kaunas Lithuania Special Feature Travel Vilnius

The Best Places to Visit in Lithuania, and where to eat

Amandus Restaurant Vilnius

From the capital Vilnius to the Curonian spit, Josh Ferry Woodard takes a whistle cease tour of the most effective locations to go to in Lithuania. On the best way he experiences road artwork, saunas and saltibarsciai soup… and that’s only for starters.

“Here in Lithuania, everybody forages for mushrooms and berries,” stated our information Benas, as we walked by way of the cobbled streets of Vilnius previous city, in the direction of Amandus restaurant for lunch. “We always say that you can eat all mushrooms – just that some of them (the poisonous ones!) you can eat only once in your life.”

Because the final Pagan nation in Europe to convert to Christianity and, with 33% of the nation coated in forest, it’s unsurprising that foraging stays an enormous a part of day by day life in Lithuania.

A Lithuanian good friend of mine as soon as informed me, proudly, of how when he was youthful he would spend all day looking the woodlands behind his grandmother’s home for mushrooms to promote. “One bag to pay for a ride at the fun fair, one bag to pay for a girl to ride with me,” stated Povi. “And another bag to buy a couple of beers!”

Amandus Restaurant VilniusLunch at Amandus

On arrival at Amandus I used to be given the prospect to get my palms on some mushrooms of my very own. Fortunately, these have been porcini mushrooms – which means it was not a as soon as in a lifetime alternative – nevertheless these foraged fungi did look utterly totally different to any mushrooms I had seen earlier than. By way of some feat of gastronomic sorcery that they had been become skinny discs with an identical texture to meringue. I used to be tasked with breaking these mushroom discs into smaller shapes and urgent them along with goat cheese into fancy sandwiches.

…these foraged fungi did look utterly totally different to any mushrooms I had seen earlier than. Via some feat of gastronomic sorcery that they had been was skinny discs with an analogous texture to meringue.

The theme of recent, native and foraged meals continued with a tasting menu of reimagined conventional dishes, similar to: hazelnut and apple crackling, beetroot bread, whipped smoked eel, sharp arctic cod ceviche with grapefruit and dill, melt-in-your-mouth beef cheek with seasonal pickle and liquid nitrogen raspberry purée.

Užupis: A Nation Wiskinny a Metropolis 

“I’d like to show you shabby corners of Vilnius. Mess, mess, it’s a mess where you can find everything,” stated Benas as we crossed the bridge from Vilnius previous city into the made-up self-declared Republic of Užupis.

“Look! Look! A sculpture of an alcoholic,” stated Benas earlier than turning round and pointing at a homeless individual with a bottle of spirit.

“And there’s one in real life.” 

Statue of an alcoholic UzupisZapoy

Užupis was initially a sanctuary for marginalised parts of society throughout Soviet rule, and fairly rundown. Nevertheless, for probably the most half, the district has extra of a bohemian vibe lately. Buildings are brightened by the pastel colors of native road artists, installations line the riverbank and speciality espresso outlets neighbour craft beer homes reverse the well-known Angel of Užupis statue.

The overseas ambassador [of Uzupis] is a notoriously fats cat named Ponulis that spends most of its time in Keistoteka Bookstore.

The ‘Republic’ has its personal flag, foreign money, mayor, structure and cupboard members. The structure, which options necessary assertions reminiscent of: “Every dog has the right to be a dog,” and “Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance,” might be discovered translated into over a dozen languages on Paupio Road. The overseas ambassador is a notoriously fats cat named Ponulis that spends most of its time in Keistoteka Bookstore.

Uzupis street art VilniusUzupis road artworkUzupis Vilnius LithuaniaEspresso & craft beerUzupis constitutionThe structure

Again in the previous city Benas took us to an Amber Museum, where we downed photographs of amber dissolved into 999 (a robust Lithuanian spirit constructed from 9 roots, 9 barks and 9 herbs… The Editor is accustomed to it already). After which we visited Literatu Road (a wonderful assortment of over 100 artworks devoted to Lithuanian literature) en-route to the 45-metre excessive historic bell tower.

