center of the Grand Principality of Lithuania (i.e., eastern and central European state from the 13th century until 1795).Many buildings have 17th century baroque architecture.It has Europe’s largest baroque old town and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.As you walk around, you will come upon many narrow cobblestone streets and around almost every turn, it seems, Orthodox and Catholic church spires in the skyline.
TRAKAI, LITHUANIATrakai is a small town that lies 18 miles west of Vilnius.The town is one of Lithuania’s former medieval capitals with a population of about 5,000 people.Trakai Castle is a magnificent Gothic castle that lies on an island on Lake Galve.The only castle in Northern Europe located on an island.Construction began in the 14th centuries and it served as one of the main centers of the Grand Principality of Lithuania.It served as the treasury for the Grand Duke Kestutis, who ordered its constuction.
KryziuKalnas (Hill of Crosses) - The Hill of Crosses (Lithuanian: Kryžiųkalnas (help·info)) is a site of pilgrimage about 12 km north of the city of Šiauliai, in northern Lithuania. The precise origin of the practice of leaving crosses on the hill is uncertain, but it is believed that the first crosses were placed on the former Jurgaičiai or Domantaihill fort after the 1831 Uprising. Over the centuries, not only crosses, but giant crucifixes, carvings of Lithuanian patriots, statues of the Virgin Mary and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries have been brought here by Catholicpilgrims. The number of crosses is unknown, but estimates put it at about 55,000 in 1990 and 100,000 in 2006.Over the centuries, the place has come to signify the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Catholicism despite the threats it faced throughout history. After the 3rd partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire. Poles and Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863. These two uprisings are connected with the beginnings of the hill: as families could not locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses in place of a former hill fort.When the old political structure of Eastern Europe fell apart in 1918, Lithuania once again declared its independence. Throughout this time, the Hill of Crosses was used as a place for Lithuanians to pray for peace, for their country, and for the loved ones they had lost during the Wars of Independence.Most recently, the site took on a special significance during the years 1944–1990, when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. Continuing to travel to the Hill and leave their tributes, Lithuanians used it to demonstrate their allegiance to their original identity, religion and heritage. It was a venue of peaceful resistance, although the Soviets worked hard to remove new crosses, and bulldozed the site at least three times (including attempts in 1963 and 1973). There were even rumors that the authorities planned to build a dam on the nearby Kulvė River, a tributary to Mūša, so that the hill would end up under water.On September 7, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. In 2000 a Franciscanhermitage was opened nearby. The interior decoration draws links with La Verna, the mountain where St. Francis received his stigmata. The hill remains under nobody's jurisdiction; therefore people are free to build crosses as they see fit.
Rundale Palace (near Riga) is an outstanding monument of Baroque architecture. (Elaborate and extensive ornamentation in decorative art and architecture that flourished in Europe in the 17th century) Built between 1736 and 1740 as a summer residence of the Duke of Courland Ernst Johann Biron. In World War I, the German occupied Latvia and the palace became a hospital and a commandant's office. The palace suffered serious damage in 1919 during the Latvian War of Independence. Today it is open to the public and has a museum and gardens.
This enchanted town of Sigulda, 30 miles east of Riga, stands on the southern edge of a picturesque, steep-sided, wooded section of the Gauja ValleyIt is known locally as the 'Switzerland of Latvia‘, but no snow covered peaks. It is surrounded by bogs, green rolling hills, old wooden farmhouses and fields of yellow flowers. Sigulda is a minor health resort and winter sports centre, with an Olympic bobsled run snaking down into the valley. It also is the primary gateway to the beautiful Gauja National Park, located northeast of town. Sigulda itself offers some excellent sleeping options - get away from hotels and check out the charming country guesthouses.
Sigulda Castle was built during the end of the 19th Century by the Kropotkin family.Served as a recreation house for writers and journalists after World War I. The castle was used as the USSR Health Ministry sanatorium after World War II. Today it houses the Sigulda Regional Council.Turaida Castle (Latvian: Turaidaspils, German: Treiden, Treyden, Russian: Турайдскийзамок; meaning Thor's garden in Livonian) is a recently reconstructed medieval castle in Turaida, in the Vidzeme region of Latvia, on the opposite bank of the Gauja River from Sigulda.The castle was constructed in the Brick Gothic style in 1214 under Albert, archbishop of Riga, on the site of the destroyed wooden castle of the Livonian leader Caupo of Turaida. Construction and development of the fortifications continued to the 17th century, when the castle started to lose its strategic importance. It was badly damaged by fire in 1776 and not reconstructed, and in the course of time fell into ruin.Restoration began in the 1970s and the castle is now the centrepiece of the Turaida Museum Reserve, which also includes the oldest wooden church in Vidzeme and its surrounding Livonian cemetery, containing the grave of Maija, the Rose of Turaida; Dainu Hill, now a sculpture park celebrating Latvian folksong; and the beautifully landscaped castle grounds.Turaida Castle is located on the bank of the Gauja River.It is a Medieval castle constructed in 1214 as a fortified stronghold surrounded by a complex defense system.It served as the residence of the Arch Bishop of Riga.
Tartu is Estonia’s second largest city with a population of about 100,000 people.It is known by locals as Estonia's spiritual capital as the Locals talk about a special Tartu vaim (spirit) inhabiting its 19th-century streets, old wooden houses, green parks and peaceful riverfront. Small and quaint, with the quietly flowing Emajõgi River running through it. Tartu is also Estonia’s premier university town, with students making up nearly one-fifth of the population. It is home to Estonia’s oldest university. The city escaped much of the “Russionization” that occurred in other cities in Estonia.Today, there are many gallaries, museums and cafes.
