For the first time ever, Lithuania is hosting an official FIFA tournament.
Lithuania has around 2.8 million inhabitants. Its largest city and capital is Vilnius, while its other major cities are Kaunas, Klaipeda and Siauliai. The country’s official language is Lithuanian. Covering an area of 65,300 km², Lithuania is the 124th-largest country in the world. It is possible to drive across it in a car in just over three hours, both from north to south and from east to west.
Lithuania’s thousand-year history is full of drama, including 700 years of either war or occupation. A powerful longing for freedom brought independence to Lithuania twice, first in 1918 and again in 1990 during the Singing Revolution. Since 2015, the country has been an active member of the EU with the euro as its official currency.
Lithuanians are proud to hail from a nation with such a rich historical past and are keen to underscore their national heritage by giving their all on stages and in stadiums, gaining renown as artists and authors, speaking from the heart in front of thousands of people and making their presence felt with their tricolour flag.
Climate and geography
This Northern European country with many green plains is located on the Baltic Sea. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east, Poland to the south and Scandinavia to the west across the water.
On a flight over Lithuania, it soon becomes clear that it is littered with shimmering blue lakes connected by winding rivers whose waters flow into the Baltic. The country is also known for the quality of its water thanks to countless underground springs that generously supply it with mineral water.
With its white sandy beaches, fragrant pine forests and picturesque towns and villages, the coastal region attracts many local and international visitors each summer. In 2000 the Curionian Spit, which holds national park status and is protected by the government, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 98-kilometre-long sand dune formation is the only one of its kind in Europe. The northern part of the spit belongs to Lithuania, while the southern section lies within Russia.
Lithuania experiences very cold winters, where temperatures can sink as low as -25°C, and scorching hot summers where the mercury can rise to 30°C and beyond. Autumn offers enchanting landscapes with rich colours, while spring holds a magic of its own with lengthening days and pleasantly scented flowers.
Fine food is important to the Lithuanians, which means good restaurants can not only be found in major cities but also by the sea, on motorways, in beautiful rural locations and even in secluded forests. Eating here is always an adventure, with plates filled with outstanding seasonal produce from Lithuanian farms that captures the essence of spring, summer, autumn and winter.
No visit to Lithuania would be complete without trying its traditional black rye bread. Anyone returning home from a trip to this fascinating country should also be sure to bring back something no Lithuanian celebration would be complete without – sakotis cake. This sweet treat is baked in an unusual way, with a dense dough consisting of eggs, butter, cream and flour slowly drizzled into a long, hollow shape that is then laid over an open fire. The result is a mouthwatering delicacy that resembles a pine tree.
While Lithuania have yet to qualify for a major tournament since regaining independence in 1990, the national futsal team now have the chance to take part in their first FIFA Futsal World Cup as the host nation. The men’s national football team is currently 130th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, well short of the record high of between 43rd and 50th they reached in the mid-1990s. Nevertheless, Lithuania’s footballers have attracted some attention of their own in a place where basketball is the most popular sport. In March 2003, they secured a 1-1 draw away to then-World Cup runners-up Germany, before recording the same result on their travels against world champions Italy in a UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier in September 2006. Lithuania missed out on the play-offs for the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™ by a single point. Now the country’s futsal stars are keen to make some headlines of their own.