From the highest of the cathedral belfry we gazed at beautiful panoramic views of Vilnius’ cityscape of Baroque pink roofs, domes and spires stretching in the direction of the inexperienced forests on the perimeter of the capital.

From the highest of the cathedral belfry we gazed at beautiful panoramic views of Vilnius’ cityscape of Baroque purple roofs, domes and spires stretching in the direction of the inexperienced forests on the perimeter of the capital.

Vilnius old townVilnius previous cityBaroque VilniusBaroque Vilnius

“Here in Vilnius we don’t need city parks,” stated Benas. “Because we are surrounded by greenery and lakes. It only takes 30 minutes to escape into the countryside.”

Boats & Balloons at Trakai Island Fort

True to Benas’ phrase, it took simply over half an hour to arrive in Trakai, the traditional capital of Lithuania and a well-liked daytrip from Vilnius.

The scenic archipelago is made up of over 200 lakes and its crowning glory is the 14th century Trakai Island Fort, an imposing Medieval palace standing in the center of Lake Galvė.

Trakai castle LithuaniaTrakai from the sky

Our examination of the citadel started with a soothing lap of its burnt orange turrets in a ship. Then we drove to a close-by area, where issues actually began to warmth up.

A frighteningly loud flame bellowed a couple of inches above my head in the disconcertingly small basket, as our pilot ready for take-off.

A frighteningly loud flame bellowed a couple of inches above my head in the disconcertingly small basket, as our pilot ready for take-off.

It was a surreal, coronary heart in mouth second when our scorching air balloon lastly began to rise. Weightlessly, we floated larger and watched the individuals, timber and automobiles beneath us dissolve into tiny inconsequential shapes.

Serenely, we drifted to heights of round 1,000 metres for superior panoramic views of Trakai’s inexperienced spiky pine forests and squiggly cloud-shaped islands. Then, as we approached the Island Citadel, our pilot allow us to drop to what felt like touching distance of the medieval orange turrets.

hot air balloon LithuaniaFloating over pine foresthot air balloon reflection lake trakaiLake reflectionshot air balloon trakai castle LithuaniaThe flame

After the breathtaking, really memorable and extremely really helpful scorching air balloon expertise, we stopped by Ertlio Namas for a tasty tasting menu of centuries-old Lithuanian dishes: Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque recipes discovered in previous manor homes and monasteries, playfully reinterpreted for the fashionable age.

Completed plates of sturgeon and eel terrine, parsnip soup with saffron and veal, pheasant breast with cranberry sauce and chocolate plum dessert have been matched with tasty cider, wine and port. 

Massive Stones & Eerie Crosses

After recharging on the snug metropolis centre Congress Avenue lodge, we set off for Anyksciai forest, house of an important boulder.

Puntukas stoneThe second largest stone in Lithuania

“Every child in Lithuania has heard of Puntukas Stone,” stated our new information Linas as we breathed in the crisp forest air, scented with pine resin and thyme. “It is the second biggest stone in Lithuania and features in a famous poem ‘The Forest of Anyksciai.’”

Strolling via the forest of Anyksciai, by way of scores of pine, birch, maple, ash and poplar timber, we stopped to hear the rhythmic thuds of a woodpecker towards a tall trunk.

Strolling by means of the forest of Anyksciai, by way of scores of pine, birch, maple, ash and poplar timber, we stopped to hear the rhythmic thuds of a woodpecker towards a tall trunk.

“Another interesting thing,” stated Linas, pointing to a inexperienced patch of untamed sorrel on the forest flooring. “Is the second longest word in Lithuanian, which roughly translates to ‘those of masculine gender, who are no longer foraging for wood sorrel leaves by themselves.’”

“However, this year,” added Linas as we entered a metallic treetop walkway with large views of the forest. “They came up with a new word, which means ‘those who are no longer fed up by blogging.’” 

The Forest of AnyksciaiThe forest of Anyksciai

Later, not in the slightest bit fed up by running a blog, we pulled up alongside a convoy of vans crammed with orchard apples for a scrumptious and hearty lunch at Perinos Gastrobaras. I began with a chilly, creamy, pink saltibarsciai beetroot soup and an area apple wine. “I’ve had hundreds of these beetroot soups in my life and almost every one is different,” stated Linas, dipping a scorching potato chip into the thick soup. 

