Lithuania is a parliamentary republic in Northeastern Europe. Its people are mostly devoted to the Roman Catholic Church. At one time, Lithuania was a center of Jewish culture and scholarship, but the Holocaust really decimated the Jewish population here. The terrain of Lithuania is pretty flat, and there are forests, rivers, and lakes aplenty. Weather tends to be mild. Native bird species on the endangered list are the black-throated duck; the golden, the short-toed, and the greater spotted eagle; the Peregrine falcon; the willow grouse; and the Eurasian eagle owl. There are also a number of native sea animals. See Trakai Island Castle, a great Gothic-style castle rising up out of Lake Galvė in the town of Trakai. It was once a strategic center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Curonian Spit National Park, in an isolated locale in the West, contains elk, deer, birds, and sand dunes. It was considered important enough to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site over ten years ago. Important grain crops in Lithuania are rye, wheat, oats, and barley. Potatoes, beets, mushrooms, cabbage, and greens are typical vegetables. Lithuania has absorbed many outside influences, and koldūnai are dumplings similar to Polish pierogi. Potato and other kugels come from Ashkenazic cuisine. Barščiai is hot beet soup served either plain or blended with sour cream or buttermilk, sometimes also with chopped mushrooms, and kepta duona is fried black bread rubbed with garlic, often served with beer. Organic options in Lithuania include an impressive number of Indian and raw restaurants, and a small number of markets. There are some promising renditions of healthy French cuisine, and a few juice bars. Speaking of fruit, the addition of agrastai (gooseberries) and serbentai (currants) make desserts extra-delicious. And doesn't baroque tree cake (called Šakotis) sound intriguing?

Vilnius County