Updated 2006-03-14

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In the Country

Small outhouse on the Lithuanian countryside in the evening sun

Travel around the Lithuanian countryside and muse over the soft, green landscape.

The landscape. Swedish? Lithuanian? Who knows? If a Swede were dropped off somewhere in the Lithuanian countryside he wouldn’t know the difference. The countries are brothers, more than brothers, separated by a mere 200 km of water. This page is all about the wonderful outdoors. At the bottom are all the small towns that didn’t get their own web page.

This is the lowest level. Click the images to enlarge!

  Cottages and Farms
  Aerial Pictures
Aukstatija National Park
  Beekeeper’s Museum
Kernave - Mindaugas’ Hill-forts
Trakai, Lithuania’s Second Royal Castle
Other Cities, Alphabethically
  Ignalina’s Nuclear Power Plant
  Istra Airport
  Karmelava Airport

The Nature

The Lithuanian countryside is softly rolling, having only a low hill here and there. There is seldom any exposed rock. It is mostly green. At harvest time the blue fields of flax are like beautiful coloured patches in the landscape, just as the yellow rapeseeds. Lithuania exports a lot of flax and flaxen products, tablecloths, clothes and handicraft.

Lithuania, blooming fruit trees

Jasmine tree in the evening sun.

Lithuania, grass against the light

Grass against the light, en route to the cows' stomachs.

Lithuania, meadow flowers

A Piene, a dandelion in the middle, and Neuzmirstuole, forget-me-nots around. Could have been a Swedish summer meadow, but it is Lithuanian.
In the country, yellow flowers Nice, yellow flowers from below, in a flowerbed. In the country, sunken bridge A bathing-lake in the Utena area, with a half-sunken bridge.

Lithuania, lake

We were lucky to get there just as the sun was setting, everything was calm and the wind had died down.
In the country, rainbow Rainbow by a small village outside Utena. In the country, Ladakalnio in Aukstatija National Park View from the Ladakalnio mountain, Goddess Lada’s mountain in the Lithuanian pagan mythology, in the Aukstatija National Park.
In the country, Lithuanian landscape And then: Landscapes. In the country, Lithuanian landscape Blindingly beautiful landscapes.

In the country, Lithuanian landscape

Lunatically blue heaven.
In the country, Lithuanian landscape Crazily green grass. In the country, Lithuanian landscape Like in those films you saw in school about the happy farmland.

Lithuania, sunset behind tree

Sunset in the country. There is something special about sunsets, whether you see them in Lithuania or Sweden.

In the country, mist rolling in

In the evening the mist came rolling. In the country, evening mist A series of images showing mist rolling in...

In the country, evening mist around electric poles

around the electricity poles...
In the country, evening mist more mist... In the country, evening mist and finally occupying a meadow of blue lupines. 4 seconds night shot.

In the country, evening mist

The mist has completely filled a low valley.

Aerial Pictures

An airplane window and a camera is always a great combination. I recommend that you always ask for a windows seat in front of the wing. And there is less noise. Using Photoshop you can recover fantastic views later, especially from country as beautiful as this.
Lithuania, aerial picture, River Neris Neris from the air, somewhere in the vincinity of Karmelava near Kaunas. Lithuania, aerial picture, straight motorway The hyper-straight motorways are typical of the Soviet way of moving ahead with bulldozers without a second thought about divided cities or farms. Farms, well, they all belonged to the government.

Cottages and Farms

Lithuania is an agricultural land with many farms and cottages. When the Soviets confiscated everything, the farms suddenly “belonged” to the colkhozes and Lithuania became the granary of European USSR. Today, they are their own granary and export agricultural products to all of Europe.

In the country, farm

A happy, sunny picture of a very nice farm, outside the city of Utena in East Lithuania. I have visited many a house in Lithuania, but never seen one so nice and well kept as this one.

In the country, farm-hut

This hut belonged to the same farm. The surroundings were completely silent, so I crept out on a field to get a good picture, and to just enjoy the sun.

Lithuania, wild strawberry-eater

A happy wild strawberry-finder back from berry-picking in the Lithuanian forest. If it's summer, it must be wild strawberries on a straw.

