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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Travel Lithuania! - Page 7

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Looking for a safe place to explore with friendly and beautiful people, ancient castles, magnificent churches, cobblestone streets, quiet forests, thousands of lakes, huge sand dunes, and sparkling beaches lining the sea?

I went from staying in the 5 star Le Meridion to the 2 star Litinterp Bernardinu St. Guest House in the old town. My room was very small – 4 rooms of this size could have fit into the room I’d been in the night before, but it was perfectly clean and the bed comfortable. Best of all was the location – 2 mins walk from the main pedestrian boulevard Pilles St., 2 mins from St. Anne’s Church, 3 mins to the Cathedral, and 5 mins to the University. The price was hard to beat at 29 euros ($39) for a single with private bath. It also came with breakfast, which was delivered to your door at the time of your preference, though it is definitely not a culinary feat: a few small pieces of bread with honey, yogurt, and coffee. Though you can order a boiled egg, sausage, or corn flakes if you like those. I ended up buying some fruit and nuts at the market to supplement it.


I got to Vilnius just in time for the Skamba, Skamba, Kankliai festival which I absolutely loved! It’s the annual folk festival and features performers from all over Lithuania as well as other countries. During the three days and nights I spent in downtown Vilnius there were so many events that I didn’t even have a chance to partake of the Vilnius jazz scene – which is one thing the city is famous for, with many of its pubs and clubs featuring live jazz bands. In October there is a very popular jazz festival, so if you’re a fan of jazz that would be a great time to visit.


lithuaniaThe opening evening of the festival featured an intoxicating slow circular dance to rhythmic drumming. Singers in long linen costumes with Viking-like buttons and linen skullcaps harmonized in 4 parts with not only their voices, but their movements. It was both haunting and uplifting and I’m still not sure which was more mesmerizing: their voices or the dance. It was certainly unforgettable and unlike any music I’ve heard elsewhere, and I loved it. There were also a couple of folk groups that were in colorful costumes with plaid skirts and long woven Lithuanian belts. They were performing folk songs and dances that were reminiscent of square dancing with some instruments I’d never seen.


lithuaniaThe 4-day festival took place in many of Vilnius’ squares, churches, and courtyards. Saturday there was an all day event on the big plaza next to the Cathedral. In addition to copious concerts there were also many craft demonstrations: blacksmiths, weavers, potters, brass smiths, and wood carvers were in traditional dress explaining their arts. I learned from a woman how those beautiful decorated eggs are patterned – it’s difficult – it took me three tries with a short, sharp knife and a delicate dyed egg trying to find the right pressure before I was able to make a small mark. There are many opportunities to buy beautiful items here, as the whole perimeter of the plaza was lined with craftspeople.


lithuaniaThe Skamba, Skamba, Kankliai festival takes place the last week in May each year, I’d highly recommend it. It’s also a good time to visit Lithuania in general as it’s warm and sunny: the sun sets late and rises early as it is relatively far north.

(Page 7 of 9)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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