Please give generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/Dan-Thompson11/
Date : 11th September, 2017
Time : 1h 0’16”
Total distance run to date : 1210 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1978578600
Did you know that Lithuania used to be the largest country in Europe? I didn’t – until I ran there. Which, to use a cliché, just goes to show how travel broadens the mind.
During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (aka the Lithuanian Empire) stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and covered modern day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and parts of Poland and Russia.
In the 16th century, the Duchy formed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with – and you may be ahead of me here – Poland. (Excitingly, the Poles were to the west of Lithuania – which meant that they could pass the Duchy on the left hand side*.)
The Commonwealth lasted for a couple of centuries before disintegrating under outside pressure with most of Lithuania ending up as part of the Russian Empire. Lithuanian regained independence from Russia in 1918 after WWII and the Russian revolution. Only to lose it again when the Soviet Union invaded in 1940 under the terms of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Germany and the Soviet Union.
In 1941 the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa to invade the Soviet Union and occupied Lithuania along the way. The Soviets retook Lithuania in 1944 and it remained part of the USSR until independence in 1991.
I appreciate that not everyone shares my fascination with 20th century history (and obscure musical references…). However, I thought this was worth a couple of paragraphs because it could all become horribly relevant – not just to Lithuanian and the Baltics – but to all of us.
Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014, NATO troops were stationed in Lithuania and a number of other Baltic / eastern European countries (but not the Ukraine as it’s not a NATO member). The idea being to dissuade Russia from any thoughts of reintegrating Lithuania and the Baltic states into Russia. The danger, I guess, is that the whole thing acts – not as a deterrent – but as a trip wire for WWIII.
And, at the risk of trivialising a serious and potentially very scary subject, if anything does kick-off then I suspect the British Embassy may be a touch too preoccupied to provide the same warm welcome to the next Brit visiting Vilnius as part of an attempt to run 10km in every country in the world.
There were about ten of us at the start and the route Sandra had devised took us along the banks of the Neris river towards the centre of Vilnius.
It’s a very fine place to run enlivened by a number of sculptures and works of art. Including the (in)famous Embankment Arch (below).
When it was first pointed out to me, I assumed it was a rusty old sewer pipe. Turns out its 29 000 euros worth of highly controversial art. (You can insert your own joke about it being a load of sewer pipe content.)
But please don’t take this as representative of Vilnius. Based on everything I saw, its an extremely attractive place which would make an excellent city break.
I wasn’t there long enough to compile a personal list of favourite sights and sounds but this article in the Telegraph’s travel section gives a good feel for it all.
Anyway, back to the run. I was fortunate to spend a lot of it in the company of Ambassador Andrew Pearce and Defence Attaché Major Jane Witt. Conversations with diplomatic staff are always private but I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences if I say that I was struck, for the nth time on these runs, how lucky we Brits are in our diplomatic representatives.
Having run c 5km along the Neris we did the obvious thing and turned round and ran back to the Embassy for refreshments, photos and a video interview with Sandra. It was all much more fun than most of these runs and I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did.
All that now remains is to say many ‘aciu’ (Lithuanian for ‘thank you’ – pronounced in such a way as to sound like a sneeze) to the Ambassador, Jane, Ethel, Ina, Martyn, Erika, Deimante, Elisabeth for the hospitality and for accompanying me on the run.
And, of course, huge thanks to Sandra (below) who organised everything!
*Musical Youth had a massive hit in the 1980s with a song called “Pass the Dutchie ”. The chorus focused on passing the ‘dutchie’ – a Jamaican cooking pot – on the left hand side.
Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Lithuania is a country in the Baltic region of northern–eastern Europe. One of the three Baltic states, it is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russianexclave
) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2017, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Lithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, along with Latvian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.
, the King of Lithuania, and the first unified Lithuanian state, the Kingdom of Lithuania, was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772–95, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania’s territory.
As World War I neared its end, Lithuania’s Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. In the midst of the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania.
Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, a full member of the Eurozone, Schengen Agreement and NATO. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, and part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries. The United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a “very high human development” country. Lithuania has been among the fastest growing economies in the European Union and is ranked 21st in the world in the Ease of Doing Business Index.
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and its largest city, with a population of 542,664 as of 2015. Vilnius is located in the southeast part of Lithuania and is the second largest city in the Baltic states. Vilnius is the seat of the main government institutions of Lithuania as well as of the Vilnius District Municipality. Vilnius is known for the architecture in its Old Town, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Prior to World War II, Vilnius was one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe. Its Jewish influence has led to it being described as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” and Napoleon named it “the Jerusalem of the North” as he was passing through in 1812. In 2009, Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture, together with the Austrian city of Linz.
BBC timeline of events in Lithuania since 1915 : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17540745
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Lithuania – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
GDP $42.7 bn 2016 $11.5 bn 2000
Population 2.87 m 2016 3.50 m 2000
Primary school enrolment* 103% 2015 107% 2000
% below poverty line** 22.2% 2014 20.5% 2004
Life expectancy at birth 75.1 yrs 2015 72.0 yrs 2000
GNI per capita $14770 2016 $6040 2004
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
**The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Lithuania performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:
Global Cup – 62nd
Per Capita Cup – 25th
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.”