Historically the victim of political pass-the-parcel between the Soviet Union and Germany, this indomitable and quirky nation struck off on its own 14 years ago and hasn't looked back.

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Pretty parks and unchanged countryside

Unlike the rest of its Baltic brethren, Lithuania is strongly influenced by neighbouring Poland, which perhaps accounts for the gregarious nature of its people. It is a country of contrasts, with its lively cities, pristine national parks and rural life that is relatively untouched by the 21st century. 

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Religious icons

In the capital, Vilnius, take time to savour the Baroque majesty of St Peter and St Paul's Church, where you’ll discover more than 2,000 sublime stucco figurines. Admire the only existing portal in Vilnius, the 600-year-old Gates of Dawn, inside which you will discover a painting of the Virgin Mary. A short walk from here, marvel at the pure white Gothic exquisiteness of the interior of the Church of St Teresa. The Cathedral dates back to the 14th century but has been razed and rebuilt several times, and was most recently restored in the classical style of the late 18th century. Perhaps the city's finest Gothic building is St Anne's Church's, a construction of sinuous brickwork and fluting, with talon-like spires that grasp at the sky.

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Vilnius and war

Walk the pretty, winding streets of the Old Town and you will come across Vilna Ghetto, the old Jewish quarter. This is a sobering place to contemplate the stark and shocking statistic that 95% of Lithuanian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Here you will find monuments to the victims, a Jewish cemetery and tombs of the last Vilna rabbis alongside the one remaining synagogue still in use in Vilnius.

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Parks and recreation

Vilnius is surrounded by green spaces and there are many parks and gardens in the city or within easy walking distance. Verkiai Regional Park, on the bank of the River Neris, is a gorgeous garden that surrounds a complex of classical stately homes. Take your pick from a number of inviting countryside walks or take a bicycle ride and visit the idyllic Green Lakes. Bernardiny Sodas, just east of the Old Town, is a wonderful place to walk and relax by the pretty Vilnia River.

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