Last August, I visited a good friend in Lithuania. Whenever possible, I try to visit friends in different parts of the world. This was my first time in Lithuania.
I had met Gigi (Giedre B.) when she was living in London through other friends. After moving back to Lithuania, she would send me such enticing articles as “The Magical Country of Lithuania And Why You Should Put Vilnius On Your Bucket List“. So, why not?
Gigi and her boyfriend Mindaugas (Mindas) met me at the airport in Vilnius (capital city) when I arrived. They had taken the whole week off from work to show me the city, the countryside and the beaches of this laid-back Baltic country.
Vilnius has a lot of the old European charm. It reminded me of Bucharest with a well-preserved, lively Old Town. It was easy to imagine the history of many different traders, refugees and soldiers who must have walked on the same pedestrian streets. People-watching was fun as the local ladies were quite a la mode, and weren’t shy about making eye contact.
After a couple of days in the city enjoying the museums, castles and churches, we embarked on a a two-hour journey to her hometown of Radviliskis in the center of the country. There, they hosted a Lithuanian barbeque party welcoming me.
Many of their family and friends came and we gorged on savory grilled meats and drank like true Eastern Europeans. The older family members practiced some English with me, while being extremely hospitable, making sure I ate and drank enough.
Their friends, all good English speakers, became my new instant buddies aided by the outdoor ambience, the local vodka and some marijuana souvenirs that I had brought from Seattle. We sang Lithuanian military songs arm-in-arm. We also drunkenly speculated about whether I was the first Korean to ever visit Radviliskis. That was an amazing night, but unfortunately none of them made it to work the next day.
Next, Gigi and Mandas planned a trip to the Baltic Sea, which is on the far Western side of the country.
Palanga is a beautiful resort town on the Baltic Coast, frequented by many Europeans. The beaches were clean and world-class. I really enjoyed our visit to the dunes and lagoon of the Kursiu Nerijos National Park. The sights were spectacular. We relaxed, drank a lot of beer and filled our stomaches with delicious local foods.
My favorite was cepelinai, the national Lithuanian dish. These are like dumplings, made from grated and riced potatoes, then stuffed with meat. How can that not be good? It was great coupled with saltibarsciai, a refreshing cold beet soup. I also tried pigs ears and other traditional dishes.
I must say that my local hosts made the experience in Lithuania so endearing and authentic. I will never forget the sites and beauty of Lithuania, but especially I will never forget the warmth of the people!