New Years in Lithuania
Posted on January 24, 2011 at 4:11am Madrid / 10:11pm Cincinnati by Kelly Larbes
What I will remember most about spending New Years in Lithuania with Milda and Mario is how bitterly cold it was. I am just not made for the cold. The great company will be a close second, especially Milda’s dog, Baris (No insult intended towards the company of Milda and Mario, but Baris was so cool). Lithuania’s weather made memories of Munich feel like summer. I wished I had my long down-filled coat with me.
We had a layover in Riga, Latvia on the way to Kaunas, Lithuania. We left the terminal to board the plane outside, and crews seemed to be working steadily on snow removal, but there was still about 3 inches on the ground that we walked through. The plane was a beautiful sight as it sat covered in snow alone on a wide expanse of white fluff. (I wished we had a camera…) After getting de-iced, we took off from Riga in a small prop plane in heavy snow. I was uncharacteristically a bit nervous, but it was actually much smoother than many flights I’ve experienced in calm weather.
Our first full day in Lithuania, the high temperature was 17°F (-8°C). We bundled up and headed to the capital, Vilnius, for sightseeing. I was envious of Milda’s awesome fur hat. I considered buying one for myself, but I thought it might seem like overkill back in Madrid or even Cincinnati. The thick snow made all of Lithuania seem like a winter wonderland. There were so many areas of white powdery untouched snow. I wanted to run and make snow angels, but I wasn’t dressed for it.
Vilnius’s historic old town was full of charming old buildings (and I think also some newer ones made to look old), lots of churches, and two real Christmas trees. We walked through town and then took a break for tea and hot chocolate before climbing up to the town’s fortress. The fort offered a great view over the historic town on one side and the newer modern town on the other. The most amusing part was descending the hill from the fort because parts of the path were a giant slippery ice slide. Luckily there was a railing and we carefully guided (glided?) ourselves down.
We enjoyed a late lunch at a traditional Lithuanian restaurant. After being in Germany, the food prices in Lithuanian were such a welcome surprise. The food was a great value and delicious. My favorite was a thick creamy chicken soup in a bread bowl. It warmed me up inside. We also sampled potato pancakes and dumplings, staple Lithuanian foods.
Milda and Mario are our good friends from Croatia. Milda is Lithuanian, so they were spending the holidays there with her family. It gave us the perfect opportunity to visit with them and see a new place. Jay and I also stayed with Milda’s family. They were such gracious hosts. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations, especially because everyone shared different cultures and different language strengths. The conversations were an amusing crazy mix of spoken languages: English, Lithuanian, Croatian, and German (of course, only English for me and English and German for Kelly).
New Years Eve day we went sightseeing in Kaunas. It wasn’t quite as charming as Vilnius, but I loved walking through the snow-covered park along the frozen river and eating fresh donuts at the Soviet era diner that hasn’t ever changed — the food, the decor, nor the waitresses.
We rang in New Years 2011 at a local bar with half the Lithuanian national basketball team and a white Lithuanian Tina Turner. It was possibly the best people watching New Years ever. There was lots of bleach blond hair, cleavage, very high heels, sparkly dresses and good-looking women. As much as I am sure the guys enjoyed it, I was just as amused.
We had a great night singing along to Tina Turner songs and dancing. We celebrated the Croatian and Spanish New Year at 11pm and then the official Lithuanian New Year at midnight. It all went by way too quickly. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye the next day when we had to leave, especially since I knew that would mean saying goodbye to Jay a few hours later.
Hopefully Milda and Mario visit us someday in Cincinnati.