Tallinn, Estonia's crown jewel, is Estonia’s capital city.It is the largest city in Estonia with a population of 410,000 people.It lies on the banks of the Gulf of Finland and began as an important port in the 14th century.Tallinn was an important port for a German 14th century trade league called the Hanseatic League, and the wealth the trade brought the city is still evident. It has a wonderful old town with a maze of cobblestone streets.At every turn, you see church spires, tiny passages and cafes.
ENTRANCE TO OLD TOWNTallinn’s old town is beautifully preserved. It is the city’s heart and soul and a natural gravitation point for tourists to the capital.Good place to stop, relax, have a good Estonian beer and people-watch.
A parting photo of Tallin.
Parnu – Lunch Stop.Pärnu (German: Pernau, Polish: Parnawa) is a city in southwestern Estonia on the coast of Pärnu Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea. It is a popular summer vacation resort with many hotels, restaurants, and large beaches. The Pärnu River flows through the city and drains into the Gulf of Riga. The city is served by Pärnu Airport.The city is occasionally referred to as Pyarnu, an incorrect reverse-transliteration from Russian Пярну.
Riga is a bustling seaport city and the “Pearl” of the Baltic. Situated on the mouth of the Daugava River, it is a major industrial, commercial, cultural and financial center of the Baltics. It serves as the capital of Riga and has a population of about 700,000 people. Riga's historical centre has been declared a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site. The city is particularly notable for its extensive German Art Nouveau architecture, which UNESCO considers to be unparalleled anywhere in the world.
Klaipeda is Lithuania’s third largest city with a population of about 200,000 peopleIt lies at the mouth of the Curonian Lagoon where the Dane River flows into the Baltic Sea.It is Lithuania’s only seaport with a ferry connecting to Sweden and Germany. It was originally founded by Baltic tribes in the 7th century.
Nida –Nida (German: Nidden) is a resort town in Lithuania, located on the Curonian Spit. It has 1,650 residents and is the administrative center of the Neringa municipality. Nida is the westernmost point of Lithuania and the Baltic States.
The Curonian Spit is a 60-mile long strip of land and sand dunes lying between the Baltic Sea on its west and the Curonian Lagoon on the east.It was formed 5,000 years ago and is currently a National Park and a UNESCO world heritage site.In the 9th thru 11th centuries, it was a major pegan center.It is part Russian and part Lithuanian territory – 2 Russian and 7 Lithuanian settlements.Today, visitors are attracted by its quietness, cleanliness and relaxing atmosphere with unique landscape.It has the highest moving sand dunes in Europe (some 200 feet high)
Price and important dates
Baltic States Cultural Tour 2011 - Presentation
Baltic StatesCultural Tour 2011 June 4-17, 2011 Vertical Horizons Travel www.verticalhorizonstravel.com
Discussion Topics• Information about the Baltic States• Tour Overview• In-Bound Tour Company -- Baltic Saitas• What’s included / Tour Price / Important Dates• Questions
Countries and their Capitals Estonia (Tallinn) Latvia zxasxac (Riga) Lithuania (Vilnius)
General Information Country Estonia Latvia Lithuania Area 17,000 mi2 25,000 mi2 25,000 mi2 Population 1.3 million 2.2 million 3.3 million Gross $25 $32 $53 National billion billion billion Product
Government, Currency,Language and Religion Country Estonia Latvia Lithuania Form of Parliamentary Parliamentary Parliamentary Government Democracy Democracy Democracy $1.00 U.S. $1.00 U.S. $1.00 U.S. Currency = = = 0.75 Euro 0.50 Latvian 2.50 Litas Estonian Latvian Lithuanian Language Russian Russian Russian German German -- English English English Lutheran, Lutheran, Catholic, Religion Catholic, Catholic, Orthodox, Orthodox Orthodox Lutheran
Brief Recent History• 18th century – Russian Empire gained control• 1920 Baltic States became independent countries• 1940 Red Army occupied Baltic States• 1941 Nazi Germany occupied Baltic States• 1944 Red Army reoccupied Baltic States• 1980’s Anti-Soviet demonstrations (Singing Revolution)• 1989 “Baltic Way” demonstration• 1991 The former Soviet Union recognized the Baltic States as being independent
Major Destinations•Vilnius (Lithuania)•Sigulda (Latvia)•Tallinn (Estonia)•Riga (Latvia)•Nida (Lithuania)•Vilnius (Lithuania)
Other Information• Passports are required (no Visa needed)• Time difference is 10 hours ahead of California• Average temperature in June is 61 degrees• Average rainfall in June is 3 inches• Need electrical converter/adaptors for Northern Europe• Optional side trip information to be sent out in April• Consider a travel insurance policy!
Baltic SaitasIn-Bound Tour Company • Located in Kaunas, Lithuania • Founded in 1992 • One of the biggest tour operators in Lithuania • Cater to over 20,000 tourists a year • Pride themselves on high quality service • Specialize in tours to the Baltic States • Worked with Vertical Horizons Travel to develop a group tour to our specifications
Tour Includes• 13 nights in 3-4 star hotels with private bath• Certified English-speaking tour guide• In-country transportation• Selected site entrance fees• 13 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 9 dinners• Airport-to-hotel transfersTravel insurance not included but recommendedOptional side-trips will be offered (details in April)
Price and DatesPrice$ 1,771 per person Price assumes --• Minimum of 15 tour participants• Exchange rate is $1.31 U.S per 1.00 Euro• Cash purchase (add 3% for credit card)• Double occupancy (add $456 for private room)• Does not include airfare or travel insurancePayment due dates$ 500.00 Deposit due now with tour Application$1,271.00 Due 4/19/2011 (add $456 for private room)Optional side excursions to be paid for prior to departure(details to follow in early April)