Sunday, 1 December 2019

Postcard from Vilnius - Lithuania

Sparing a few indulgent moments to think about 'this time last year....', memories come flooding back of preparing for our trip to Vilnius, Lithuania.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

We called Vilnius (Lithuania's capital), a 'Baltic Stratford Upon Avon' in the sense it replicated it with regards to size, population, history, busyness and mood.  It was one of those long weekend trips that 'worked' and all the logistics fell into place adding to our enjoyment.  

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The draw of going in December is the snowfall (if you're lucky), the opportunity to wear cosy knits and the Christmas market they have in the main square by the cathedral.  It is much, much smaller than the versions found in nearby neighbouring Germany for example, but still holds its own with a large decorated tree, booths with crafted goods for sale and the all important mulled wine on tap.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Tourist attractions centre around Vilnius's history and religious stronghold with the cathedral, umpteen churches and the palace to see, with the more sombre attractions of the KGB Museum and Jewish Museum to visit that bring an understanding of city's challenges during the last century.

But let's talk food.  What is Lithuanian food?  I would say, very similar to Polish/Eastern European food, so we talking hearty portions, lots of stews, meat, potatoes etc.  There are vegetarian options in most places, but it isn't as prevalent or mainstream as it is in the UK.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Where it wasn't strongly featured, I created my own dishes from the side order section of the menu, choosing from items such as buckwheat with mushrooms, potatoes, beetroot salads etc.  Nicely washed down with a pint of kvass - a fermented drink made from rye popular in a lot of places within Eastern Europe and more refreshing than you might think.

Doughnuts at the Jewish Bakery
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

A large number of the restaurants in the old town are located within the maze of streets in tardis-style buildings, some of which have brick cl
ad interiors in underground cellars which is so different from  the UK.  The majority of restaurants are Lithuanian in style, although there are a few restaurants around the city offering different cuisine if you wish to find them.  We visited a very pleasant Georgian restaurant for instance and also a Jewish Bakery which was running a Hanukkah menu as our time there coincided with the festival so we had freshly made potato latkes and doughnuts.

The Cat Cafe
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The popularity of kitty cafe culture is also present in Vilnius with The Cat Cafe possessing a heavy footfall on one of the main central streets.  Assured of good cat welfare,  we absolutely couldn't resist a Cat-uchino coffee with a kitty cookie and equally, it is very easy to get carried away with purchasing the merchandise on the way out.  I was amazed how disciplined I was to only walk away with one fridge magnet.

Photo: Word In Veg Ways

I think tales from Baltic States of "50p a pint..." are antiquated so think UK prices, but perhaps a fraction cheaper and then you won't be disappointed.  It was truly a wonderful, festive inspired weekend away woven together with a smattering of cultural experience and good food.   I hope you too get the chance to go and if you do, then buy yourself a bottle of quince infused vodka from duty free on the way home.

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