|Tbilisi-Vilnius-Tbilisi: A new European gateway and country of amber, legends, and pretty smiles|
|May 09, 2008|
May 9, 2008
Now the Soviets are gone, Lithuania is Europe, Georgia – aspiring to it, and travel stories continue. On May 5, a new direct flight from Tbilisi to Vilnius was launched by Lithuanian Airlines (flyLAL). Twice a week the company will offer the cheapest way to the Baltics, and transit to 19 destinations all across Europe. “Direct flights between Tbilisi and Vilnius are symbolic,” Arturas Zeltotrubovas, Sales Department Director at flyLAL, points out, “Relations between our countries, which were good before, are getting much better now.”
Dwelling on symbols, one can find many things in common between Lithuania and Georgia – and Vilnius and Tbilisi: two cities with two beautiful legends of their founding. Founded by King Gediminas in 1323 Vilnius is named after a river running across it. The legend brings King Gediminas hunting in the woods in the area of current Vilnius. The King falls asleep and dreams of iron wolf howling on a hill. Waking up Gediminas demands an explanation from his pagan priest who preaches that tower has to be built on the place of iron wolf and the city around it. And so he happened.
Now, 685 years afterwards the national carrier of the Republic of Lithuania, flyLAL, founded in 1991, decided to become the Georgian friendly airlines and share their stories and histories with Georgians. Historical similarities display Lithuania and Georgia as little countries enduring attacks and pressure of conquerors, but always fighting for their freedom with courage and faith. The main avenue of Vilnius, Gediminas Avenue, has changed many different names over centuries. It was called after Mitskevich, Stalin, Lenin, Georgievski, and even Hitler. Similarly, Lithuania has had different masters, starting from Poland until the Soviet Union, World War II raises memories of atrocities and 95 percent of Jews killed. Nevertheless, since 1990 Lithuania is independent and since 2004 part of the European Union. A European city in full swing Lithuania keeps precious traditions, legends, buildings, cities, and reflections of past.
The Old City of Vilnius is protected under UNESCO since 2000. But it is not the only UNESCO-listed and unique place in Lithuania. Going far far west on the western border of the country, there is a miracle of sand, 98 kilometers long and 0.5-4 km broad line of land, line of sand, which is also connected to a legend. There was a beautiful girl Neringa living on the coast of Lithuania. She was courted by a dragon, which she refused to marry. And then he began terrorizing local fishermen. In order to save them, Neringa placed a ribbon of sand between the bay and the sea to keep the dragon away, and the Neringa peninsula (curonian spit) emerged. Currently the whole strip of Kurskaya Kosa (curonian spit) is a national park, strengthened by Gdansk pine trees, and highly protected. The area is the major tourist attraction in summer in Lithuania. Being a residence of no more than 500 people, the Neringa city hosts more than half a million visitors.
With direct flights to and from Vilnius, Georgians are welcomed to be one of those half a million. Quality of planes and pilots is high, service on board – pleasant, and prices – cheap. One-way ticket is around 360 GEL, while double-way ticket price rises up to 600 GEL. Thus, a new gateway is now open for Georgians whether for transit purposes to London, Dublin, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Thessaloniki, Moscow, etc.; or for a stay in Lithuania itself – the country of amber, and the place which gave birth to people ‘who dream things and say why not’; where lakes and islands emerge through perseverance and patience; where castles like Trakai are raised in the 15th century, and where you can enjoy great beer and lots of pretty smiles.
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