Quoting an advertisement slogan- we’ve got crisps, we’ve got a party. The Lithuania is different. In Lithuanian we would paraphrase it- we’ve got a pig, we’ve got a party. All over the world people love having crisps with beer. While in Lithuania, known from Mickiewicz’s pieces of writing, smoked pig’s ears are bitten with beer. It may seem a bit odd to us but an average Lithuanian will find it the best snack under the sun.
How does it taste? It’s hard to compare to anything. For sure it’s black and fat. It’s consistence is really crispy but can it be compared to crisps? The problem is that basically I’m not a fan of crisps and I haven’t been eating them for a few years.
Lithuania is a country that beckons not only history, but also food
I can’t imagine travelling without tasting local dishes. I simply have to try each thing even if it will be once in my life only. I guess the only thing I wouldn’t able to eat consciously is a dog and an embryo. Perhaps that’s why I spend almost all my money on food. I couldn’t resist the chance of trying smoked pig’s ears. I figured it out before that they wouldn’t come to my liking as I don’t like fat things. I asked a waiter to bring me just a little piece to try. He got a bit surprised by it but he promised to bring me exactly one little ear as he would be preparing a bigger set for other guests. This is how I got to try the first pig’s ear in my life.
My first impression? It’s so fat! I totally don’t understand how Lithuanians may like it. I saw such an excitement in the waiter’s eyes, however, that I admitted it had an original taste out of courtesy. The waiter got so excited that he suggested I offer the whole set. I somehow weaselled out of it explaining that I’d like to have a main course first. Looking around, however, I noticed ears on almost every table. I guess it really is a local delicacy.
For ears and beer only to Zarzecze
You probably wonder where I had those ears and if I can recommend a good place to try them. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of that bar but it doesn’t matter as long as the bar is situated in the district of Zarzecze.
It’s located on the right bank of Wilejka, to the east of old town. It’s often compared to Vilnius Montmarte as it used to be a favourite place of artistic bohemia and people from lower social classes. Currently it’s still the most popular centre of night life in Vilnius. It’s full of smaller and bigger bars. You can meet a Lithuanian painter there or listen to a street concert. It’s a really climatic place, ideal to experience Vilnius by night. Basically it doesn’t matter in which bar we’ll stop. They are all similar to one another and in each of them we’ll have a chance to try some drinking honey or alcohol which is obligatory while sightseeing Lithuania. Due to its warming properties, I took one bottle to Poland for winter evenings
Zarzecze is a totally different part of Vilnius from the rest of the city which, during a day, seems to be well organised and quiet. The architecture perfectly coexists with the nature, and the past mingles with the present. On streets we’ll meet men in suits and smartly dressed women. Each of them with mobiles in hands and branded clothes. Vilnius seems to be an elegant and modern metropolis being closer to Scandinavian that to any other Eastern city. Totally unlike from what I imagined.
Let yourself get lost in the old Vilnius
To feel the climate of old Vilnius it’s worth going to beautiful and historic Old Town which is one of the biggest in Central & Eastern Europe. I took a few-hour walk stopping off at the presidential palace where Napoleon or Piłsudski lived, St Casimir’s chapel, gothic churches of St Anna’s and St. Francis’ of Assisi, the monument of Mickiewicz, the house of Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński or the church of the Holy Spirit.
The following sights like the Jewish district, the City Hall, Basilian monastery where A. Mickiewicz and his companions were kept prisoners, Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit– main orthodox church in Lithuania and Gate of Dawn with the Chapel of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, familiar to us from the invocation in Sir Thaddeus book, should be included in our tour as well.
Besides, I personally recommend going, even if we aren’t the fans of such places, to Vilnius cemeteries: Rossa– where a lot of great Poles are buried and Bernadine Cemetery in Zarzecze. These places are recommended not only due to its historic look and beautiful tombstones but also due to the possibility of visiting graves of many great people.
To taste the local cuisine must always be a time
After a few-hour walk it’s worth sitting down for a moment in one of the cafes to drink acorn coffee. For those who got very hungry I suggest ordering capelins or wheat-flour blini which secret is in the pastry and stuffing. At first glance, capelins look like big potato dumplings. They may differ in shape as it depends in every cook. Their main ingredient, however, is a finely grated raw potato. They are stuffed with minced pork or beef. Then they are cooked and served with cracklings sprinkled with onion or herbs. Traditional capelins are made without flour and eggs.
Among other local specialties worth trying are ripening sausage kindziuk (to be bought in a supermarket as well), apple cheese, dumplings with berries or saltanosiai.
Lithuanian cuisine, similarly to Polish one, isn’t light and easy to digest at all but, on the other hand, it’s very nutritious and tasty in its simplicity. At the end of the day I went to the Hill of Three Crosses from where a beautiful panorama of the old town and Gedimina’s Tower – the symbol of Vilnius can be admired.
Feel like a fairy. See Trakai
When we are in Vilnius, it’s worth visiting the former capital of Lithuania- Trakai that is only less than 30 km away. It’s central point is the castle built by prince Vytautas. Reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century, the red brick castle with round columns picturesquely located among the greenery on the lake together with blue sky gives truly a fairy-tale picture. It’s impossible not to sit down on a grass and get into a dreamy mood from watching little white boats floating on Galve lake.
Besides this castle there are also the ruins of the other castle, the so called land one (the castle on peninsula).
In the meantime, it’s worth visiting stands with handicraft. There we can find beautiful ceramics, shawls, jewellery, etc. I bought e.g. hand painted ceramic brooch for my Mum. Everything is especially colourful and hand made.
For lunch we should try a local delicacy called kibinai. These are big dumplings made of sweet yeast dough which look reminds pizza calzone with meat stuffing (mutton or beef) or cabbage stuffing. These dumplings are served warm straight to your hand. We can order a broth with them. The dumpling itself is quite satiating, however, so not everyone may have enough room for a soup such as it was in my case. I only tried a few spoon sips from my friend. The broth was delicious.