On the borders of Northern and Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries remain moderately known to French-speaking tourists. But they have a lot to offer! With attractive cities, such as the three capitals Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, with their beautiful forest and lake landscapes, dotted with medieval castles and rich Baltic Sea coastline, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are charming destinations. These former Soviet republics are now countries of the European Union at the forefront of liberalism and modernity in many fields: telecommunications, design, information technology... Did you know that Skype is an Estonian company, that Tallinn is the first city in the world to have introduced free transport for its inhabitants and that wifi is available free of charge in all public places? In contrast, the Kaliningrad region, a Russian enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania, is a true witness to the Soviet era. Time seems to have stopped there somewhat in the early 1990s. It is also the last Russian "colony" in Europe... The three independent Baltic countries, with their turbulent history of Russian, German, Swedish, Danish and Polish influences, are, on the contrary, a testament to the stubborn determination of small peoples to forge their independence despite the successive empires of their powerful neighbours. Today, members of NATO and the EU, turned towards Western modernity, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania hold their national independence high. Languages, culture, traditions, heritage: these countries exalt all their national specificities, for the happiness of the visitor who will find just the right amount of exoticism. On the other side of Europe, a change of scenery is guaranteed: the Baltic cultures are full of treasures and secrets. You will find beautiful beaches, wild islands, Gothic churches, picturesque villages with painted wooden houses and deep forests. You will also find resplendent cities, dotted with colourful monuments, with an unsuspected heritage, young and inventive establishments, and lively nightlife. This is undoubtedly the place where the most changes have taken place in Europe over the last twenty years . From the depths of the Cold War to the high-tech boom, welcome to the Baltic States, land of contrasts!

The editorial team

THANKS: Many thanks to Julia, Alexandra and Anna, to the whole team at the Kaunas Tourist Office, to Fabrizio and Ieva, to all those who, in one way or another, contributed to the development of this guide.

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