In the country, ordinary dwelling-house

A very common type of dwelling-house to be found everywhere. Yellow and green are common colours.

In the country, weathered barn

An old, weathered-down barn.

In the country, weathered corner

The corner of another barn.

Aukstatija National Park

Lithuania has four well-known national parks: The one in Aukstatija around Paluse town, the one at Neringa, as well as Dzukija and Zemaitija. All are extremely picturesque areas where you will find a lot of landmarks scattered around. This is a quick-quick visit to Aukstatija National Park. The area is large, but there are roads everywhere. You also row or canoe on the around 100 lakes.


The main town and tourist centre in the Aukstatija National Park, having several hotels, villages, boat rental etc. Here is Lithuania’s oldest wooden church, in very good condition. We saw a wedding there.

Paluse church, overview

From a small hill nearby one has a good overview of Paluse Church and churchyard.

Paluse Church, a little closer

This is how it looks on the lawn in front of the gate.

Paluse Church, meditating Christ

“Traveller, stop and reflect” the sign says, under the meditating Christ.

Paluse Church, from the organ loft

The church has simple, brownish yellow walls and painted wooden floor, shot from the organ loft.

Paluse Church, altar

The large sun symbol on the altar contains the Madonna and a crescent moon, just as in Ausros Vartai in Vilnius.

Paluse Church, altar

The altars again, flanked by the Lithuanian flag.

Paluse Church, left side-altar

The left side-altar with another Madonna just like in Ausros Vartai. It seems to be popular. The Vatican flag.

Paluse Church, right side-altar

Right side-altar. Lithuania’s flag.

Wedding in Paluse Church, the couple arrives

And so are wed Ramune, a tender (!) Lithuanian girl, and Anders, a genuine Swedish lad.

Wedding in Paluse Church, photo-shooting-time in general

The newlyweds strategically in front of the gates. The shutters go wild.

Wedding in Paluse Church, bridal train in the isle

In Lithuania the bridal train traditionally stands in the isle as the act begins. Closest to the couple stands Pirslys, the symbolic matchmaker.

Wedding in Paluse Church, the act begins

The act begins, as I shoot completely without flash. Everyone is astonished.

Wedding in Paluse Church, the organ loft

Organ peal coming from the organ loft, although it was a very small organ. Göran Grahn sits at the keyboard.

Wedding in Paluse Church, the blessing

The priest seals the marriage before everything is over and the evening party awaits.

The Beekeeper’s Museum in Stripeikiai

A beekeeper’s museum? How fun can that be? I thought and nearly missed a high-ranking sight, and exhibition of all sorts of beehives taken from all over this beekeeping country. They had everything from the simplest models, square boxes with tin roof, to very artful sculptures that all turned out to be beehives, as well as special exhibitions on the myths and history of beekeeping. And, yes, there are souvenirs and honey to be bought. They have learnt.

Beekeeper’s Museum, welcoming beehive

A round beehive greets you, bearing the text “Senovines bitininkystes muziejus” (The Museum of Beekeeping History). Behind it, the typically Lithuanian, rugged wooden sculptures.

Beekeeper’s Museum, meadow with blue flowers

At the entrance is the playpen of the main characters, the bees.

Beekeeper’s Museum, a museum building with various tools

The museum buildings are simple, traditional huts with various mythological symbols. Beekeeping is deeply religiously bonded in Lithuania. The Holy Trinity is everywhere.

Beekeeper’s Museum, a monster

Lithuanian artists have a certain bent for monsters and far-out, grotesque old men. This beehive-man has the entrance at the mouth.

Beekeeper’s Museum, a great big monster

This must be the world’s largest beehive. It is higher than the house, standing some 4 meters high, looking like a big monster.

Beekeeper’s Museum, sun symbol with bee

All buildings have symbols glorifying the bees’ work as well as the beekeepers’.

Beekeeper’s Museum, sculpture of a girl carrying fire

Th sculpture park was really something. Here a fire-carrying lady with many beautiful details.

Beekeeper’s Museum, well

A well that looks like a miniature farm (the well-pole stands behind), with a house being a beehive.

Beekeeper’s Museum, woman carrying honeycomb

This is a honeycomb-carrying woman, a sculpture on the working beekeeper theme.

