The Tartan Army are no strangers to Lithuania having been drawn against the Baltic nation in five qualification campaigns since 1998. Results have generally been favourable with five wins, three draws, and one defeat. However, Lithuania have produced some solid performances under Edgaras Jankauskas, notably the 1-1 draw at Hampden back in October, thus we can expect a tough game in the return fixture. Scotland are currently sitting on 8 points after six games, and just 3 points ahead of Lithuania. Whilst second place is certainly within reach, we’re relying on Slovakia and Slovenia to drop points.
After several visits to Kaunas (which is nowhere near as bad as most Scotland fans describe) it’s time for a game at the LFF stadium in Vilnius (Capacity 5,067). With all 1714 away tickets snapped up by the Tartan Army, it’s bound to be a vociferous and passionate travelling support (at least until Lithuania score).
Vilnius and Lithuania
During the prosperous era of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the borders extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea, although much of this territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and subsequent membership of the EU, Lithuania’s capital is a cosmopolitan and vibrant city thanks to a diverse history. Whilst the old town is quite large, it’s still easily walkable – the narrow winding cobbled streets may remind you of Prague, and are easy to get lost among. There are no shortage of bars, restaurants and clubs, most of which are between the Cathedral and the train station. For a glimpse into the past, consider a trip to the Museum of Genocide (€4).
The cuisine is somewhat similar to that of Poland of Russia. One of the most famous dishes is Cepelinai, a potato dumpling stuffed with meat or curd topped with sour cream and bacon. On that note, expect a wide variety of potato or dairy based dishes. Pork is quite common too, and you may want to try pigs ear served with beans. Alternatively, you maybe don’t! Although not well known for beer, it’s quite reasonable and somewhat deviates from the typical beers found elsewhere in Europe, the most notable brand being Švyturys. Expect to pay around €3 for a half litre. Cider is gaining popularity, and there is no shortage of vodka and herbal spirits.
Arrival and getting around
There are direct flights from Scotland with Ryanair between Glasgow and Palanga, Glasgow and Riga, and Edinburgh and Kaunas. Onward connections from these cities (and airports) by bus are generally cheap and reliable, although the journeys are quite long given the distance. Ecolines and LuxExpress are the main carriers. The train network is not well developed in the Baltic states, however there are some routes (from Kaunas, for example). If flying into Vilnius airport there are public buses to the centre (approx. €1 each way). Watch out for the usual rip off taxi drivers – the airport website says the journey to the old town is around €10 each way.
As previously mentioned, Vilnius old town is quite compact, so no need for public transport or taxis. The LFF stadium is situated around 2 km south of the old town.
If you’re basing yourself in Vilnius for a few days don’t miss out on a trip to the town of Trakai on the shores of Lake Galvė, around 25 km west of Vilnius. The main attraction here is the magnificent stone castle situated on a small island opposite the town. Dating from the 14th century, it was a strategically important site in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and has recently been reconstructed. Plenty of restaurants serve up local specialties, notably Kibinai, which are pastries filled with mutton and onion. These are best washed down with a beer or two, obviously! There are regular buses departing Vilnius, costing €1.70 each way. If staying till the evening (or overnight), take some mosquito repellent.