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Druskininkai In Your Pocket

According to legend, there once stood a castle on the banks of the Nemunas at Liškiava, close to where modern-day Druskininkai stands. One day the lord of the castle had a grand day’s hunting, and, according to pagan principles shot a hawk to keep the Gods content. For reasons lost to the mists of time, the hawk plunged into the river, followed by the lord, of whom the latter promptly vanished. His wife ran up and down the riverbank in tears, and where her tears landed, great salty springs sprung up. The word Druskininkai comes from the Lithuanian word for salt, druska, which whether you believe in the story above or the slightly more convincing idea that the salt-rich earth in the area was formed when the region was under the sea several thousand years ago, explains why, in 1794, the town was granted the distinction of becoming an official health resort. With a population of just under 20,000, Druskininkai’s contemporary popularity has seen it in the last 100 years find itself part of Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Russia and the Soviet Union. Now back in the hands of the Lithuanians, Druskininkai is one of the country’s fastest growing destinations, a former nomenklatura playground and host to some startlingly unique architecture from its wonderful Russian Orthodox church to a handful of 1970s, Futurist-style buildings. The town can also claim two past great artistic residents in the Jewish sculptor Jacques Lipchitz and the Lithuanian national hero Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. It’s also just a 10-minute drive from Grūto Parkas (pictured), the huge Soviet theme park run by the millionaire father of the town’s mayor. Whether you’re planning a visit based on culture, relaxation, or a bit of both, Druskininkai, a possible daytrip from Vilnius or Kaunas as well as a fabulous option for a weekend break, is well worth further investigation. Here’s what you need to know.

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