Beekeeper’s Museum, teddy wanting honey

There are others wanting honey besides us humans. This is a sculpture of a bear climbing a tree in pursuit of a beehive.

Beekeeper’s Museum, fireplace

There are sculptures (beehives) showing bee-related myths in Lithuania, India, among the American Indians and so on. This is an old fireplace with the eye of the Trinity in a hole.

Beekeeper’s Museum. The bees themselves.

These are the main characters on a windowsill. What are they doing? Communicating? Anyway, no one was stung during our visit. Bees are peaceful.

Kernave, Lithuania’s First Royal Castle

Lithuaia’s first royal castle was in Kernave (kernavEh ), the second is in Trakai and the third (the high castle) and fourth (low castle) are in the middle of Vilnius. The first castle is nowadays looks like grass-coverd hill-forts (kalnapilis). There are more than 1000 hill-forts in Lithuania. Only five of them are in Kerave. Kernave, view of Neris The castle in Kernave was built by Mindaugasit in the 13:th century, but there has been a fortification there since 1000 BC. Mindaugas’ castle and the 2000 years older building are believed to have existed concurrently. There are four hills in all. Mindaugas’ Throne, Aukaras, Lizdeika and the Castle Hill.

Kernave, Mindaugas’ Throne

This is “Mindaugas’ Throne” (Mindaugo sosto), the first hill that you encounter when getting into the area.

Kernave, Mindaugas’ Throne, towards Neris

Many steps later we are at the top of Mindaugas’ Throne, looking out over River Neris.

Kernave, Castle Hill

Mindaugas’ Throne from the Lizdeika Hill.

Kernave, Castle Hill

Looking back from Aukara Hill you see what is left of the castle itself. Castle Hill (Pilies kalno).

Kernave, the well-known island in the middle of Neris

That guy Mindaugas had a splendid view from his bedroom window!

Kernave, girl in the grass

There are no castles left at all. All are now soft, grassy hills.

Kernave, there were lots of steps

The place is fantastic for a pick-nick. The Lithuanians often go here to celebrate midsummer, and climbing ladders.

Kernave, beautiful tree

Fantastic blue sky and a tree on the Lizdeika Hill.

Kernave, beautiful tree close up

Same tree after you he climbed a few hundred steps.

Kernave, vegetation

The other thing the Kernave is famous for is its exuberant vegetation.

Kernve, hill from below

Go here if you like soft, nice shapes and a green paradise.

Kernave, vegetation

More plants.

Kernave Village, the Church of Virgin Mary

Close to the parking lot, inside Kernave village is the Virgin Mary’s skaplierines church.

Kernave Village, the Church of Virgin Mary

The bricks are lit very nicely by the sinking sun.

Kernave Village, the Church of Virgin Mary

More bricks.

Kernave Village, the Church of Virgin Mary, Calvary station from outside

There are Calvary stations in the wall around the church. From the outside they look like traditional, wrought Lithuanian crosses.

Kernave Village, the Church of Virgin Mary, Calvary station

On the inside you see the Calvary event itself, station 13, removal from the cross.

Kernave Village, the Church of Virgin Mary, author’s grave

A grave. An author?
Kernave Panorama 1: Mindaugas’ Throne Three panoramas from Kernave. The first hill that you see, that actually resembles a hill, the Mindaugas’ Throne is to the middle left. It has a hump closest to the viewer. Maybe that is the “throne”. The Aukaras Hill is at the rear middle. The Castle Hill is in the foregound.
Kernave Panorama 2: On top of Mindaugas’ Throne Here I am on the top of the Mindaugas’ Throne’s hump, looking along the hill towards Neris. To the left, part of Lizdeika Hill. In the middle is part of Aukaras Hill and the Castle Hill is to the left. Nature is stunningly beautiful.
Kernave Panorama 3: Aukaras Hill At the edge of Mindaugas Throne one sees the whole of Aukaras Hill (Aukaro kalnas). I have no panorama of the third hill, the Lizdeika Hill.
Interesting Story
Mindaugas mother Birute was a “vaidilute”, pagan fire guardian, some sort of priestess, whereas her son christened the country. Vaidilutes were not allowed to marry. Their lives were dedicated to the gods. The punishment for being with a man was death. Except when a king came and took a vaidilute, it seems. There may have been some competition between the kings / grand dukes and religion, but we know that the priests respected the kings and acted as important advisors / astrologers / strategists. It may have been this competition that finally broke paganism and helped Christianity and the kings, who were “of God” and approved by the Vatican, to take over. The battle at Zalgris (Grünewald) and all the other battles with the crusaders may actually have helped the kings who wanted absolute power, even if Lithuania would be shattered in battles between Christians and pagans many times during the coming 200 years. There shgould be an article about this. Hmmm.
In any case, check the museum. It has lots of ancient finds from the hills.

