It is rare in Europe today, to feel the refreshing ‘old world’ charm of two stunningly beautiful countries, Latvia and Lithuania with their strong central European values, traditions and cultures. Learn more of the countries’ recent development and begin to understand how, despite the ravages of the World Wars and years of Soviet oppression, their proud people are once again, building a distinct cultural heritage that was almost destroyed in the hundred or so years prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Lithuania and Latvia are exciting examples of small countries each with a long history, ancient cultures and a very short period of independence dating from 1918, abruptly stopped in 1939 and then only restarted extremely recently in 1991. Both countries are very close but at the same time very different historically.
During the 12th – 14th century, Lithuania was a Grand Duchy and one of the most powerful states in Eastern Europe, if not the most powerful one. The Grand Duchy then united with Poland in 1385, and then again, finally in 1569. From then on, the country began to slowly lose its national character. Because of this, Lithuania combines fascinating elements in its culture - which became a Catholic culture - inherited from Poland. The party will visit some of its stunning Baroque churches, palaces and theatres of 17th and 18th century( some built by the great Rococo architect Glauibitz - undeservedly unknown in Western Europe) and the influence of Russian culture after the late 18th century This mixture remains very homogenous and has produced a national culture with such glorious figures as the symbolist composer and painter Curlionis as well as the phenomenon of Lithuanian Theatre which became one of the most important in late Soviet times.
Latvia is another story/different. Latvia was dominated for a long time by German “crusaders”, by the German Order that brought Christianity to Latvia and because of high percentage of the German population Riga remained predominantly a German city until World War II. Running parallel to the Germanic influences there was the Dukedom of Curland that became part of the Russian Empire since Peter the Great’s time and this drew Latvia into the Russian orbit and brought magnificent results such as the baroque palaces by famous architect Rastrelli. During the early 20th century Riga was a highly developed city with the strongest of musical traditions (Richard Wagner was one of the chief Conductor its opera house) . At the same time, Riga produced unrivalled Art Nouveau architecture still to be admired today in the beautifully preserved and completely superb part of the old city.
Despite Soviet Occupation these countries managed to hold on to their local traditions, although the Soviet heritage brought about major problems – such as the high number of newly- settled Russians amounting to half the population in some Latvian cities, including Riga. These countries are extremely proud of being different and are culturally alive with their own traditions today which gives them the chance to survive in the new global world of the 21st century.
Maximum Party Size: 20