The average monthly salary in US$ at the beginning of 2003 was only 278 in Lithuania, while in Poland 500 (Estonia 351, Czech 347, Latvia 272). Source: Ministries of Labor, 2003
Keep in mind that average prices were lower than in any western European country but not as many times lower as salaries and NOT all prices were lower.
Petrol/gas was almost as expensive as in, say, Germany. And it was well seen on Lithuanian highways:
1. most petrol/gas station offered over twice less expensive LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas which was essentially propane) - look for the sign, on my picture,
2. many drivers conversed their cars to LPG to save on gas/petrol,
3. there was mostly light or medium traffic on Lithuanian highways (they didn't drive much and/or have fewer cars),
4. there were mostly old and very old cars in use,
5. instead cars, many Lithuanian used relatively cheap public transportation (local buses and/or trains).
Up-to-date prices of gas/fuel in European countries: Prices of gas/fuel/petrol in European countries
Excuse, this page is in Polish language. Lithuania is "Litwa", "bezolowiowa" means unleaded, "waluta" means currency. All prices per liter. Enjoy :-)
I found my favourite Polish computer magazine CHIP in Lietuvos Spauda kiosk in Druskininkai. What a surprice!
Haha, it costed less there (6.90 Lt = 9,66 zl) than in Poland (15.50 zl). And for the first time in my life I saw Russian edition of that magazine which costed 13.00 Lt, almost twice more than Polish edition. Isn't Lithuania a strange country?
Well, CHIP magazine is the most popular computer magazine in Poland and is published by Vogel Media Group in many countries like for example: Germany, Poland, Czech, Hungary, India.
Excuse, it's not at all Druskininkai local custom but rather former Soviet Union custom.
Walking around Druskininkai I had to see these huge, cement, grey structures on my picture. They were built during Soviet occupation era, I am sure. There are many huge, poor quality and ugly structures left by former Soviet Union not only in Lithuania but around over half of our globe when communist ideology ruled: from eastern Germany to China and Asian coasts of the Pacific Ocean.
Well, the previous Soviet Union loved to put up BIG, HUGE, the world's largest structures, factories, apartment buildings etc. never mind the costs or any economic calculations. BIG meant good, admirable that time. And only huge things were worth of the best and the most powerful state on our globe that was the Soviet Union.
Additionally communist Soviet Union always had to remind its citizens how huge and powerful it was, just in case they didn't believe in it looking at poverty around... Well, it started to change now, for sure in Lithuania :-).
I found this car towing a trailer, on my picture, at western bank of Druskonis Lake. Local guy prepared and sold candyfloss (cotton candy, fairy floss) and popcorn from the trailer. There were more similar fast food trailers in Lithuania. Not my favourite food and I am not sure whether those businesses survive... maybe...
Lithuania (together with 9 other countries, incl. Poland) joined European Union on May 1, 2004. As I know, law of European Union doesn't allow to prepare and sell any food at points with no running water available. Hmm... that's why many "mobile fast food stands" missed in my country, Poland recently. Does it work different way in Lithuania? We will see... soon.
The beginning of each urban area was signed by a table with the name of city/town/village, like on my picture. At its end there was the same table with the name crossed out.
There was a new (since 2004) speed limit of 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas of Lithuania (before it was 60 km/h = 37mph) unless otherwise stated, just like 60 km/h in Druskininkai on my picture.
Since Lithuania joined European Union on 1 May 2004 there were no customs for cars imported from any EU member.
I could see few (more soon, I am sure) older cars imported from say Germany, Netherlands etc. They had characteristic temporary registration (license) plates: red numbers on white, just like on my picture. Well, I could see more and more such cars in Poland, as well recently (June 2004).
I noticed that locals prefered old German cars (especially Mercedes) than old Japanese cars. Why? Well, maybe they were less expensive, maybe they were better for loong use.
And as I know Germans used to treat their cars very seriously (prestigous) so they used to change them for new ones every say 3-5 years (quite different than say Suedes). Germany being the largest car market in Europe is forced to sell numerous used cars at lower prices. A lot of them go to more poor East which raises the prices. Well, since 1 May 2004 Lithuania is European Union member and there are no customs among EU countries, for cars as well.
There were no American cars in Druskininkai or I didn't see any.
In Picerija Saulegraza the waitress brought us some bread although we didn't order them. I noticed that they (in Lithuanian restaurants either in Druskininkai and in other towns) often served Lithuanian dark bread free of charge, just like they served tortillas in Mexico.