“I’ve had hundreds of these beetroot soups in my life and almost every one is different,” stated Linas.

After an enormous bowl of spinach, cheese and zucchini fusilli, we headed to Kalita Hill Alpine Coaster for an exhilarating toboggan journey. Three goes careening across the corners later we drove to the well-known Hill of Crosses.

The Hill of Crosses LithuaniaThe Hill of CrossesHill of crosses LithuaniaA narrative of insurrection

The landmark tells a narrative of riot. It’s thought that the crosses first appeared in 1864 after a bloodbath carried out by the Russian Tsar. Though the Russians demolished the shrines, the native Lithuanian inhabitants endeavoured to substitute them.

Historical past started repeating itself through the Soviet period, when the hill was demolished with bulldozers at the least 3 times. Every time the native inhabitants risked the wrath of the Soviet powers and changed the crosses on the exact same night time.

Historical past started repeating itself in the course of the Soviet period, when the hill was demolished with bulldozers no less than 3 times. Every time the native inhabitants risked the wrath of the Soviet powers and changed the crosses on the exact same night time.

Throughout our go to there have been over 100,000 crosses laid by individuals from everywhere in the world at this eerie but compelling image of Lithuanian unity and rebel.

Grilled Recreation, Boozy Saunas & Late Night time Lake Swims

“The owner is a little obsessed with hunting,” stated Linas as we arrived at Villa Dubgiris, a posh of luxurious picket cabins in a secluded lake-side location in the Mazeikiai area. “There should be some tasty meats on the menu tonight.”

lake Plinksiai LithuaniaLake Plinksiai

We spent a while sitting on the jetty, admiring the silent blue floor of the lake earlier than settling into our respective animal-themed rooms to prepare for dinner.

Within the ‘Banquet Hall,’ a heat, rotund two-storey constructing with giant home windows, pure picket columns and rustic fittings designed by native blacksmiths, I feasted on a succulent pink-in-the-middle roe deer steak. We additionally shared a plate of cured recreation: skinny slices of salami constructed from venison, roe deer and wild boar.

After dinner Linas and I every took a pint of ice-cold Svyturys Ekstra Lithuanian lager into the plush Dubgiris spa. The bathhouse was kitted out with water fountains, beige sculptures and Roman mosaics.

“You know, saunas were, and still are, a massive part of Lithuanian culture,” stated Linas as we sweltered in the Siberian fir-scented sauna. “They were originally created with the function of washing in mind, but they evolved to be very important socially as well.”

“You know, saunas were, and still are, a massive part of Lithuanian culture,” stated Linas as we sweltered in the Siberian fir-scented sauna. “They were originally created with the function of washing in mind, but they evolved to be very important socially as well.”

Freezing winter temperatures in Medieval Lithuania meant that it was unimaginable for households to retailer water for laundry. As an alternative they constructed outhouses with hearth pits to bathe and cleanse. Historically, males would enter first, when the sauna is hottest, adopted by the ladies and youngsters. “These weekly gatherings are still very important for many communities,” stated Linas. “This is where issues get settled.”

To chill off, we left the traditional bathing hut and tiptoed throughout the grass to the lake, where the swirling sparkles of the Milky Approach mirrored off its glassy black floor. The vastness of the icy water pulled me in and I left feeling refreshed, and barely euphoric.

In the direction of Russia with Love

The subsequent day we headed to the close by Chilly Conflict Museum in Plokstyne. Set in an underground bunker, the museum reveals embrace a timeline of the Chilly Conflict, previous generator rooms and a set of Soviet and Western propaganda.

Constructed in secret from the Lithuanian individuals through the 1960s, the Soviet nuclear missile base had sufficient firepower to wipe out most of Europe.

Constructed in secret from the Lithuanian individuals in the course of the 1960s, the Soviet nuclear missile base had sufficient firepower to wipe out most of Europe.