Trakai, Lithuania’s Second Royal Castle

The medieval castle Trakai, situated in the middle of Lake Galve a few kilometres outside Vilnius, is the pride of Lithuania. It was the hub of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania under Grand Duke Gediminas, who built it at some distance from the capital Kernave where the country’s first castle is situated. The count himself moved to Vilnius as his son Kestutis took over at Trakai... Trakai, night shot from the shore and then Vytautas the Great was born here, who in good time turned Trakai into an economical and political hub. The castle is in the middle of a lake and the only bridge to the shore is via a small island, to the right. That island was inhabited by Vytautas’ guardians, the Karajim, a people whose land (Crimea) was taken care of by Vytautas during his campaigns. They were considered very loyal and got several privileges.
Trakai Castle from the bridge The castle was completely in ruins, and has been fully rebuilt. The restoration works has been fantastic and today Trakai is a first-class tourist attraction. A painting showing this motif hang in most Lithuanian homes.
Trakai Castle from the bridge Now we are a little closer, half way on the bridge between the Karajim Island and the castle, about midway in the above picture. This image is manually spliced from seven individual frames.

Trakai, outer tower

One of the great towers in the outer wall, beside the great gate.

Trakai, inner castle

The inner castle as seen from the outer courtyard, used by the soldiers and horses.

Trakai, museum exhibit - blue glass

the castle has been turned into a series of museums. Here is some antique Lithuanian glassware.

Trakai, inner courtyard

The inner courtyard seen from a door on second floor.

Trakai, inner courtyard, author imprisoned

Here I am imprisoned behind an iron door on the inner courtyard.

Trakai, drawbridge

The drawbridge between the inner and outer castles.

Trakai, inner courtyard

Inner courtyard.

Trakai, drawbridge chain

One of the chains used for winding up the drawbridge between the castles.

Trakai, the monument on Karajim Island

There’s not much left on the Karajim Island. This pole is a memorial over Vytautas the Great.

Trakai from Lake Galve, front

Rent a rowboat and row on Lake Galve, or go on a sailboat and loose your hat in the water.

Trakai from Lake Galve, side

There’s a lot if reed now, but in Vytautas’ days the water was 2 meters higher.

Trakai from Lake Galve, rear

This is the rear of the castle. The trench dividing the outer and inner castles is clearly visible.

Trakai from Lake Galve, rear

Galve is large and we are moving away from the castle, towards the restaurant on the other side.

Tiskevicius’ palace at Lake Galve

Row over to Count Tiskevicius old palace at the opposite shore.

Lake Galve at night

Lake Galve at night

Trakai with flodlighting

When darkness falls the floodlighting goes on...

Trakai, night shot from the bridge

and the lights on the bridges. It looks grand.

Trakai, night shot from the shore

From the shore it looks very impressive. I used a low pole right by the shore as a camera stand.
When you get to Trakai city, bear in mind that it is still inhabited by Karajim descendants, some 500 years later. They still retain their more or less Muslim religion, their ancient language, traditions and costumes and enjoy a great deal of respect from the Lithuanians. They also have a mosque in Vilnius. The difference between Lithuanian and Karajim houses is that the Karajim always have three windows towards the street, whereas the Lithuanians always have the door facing the street.
The Karajim make a sort of pastry with mashed meat, called
kibinai , yummy stuff, available at all the restaurants. Well, you can buy kibinai almost everywhere, but in Trakai it’s made by the Karajim, of course.
The castle isn’t just standing as some passive relic. It’s used for lots of music and theatre festivals. In the summertime the outer courtyard is filled with benches, a large stage and lots of spotlights. There are few better places or music shows.