Well, the bread in my country, Poland was not that dark and was sometimes with home-made lard.
I noticed that old wooden houses in Druskininkai and Lithuania were usually painted in yellow, orange or green but never in blue. Only Russian Orthodox church was painted in blue. Was blue reserved for the church as saint colour for Russian Orthodox, I mean the colour of quite different (not Lithuanian) culture? Or it was just a coincidence?
Well, for example in Morocco green was royal colour of king's palaces while in Mexico bright green was a colour of casual houses.
There were few, usually state-owned, neglected and not renovated for years hotels/sanatoriums in Druskininkai. But I noticed that there were quite many sanatoriums under renovation or reconstruction in 2004 of which most were privatized.
Additionally there were a few brand new, clean and pretty health centers, like this one on my picture, located almost at the end of a road along western lake. Druskininkai will look different and even more pretty in a few years, I am sure now.
As I noticed, in Druskininkai and generally in Lithuania, old wooden houses were very rarely roofed by wood. Did the original wooden roofs fall down of winds or burn in the past? Never mind, locals used to put metal roofing, corrugated iron sheets especially. Hmm... not the most beautiful roofing unless... it's mossgrown like in that house on my picture.
There were nice looking and wooden dormer windows on the top of that house put at the corner of M.K. Ciurlionio gatve (# 30) and Sv. Jakubo gatve (#2). Dormer window (or shorter dormer) in English means a window sticking out from a sloping roof. The word derives from Latin word "dormire" which means to sleep. People used to put bedroom just under the roof of their houses not heavy lighted by dormer windows.
Typical old houses of Druskininkai were wooden and they usually had a lot of glass windows or better to say surfaces around. Just like on my picture of the house which was put at the corner of M.K. Ciurlionio gatve (# 30) and Sv. Jakubo gatve (#2).
Glass surfaces provided Druskininkai's visitors a lot of natural light which was usuful for treatment some ailments like of nervous or locomotive system. Houses had a lot of windows in many other health resorts I visited, too.
I could meet many, even very many visitors from Poland in Lithuania, esp. in Vilnius but they arrived by cheap scheduled buses or tour buses.
The only cars registered in Poland I found just in Druskininkai. Well, look at my picture, they were not afraid to park relatively new and attractive for thefts car (Mercedes A) just on a street.
Was Druskininkai esp. safe place with no car thefts? I don't know but I felt very safe there. I think that opinion on numerous car thefts in Lithuania is just wrong and not fair prejudice. I am sure about it. Although I don't know official police statistics on that matter (are there any in the net?).
At first I wanted to put this tip in Warnings Or Dangers but... it's more local custom, I think.
This young guy on my picture run pedal boat rental at the western bank of Druskonis lake. He managed a few new, yellow pedal boats, I think for a short time. Hmm... there were no costumers (except one older couple) in sunny afternoon on business day in June. He didn't have any official price list.
I got to know that I should pay for renting a pedal boat something like 5 - 6 Lt per hour. The guy wanted over twice more. Was it special (higher) price for "rich" visitors from Poland or... "expensive" Druskininkai?
Well, a few times in Lithuania (and not exclusively in Druskininkai) I noticed similar price policy put esp. by new and young Lithuanian small businessmen. Well, good luck with your business :-) but... it's wrong way, I suppose. Although... Lithuania was still cheap even with these "special" prices. Anyway, I would prefer to see official price list, instead.
I found Druskininkai clean, beautiful, relaxing and first of all, pretty empty resort in June. All restaurants, cafes were empty or almost empty, streets and parks as well. Druskininkai itself had approx. 21,000 citizens. Why people didn't go there to relax?
Well, there were few older visitors speaking mainly Polish or Russian language. Where were Lithuanian visitors?
Hmm... later on during my Lithuanian trip (in over-crowded Palanga) I got to know what most locals were looking for to relax. First of all they needed cheap, very cheap accommodations which costed 10.00 Lt (€ 3.01; US$ 3.63; 14 Polish zl) or even 7.00 Lt per person for rented room in Palanga. So, Druskininkai was simply too expensive for most of Lithuanians. Am I wrong?
Notice that the average monthly salary in US$ at the beginning of 2003 was only 278 in Lithuania, while in Poland 500 (Estonia 351, Czech 347, Latvia 272). Source: Ministries of Labor, 2003
Keep in mind that average prices were lower in Druskininkai than in any western European resort but not as many times lower as salaries and NOT all prices were lower.