For a country that quickly divorced itself from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and enthusiastically joined the EU in 2004, Lithuania still lags behind its Western peers in public acceptance of the gay community. Because sexuality is still considered an almost exclusively personal aspect of identity in Lithuanian culture, gay travelers may, at first blush, think that gay life is nonexistent in this Baltic nation. On the contrary, cities like Vilnius and Kaunas are bustling with young gay men and women who struggle less with their own identity than with the pervasive denial around them. While very active socially, meeting at discos and coffeeshops and corresponding over the net, the Lithuanian gay community exists in a society that ranges from tepidly aware to angrily dismissive of the subculture. Still, Americans and others used to a more liberal, frank atmosphere, can enjoy gay travel to Lithuania and meet friendly locals.
Here are some resources that visitors can use to make gay travel to Lithuania more accommodating:
Websites with News and Personals
www.gay.lt (click on the English tab)
Although the English versions of the news stories are not updated frequently, GAY LT does have a “meeting point” section with plenty of personal ads featuring both men and women. Though many of the ads are in Lithuanian or Russian, a lot of international business travelers and Lithuanian students post brief ads in English with links to their email addresses. If you spend some time searching, you can find a penpal or even a date who can make gay travel to Lithuania more hospitable.
Clicking on the English icon doesn’t help significantly with translation of this site, so much of the content remains inaccessible to non-Lithuanians. That said, the personals section does translate so that you can post a profile on gay travel to Lithuania and wait for replies from fellow foreigners or from Lithuanian citizens. Or you can contact one of the many students who have their photos and bios posted (usually 18-25ish), as they may be willing to serve as tour guides or as companions for the disco.
Gay Bars in Lithuania
Men’s Factory, Vilnius
Despite its name, this weekend-only club welcomes both men and women. It’s much like the average American gay club, with flashing lights, brummagem dÃ?Â©cor, campily costumed cocktail waiters, and assorted thumping music. Some aspects of the club are simply over-the-top, like the penis-shaped barstools and other phallic wall-hangings, but it attracts a cross-section of the Vilnius gay community and many gay travelers. Be warned that they sometimes have special parties and cabaret-type shows with higher admission prices.
Relax Club, Vilnius
Opened in 2003, Relax Club is the other large gay club in Vilnius. It seems to attract fewer women than Men’s Factory (go figure), possibly due to the higher cover charge for females. Neon-intensive, stripper-friendly, and also a dark-til-dawn party place, Relax Club is most popular on Saturday nights.
Lithuania’s second-largest city, Kaunas, also has a small gay club. Friendly and a bit more intimate than its capital city counterparts, Kapeika welcomes the few gay travelers who do make it there.