Other Cities in Alphabetical Order

Ignalina and Ignalina Church

Let us start off by saying that the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) is not in Ignalina town, but in Visaginas. Got it? Ignalina is a smallish, well, I was about to say, sleepy little town, completely dominated by the enormously high, super-modern church. Now we are out in the country. Food is very cheap! We found a restaurant where we got more and better food than in Vilnius for a tenth of the price. Go to Ignalina and eat!!

Ignalina’s new church, front

It stands tall like a rocket. But is it beautiful?

Ignalina’s new church, the cross from below

The cross is what makes the church so special. It is made from stainless steel.

Ignalina’s old church

The old church nearby looks like it is ashamed, and is crouching in the closeness of the new church.

Ignalina’s new church, window

An interestingly designed window with a built-in cross.

Ignalina’s new church, the cross from (extra) below

If you get right up to it, it’s some kind of Science Fiction

Food in Ignalina

The food was great, and amazingly cheap. After double main courses and lots of extra beer, we had to give up. It is still possible to get some great and cheap food in Europe!

Istra Airport

We happened to get stuck in a bus jam right outside Panevezys by the Lithuanian border with Latvia and I happened to see some Soviet relics on the lawn. Istra Airport is an airport, an aircraft museum and a motel.

Istra Airport

A panorama of most of the exhibits, with a proud old landing radar in the middle. And some fighter aircraft and helicopters.

Istra Airport

From the left, an Aero L-29 Delfin, a MIG-23, a MIG-21MF, a Mil Mi-8T helicopter and, finally, the radar to the right.

Karmelava and Karmelava Airport

Or: Risking your life to buy a packet of milk!
Karmelava probably was a nice little village once upon a time, until some commie planner put a ruler on the map and drew a 24 kilometre motorway straight through it, stretching from central Kaunas to Jonava. As one of the villagers had it: “When the trucks roar through in the nights you stand up in bed.” Nevertheless it is a fantastic feeling for a city dweller like myself to be awakened by the cock, if you are lucky enough to live at some distance from the motorway. You could experience that in the Vilnius suburbs some time ago too, but not anymore.
During the occupation Karmelava was a closed military village due to the airport, fenced off with barbed wire, inhabited by officers and old people who had lived there since before the Soviet Union. Kaunas people couldn’t go there and the city didn’t develop. Lately, it started growing again.

Karmelava: Karmelava Airport

Karmelava Airport (KUN; Kaunas) seems to be terribly secret. I hadn’t taken more than three pictures on the apron before a guard came running: “No fotoss No fotoss.” Here: The control tower.

Karmelava: aerial picture of the motorway

Just as if Karmelava couldn’t be seen by everyone in two-metre resolution in Google Maps, or bought in half-metre resolution from the Eros satellite for a dollar?

Karmelava: divided city

The city is now divided by a tarmac river, way more difficult to cross than a flow of water of equal width.

Karmelava: the flower shop is so near, yet so far away

The villagers risk their lives to get a packet of milk, especially when four trucks roar by in a row, and it’s raining pebbles.

Karmelava: kebab at some distance

The kebab place, the place to be. But how do you get there?

Karmelava: the farmers have very tolerant horses

Horses are much more common in Lithuanian farming than in Sweden. Unique traction vehicle dept: I have seen a Volkswagen pull a hay-cart.


Not to be confused with Kryzui Kalnas, The Hill of Crosses at Siaulai. Instead this little village is situated more or less in the middle of the country. It is usually a stopover point for all the long distance busses to the coast. Here you can (for some time yet) study some real old Soviet finesse in a harmless way. The toilet department, which seems to take up most of the lower floor has a wonderful prison camp look to it, complete with rust, flaky paint, naked light bulbs in tangled wires from the ceiling, and toilets that are holes in the floor.

Kryzkalnis: front

The long haul buses have their common stopovers along Lithuania’s motorways Get out, buy a cebureka and a drink, pee fast (if possible) and then back on the road again.