Soviet Propaganda Cold War MuseumSoviet Propaganda

Once we re-emerged from the gloomy subterranean tunnel we set off for the Curonian Spit – a 98km lengthy sand-dune strip of land that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea, and connects Lithuania to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

Fortunately, all fears of a nuclear apocalypse have been forged away once we arrived on the trendy Monai restaurant in Klaipeda for a scrumptious lunch of autumnal seedy soup with artisan muffins and a plate of velvety cod loin in white wine sauce with al dente parsnips, potatoes and radishes.

After crossing the ferry from Klaipeda to the Spit, we drove alongside a forested street till we reached the Hill of Witches. “Most of these pagan wooden sculptures were built by Lithuanian artists in the summer of 1979,” stated Linas as we strolled previous darkish wooden dragons, bearded males and princesses. “The Soviets allowed them to honour Lithuania’s Pagan heritage because this area was closed off to the public. The civilian population was not able to see the transgressive sculptures.”

One specific sculpture that stood out was a black ghoul-encrusted archway with a particularly intricate and distressing satan behind it. It’s stated that should you stroll beneath the arch you’ll by no means return.

Devil statue Curonian SpitThe arch of no returnSatan hill of witchesThe satan past the border

“Are you going under?” I requested a passer-by.

“Under that? God no!” The conviction in his reply was sufficient to maintain me away too.

After gazing throughout the Curonian Lagoon at one other border (the Lithuanian border with Russian Kaliningrad), we rented bicycles and explored the resort city of Nida. I labored up a hefty urge for food through the scenic bike experience (and Baltic Sea swim), which was promptly glad by a three-course dinner of tomato and purple pepper soup, bacon-wrapped hen breast with girasole mushrooms and a pot of Eton mess at Skalva Lodge.

Curonian Spit KaliningradRussia in the spaceBaltic Sea NidaThe Baltic Sea

Road Artwork in Kaunas

Kaunas, Lithuania’s second metropolis, is house to a thriving road artwork scene. It began in 2013 with a bespectacled, cosmic pipe smoking fella situated on the facade of an deserted shoe manufacturing unit.

It began in 2013 with a bespectacled, cosmic pipe smoking fella situated on the facade of an deserted shoe manufacturing unit.

‘The Wise Old Man’ mural kick-started a wave of road artwork throughout the town, respiration life into the whole lot from sketchy tunnels to residential courtyards and college campuses.

The Wise Old Man Shoe Factory street art KaunasThe Sensible Previous Man

“That’s actually the artist who created this gallery,” stated Linas, pointing in the direction of a person portray a black and white lady onto a lilac wall. “He began the Courtyard Gallery by painting portraits of all the residents of this block.”

The courtyard gallery KaunasThe Courtyard Gallerycourtyard gallery Kaunas LithuaniaResidential murals

The area, often known as the one gallery open 24/7 in Kaunas, now options every little thing from vibrant murals and mirrored mosaics to suspended chairs and lofty installations. Aside from turning into an essential part of Kanuas’ cultural tapestry, the creative paintings has helped foster a way of group among the many residents.

“For example, these bins are always clean now,” stated Linas. “At least since that yellow cat has been watching over them.”

Courtyard gallery Kaunas cat street artThe watchful catPink elephant street art KaunasThe elephant of affectionDa Vinci chess street art KaunasDa Vinci’s chessboard

On the best way to lunch we stopped by a big pastel pink elephant, which was drawn to symbolize the love proclaimed in a small piece of graffiti studying: ‘Deima + Arwnas,’ plus a lovely Leonardo da Vinci chessboard mural.

Vista Puode is one other prime class restaurant specialising in recent, seasonal interpretations of conventional Lithuanian delicacies, a becoming place for my final supper in the nation. I attempted one other portion of chilly saltibarsciai soup – this one thinner and extra vinegary than the final – with a tower of fried potato pancakes with sharp garlic curd and a craft IPA from Klaipeda brewery Bocmano Usai. Not a nasty method to say goodbye to Lithuania.

Josh was invited on this journey as a visitor of the Lithuanian Vacationer Board. All opinions are his personal.

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