Have you ever noticed that the shape of Lithuania looks just like Africa? You should also know that there is no need to travel to the Dark Continent to see its exotic birds; storks favoured Lithuania as a place to spend the summer! These are only two of many unusual things I found out during my short break in this country where I was exploring our current destinations and was also introduced to new emerging ones.
My trip started from a visit to the Roman city situated on seven hills. No it is not Rome, I am still in Lithuania and visiting the UNESCO city of Vilnius. However, Rome and Vilnius have much more in common. Vilnius is named ‘the most Italian city, outside of Italy’ and that is due to its history and architecture. The main symbol of this similarity is a wolf. A she wolf that helped Romulus and Remus to survive is the main symbol of Rome, similarly Vilnius was founded by a duke, who had dreamt of an iron wolf and founded a city on that hill.
Colourful Old Town in VilniusWhile strolling through the streets of Vilnius I felt like I was in a mobile classroom and someone was teaching me the history in an unusual way! Almost each street commemorates a historical event and almost each building used to be home for someone famous. During the 16th century, Vilnius had many enemies who were trying to invade their city. In order to protect it, the people of Vilnius built a large wall around the city with nine gates. The most dangerous point along this wall was the Gate of Dawn, which has a beautiful image of the Mother of Mercy. Today, the Gate of Dawn is a famous pilgrimage site for many.
The Gate of DawnAfter spending an interesting day in Vilnius came time to try the Lithuanian cuisine. I have proceeded to another historic city, Kaunas. If you think that when you book a table at a restaurant in Kaunas you will receive a good service then you are unfortunately wrong. The service here will not be just good, it will be excellent! Especially when you mention that you wish to try the authentic Lithuanian food and drink! For Lithuanians beer is a necessary drink that they called ‘the liquid bread’ for centuries. I was first welcomed with a colourful mug of beer and a large plate of thinly sliced smoked meats and white cheese with caraway-seeds and honey. After you have some of the most amazing tastes in your mouth the real feast is just about to start. Lithuanians like to say their hospitality must reflect on their munificence, believe me it really does! One of my favourite meals was ‘cepeliny’ which looks like two flying zeppelins. What do they taste like? You must find that out yourself…
Richly laid tables cater well for vegetarians.
After a day of sightseeing and culinary feasting I needed a bit of relaxation. I did not have to look far. A short drive from Kaunas is the Druskininkai spa and medical town where I could drink rich mineral spring waters and get beauty or medical treatments in well established spas. Some of my favourite treatments were the mud bath, the herbal bubble bath and the cryotherapy (which stimulates the human body at temperatures of -160 ºC!).
Not far from Druskininkai is the historic town of Trakai located in the Trakai National Park. The beautiful countryside surrounding this place is mentioned in many poems and traditional songs. I have paid a visit to the Trakai Island Castle which is sometimes referred to as “Little Marienburg.” Another highlight of the day was a peaceful cruise around the castle on Lake Galve with a little treat served on board including excellent beers and pies.
During my time in Lithuania I realised how life is different here, people find pleasures in little things and like to share their enjoyment with others, including tourists! I would like to recommend this destination o anyone who is not afraid to open to the uniqueness, charm and goodness of Lithuania and its welcoming people.
Trakai Island Castle