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Introducing Šiauliai

Lithuania's fourth-largest city is overshadowed by the incredible Hill of Crosses 10km north. But despite this - and plague, fires and battles - Šiauliai has survived its troubled history to become an eccentric, thriving city 140km north of Kaunas. It is also the main centre of the northwestern Samogitia (Žemaitija) region.

TV sets, Black Panther bicycles, milk and Gubernija beer are in the mixed bag of products manufactured in town - a mildly shabby place yet to see better days. Its main pedestrian street, Vilniaus gatvė, is due a complete face-lift, while the transformation of its Soviet military airfield - the USSR's largest airbase outside Russia, not mapped until 1991 - into a tourist attraction promises an interesting new future for Šiauliai.

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