Kryzkalnis: an air of prison camp

Kryzkalnis: an air of prison campIf they choose to show this to the tourists, so be it. But for the large tourist streams to flow here, the standard must increase. Hole in the floor? And it wasn’t even for free.
Kryzkalnis: food counter The food counter in the restaurant is interesting In this picture from 2006 it looks strangely like counter I shot at Tallinn airport in 1992. No much change in 14 years. Tallin 1992: another food counter <<Tallinn in 1992
This is one of Lithuania’s greatest problem as a tourist country - the rustic hygiene. But perhaps this was a fiasco. It varies immensely. In places like Berneliu Uzeiga it’s absolutely spotless.


Moletai is a small town between Vilnius and Utena that we just happened to swoosh through. But I just couldn’t stay away from the church.

Moletai Church

The sun shone nicely on the church front, plastered in soft yellow and white tones. A very well restored church, with a churchyard that grabbed my imagination in the setting sun.

Moletai Church

A turn around the church yielded this side picture.

Visaginas and Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant

For the 3500, formerly 5000, workers at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP), the Soviets built Visaginas town in 1975. It is not very inspiring, but rather looks like a pioneer village, an outpost, built just because it was needed. It looks like a typical Swedish concrete suburb from the sixties. A giant radiation meter with a metal stork in flight dominates the city centre. The rest of the city looks like it’s in bad need of restoration. The power plant is not at all in Ignalina town. It’s quite far away, here at Visaginas. The nearby lake, Druksiu, used as cooling water supply for the plant, looks inviting for bathing, fishing, water-skiing et cetera.

Visaginas, the radiation meter on the city square

The meter showed 8 microRoentgens/hr when we came, and after some time it showed 9 and then 10. But it was probably nothing to do with us...

Visaginas, Main street with worn down high-risers

The Main street had seen better days. These high-risers happened to be the first ones erected, and the plaster was now falling off, some six floors up.

Visaginas, Main street continues

The main path, with its original, cracked Soviet concrete slabs still remaining, with the original grass still in between, continued towards the newer parts of town.

Visaginas, strange piece of art

The Main street had a strange piece of art, that our guide figured would portray “Peaceful use of the atom”, but at the same time he thought that the interpretation depended on the amount of beer inhaled.

Visaginas, first stone

This large stone was put down before the town was built. The text reads: “A town will be built here for the nuclear power plant workers. August 1975”. The stone's shape is said to resemble Lithuania.



I just got to show you some pictures from inside the power plant.

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, block 2

The picture shows reactor block 2. The three giant stacks are for venting away any hydrogen gas created in the reactor, if you are out of luck. Oxy-hydrogen gas in the reactor hall is not very fun. At the very end is the skeleton of block 3 that was never finished.

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, entrance

Our microscopic guided tour starts off outside the main entrance. It looks like an impregnable fortress. This is the afternoon shift going in. It actually is an impregnable fortress. You will notice after having passed the security check!

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, control room of block 1

An unusually impressive control panel in the control room. It offers a good overview, but still, everything is displayed on the computers.

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, computer room of block 1

There is not much left in the computer room, or what was left of it after the old Soviet steam-driven computers were scrapped and modern HP Alpha servers were brought in. The technician sits at a control terminal were he could see everything happening in the plant, in a hierarchical troubleshooting system that turned out to be very powerful. Note the parquet flooring.

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, distribution plant

The distribution plant right outside is the most impressive I have seen. This is where most Lithuanian power is routed from.

Power Plant Factinos

The INPP produces 1.3 gigawatts of power, presently 87% of all the energy needed in Lithuania. It has two reactor blocks, of which only block 2 is running. Block 1 was closed for good in the beginning of 2005, whereas block 2, that was being restored in 2004 has been started and will run until 2009.
The EU has demanded that the plant be shut down, with reference to it being of the same type as Chernobyl. This is not entirely true, as the INPP is a later model, and has been extensively modified by Western nuclear power authorities. The features contributing to the Chernobyl accident have largely been eliminated.
As all of Lithuania’s and most of the Baltic power grid concentrates here in Visgainas a decision has been made to build a modern nuclear power plant right here. There has already been preliminary studies to this end.

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