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19

One of the most striking if not extraordinary things about the three major Lithuanian cities of Vilnius, Kaunas and its third city, Klaipeda, is how different they are from one another. Klaipeda, the country's major seaport and for centuries the predominantly German settlement of Memel, bears little resemblance to its larger brothers to the east yet is at the same time unmistakably Lithuanian. A beguiling hotchpotch of timber- framed, neo- Gothic and Soviet- era architecture hugging a bustling port that gives the city a distinctively cosmopolitan flavour, Klaipeda betrays a rich multicultural past, providing a truly unique holiday experience. It even used to boast a Scottish community. A truly unique holiday experience? Really? In a city with a population of less than 200,000 souls that you may possibly never have heard of before reading this? Absolutely. And here's why. In the two decades since the city was released from the clutches of Soviet domination, Klaipeda has developed beyond all recognition, THE TOWNS ON THE COAST by Sco Lithuania In Your Pocket The oldest guide of the country. www. inyourpocket. com offering not only a heady mix of excellent yet affordable hotels, several remarkable museums, an abundance of decent places to eat and the country's only regular live jazz music venue, it also doubles as the perfect springboard for a host of seaside adventures from the UNESCO- protected splendour of the Curonian Spit where the author Thomas Mann chose to spend his summers to the kiss- me- quick summer party destination that never sleeps that is Palanga. This isn't to say the main reason for visiting Klaipeda is to go somewhere else, it's more to do with the fact that it comes with two tantalising daytrips providing the icing on the cake that needs to be eaten to get the full flavour of the region. And, contrary to much ill- informed hearsay, Klaipeda's climate is decidedly more solar than it is Siberian. Even during the depths of winter when Vilnius and Kaunas are hidden under thick blankets of debilitating snow, Klaipeda can be visited without the need to dress like Scott of Antarctica thanks to its refreshingly temperate weather, whilst the summer season brings with it surprisingly hot daytime temperatures that force everybody to the beach and long, light evenings where half the sky never darkens beyond a deep shade of blue.