We were on our way out of Aukstaitija National Park on the Eastern border of Lithuania near Russia, a beautiful, peaceful park filled with lakes and trails. We were winding down a little road thorough a tiny village (rapidly escaping the place we’d stayed the night before that I refused to stay in again) when we saw the sign for Hotel Labanoras. We almost didn’t stop, thinking we should get closer to the city, but I was really interested in staying in the countryside and seeing the lifestyle, so we decided we’d go back ‘just to take a look.’
It was perfect: a small boutique hotel that was both gorgeous and eccentric. When we walked in the staff were extremely helpful, friendly, and professional. They showed us all the rooms they had available (most, since it was a weeknight) and each one was very nicely decorated and unique. They were mainly family rooms with either a double bed and one or two twin beds and even an antique crib, or with several twin beds. It doesn’t sound very stylish, but believe me I’ve never seen anyone make a bunch of twin beds look so good. From the bed frames and furniture to the colorful textile creations and accessories, everything in the rooms were antiques. In the lobby, some of the owner’s collections lined the walls. It was perfectly clean with tall ceilings and all the authenticity of a restored old building (formerly a school).
After much deliberation, we decided which room we wanted. It had a small balcony overlooking the fields, a café style table with two chairs near the large windows, and a large antique stove. There was a walk-through closet that led to the bath which didn’t have any windows. This became a problem because for some reason the hot water had the smell of sulfur which makes me feel faint. I had to take very short showers and lay down a few minutes. This was the only drawback I can see. Also, if you’re the type who wants nightlife and lots of different places to eat & things to do, this is not the place for you. There is no nightlife, nowhere else to eat nearby, and very little to do except take long walks through the countryside and the forest, and perhaps canoeing or boating through the thousands of lakes in the area, especially at the National park. I found it incredibly relaxing.
There is a fantastic restaurant at the hotel which is part of the European culinary heritage network. The chef uses all the local ingredients, like mushrooms, berries, and honey, but really does justice to them. I ate large plates of wild mushrooms each day and potatoes and meat stews that actually tasted good (I’m not big on potatoes and meat, which makes it tough in Lithuania). The chef has quite a varied menu though, so if you’re tired of the delights of this land, you can find something different here. One night I had chicken with homemade pesto and roasted tomatoes which was great (and yes, I had a plate of Chanterelles as an appetizer).