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small relict Jewish community is working to combine three separate museums dedicated to Lithuanian Jewry and the holocaust into a new Tolerance Centre. BACK TO THE USSR The Soviet era can be revisited through a unique attraction set up as part of Culture 2009 in a vast Red Army bunker complex that was built just outside Vilnius during the cold war ­ in preparation for a hot nuclear war. Participants in pre-arranged "1984 in the Bunker dramatisations" get to experience first-hand how it was to live under an authoritarian regime. Visitors are met by guards with dogs, relieved of their possessions, given period clothes, and turned into Soviet citizens. The ordeal includes a KGB interrogation, gas mask drill, learning the anthem of the USSR, a frustrating trip to a Soviet-style shop, as well as time at home with typical Soviet food and TV shows. The only relief is provided by a slug of vodka. According to the organisers, the idea is to illustrate how far Lithuania has come since independence. A more conventional museum housed in former KGB offices in the centre of Vilnius has exhibits illustrating the most brutal aspects of the Soviet occupation, and the fate of the Lithuanian resistance movement. Down in the basement, cramped cells, an interrogation room and an execution room have all been left untouched as a frightening reminder of the evils of totalitarianism. LITHUANIAN NECTAR After these oppressive experiences it's a relief to get out into more peaceful settings out of town. Surrounded by lovely lakes just half an hour west of Vilnius lies historic Trakai. Though not much more than a village today, Trakai still boasts fascinating old churches, a grand manor house, a monastery, and two castles ­ one in ruins, and one lovingly restored in an improbably picturesque island setting. Trakai's homely restaurants serve juicy stew-filled pies made to the traditional recipes of the local Karaim ethnic minority. Sokoladas, a cosy café and shop specialising in homemade chocolate delicacies, serves the thickest and most chocolatey drinking chocolate imaginable. A sign on the café door attributes the quote "Life is a box of chocolates" to an oddly Lithuanian-sounding film character ­ Forrestas Gumpas. Trakai is also a good place to pick up a bottle of Krupnikas ­ a luscious local liqueur made with herbs and honey. Another popular destination just outside Vilnius is an international sculpture park located near a monument said to mark the geographical centre of the European continent. Next year Vilnius will also be at the cultural centre of Europe, giving this beautiful Baltic city a chance to win many more admirers. Finnair flies nonstop to Vilnius twice daily and once on Sundays. Lithuania in a nutshell Capital: Vilnius Population: 3.4 million people Language: Lithuanian; main minorities Polish (7%) and Russian (6%) Currency: Litas (1 = 3.5Lt) Religion: Predominantly Catholic with a Russian Orthodox minority. Economy: Lithuania's economy has grown rapidly since the break-up of the USSR in 1990, and particularly since 2004 when Lithuania joined the EU, but national income and prices are still very low by European standards. Major industries include textiles, oil processing, timber and agricultural products. Airport Info for Vilnius: Vilnius International Airport (www. vilnius-airport.lt) is located 7 km south of the city centre. Taxi fare 30-40Lt. A brand-new fast train service links the airport to the city centre. City buses 1 and 2 connect the airport with the city centre (tickets 1.10Lt from kiosks or 1.40Lt from the driver). Latvia Lithuania Vilnius Russia Poland Belarus

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