The Lithuanian cuisine and the ubiquitous amber products give an insight into the small peculiarities of the country. Typical dishes, which vary from region to region, give an insight into the culture and are definitely worth a taste. Amber, which can be found in abundance on the coast of Lithuania, is not only a popular souvenir, but also a witness to the history of the earth. The Kuronian people are also worth making an excursion: They shaped the Lithuanian coast with their way of life, which is still expressed today on the Curonian Spit.
Bread is at the top of the Lithuanian grocery list. It is mostly made from sourdough and is often available as rye or black bread. It is often served with Lithuanian white cheese. Bread is also often baked with caraway seeds – a surprise (depending on personal taste) for those who try it for the first time. The bread is also very tasty fried with garlic and cheese. That goes perfectly with one of the good beers in Lithuania.
Traditional dishes are also filled pork intestines (vedarai), filled potato dumplings or potato casserole (kugelis). Cold soup (saltibarsciai) is particularly popular in summer. It consists of sour milk, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs and beetroot – an adventurous but tasty mixture.
Fish naturally play a major role, especially on the coast, but also in the lake areas. You can get it dried, cured or smoked, but of course also freshly prepared. Stuffed pike is a popular dish, and smelt and herring are also popular. The smelt festival takes place in Palanga in February, when you can enjoy the freshly prepared fish directly at the market stalls.
Lithuanian cuisine is regionally influenced in a variety of ways, many areas have their own traditional dishes. The Suvalkians, for example, are famous for their delicious smoked meat. In the north, in Žemaitien, jacket potatoes are often served with kastinys, a spicy cream butter. Potatoes are also common in Dzukija, as well as mushroom dishes. In Upper Lithuania, in Aukstaitija, pastries such as pancakes and cooked and filled dumplings (virtuinukai) are often on the menu.
Regional foods are popular and common. Berries are collected in summer and processed into compotes or jams, and mushrooms are often collected in autumn. You can often buy these products at small market stalls.
First of all, amber is nothing more than fossil resin. It is a stone made from the resin of conifers, which was created by hardening it over a period of millions of years.
But as sober and scientific its creation sounds, the whole thing is not: amber is a substance that enchants. Beautiful stones, mostly made into jewelry or as “pure” stones, appeal to the senses with their warm color and shimmering effect. The stone appears almost mystical, warm and mysterious.
Its color can vary from white to yellow to red, red-brown and even greenish tones are possible. Some stones are cloudy, have a lot of gas or water inclusions, some are crystal clear.
Its exact origin and the making are not clearly clarified. The Baltic amber probably comes from a geological amber forest, but there is no reliable evidence of its location.
Stones with so-called inclusions are particularly beautiful. These are inclusions of insects or other animal and plant remains as well as water or air. They give the stone character. Sometimes the living beings can even be recognized exactly – a small mosquito or fly that was surprised by the resinification and now provides information about the living beings of bygone times in the hardened stone.
The Amber Road in Lithuania includes several points of contact where the visitor can find out more about the “Lithuanian gold”. In Nida there is the amber gallery and the Mizgiris museum. Here you can even admire a specimen that weighs two kilograms! There is an amber museum in Juodkrante. This is where amber was extracted “on a large scale” in the 19th century. There is also an amber museum in Palanga. In the attached workshops you can follow the processing of the raw stone into jewelry. And in Karkle holidaymakers can go looking for them themselves, here most of the pieces are supposed to be washed ashore. Good luck!
In any case, buying an amber souvenir is almost as compulsory as eating smoked fish on the Curonian Spit and admiring the sunset from the Great Dune.
The Kuren are a Baltic ethnic group that originally settled along the Baltic Sea coast – from the Spit to what is now Latvian territory. They lived by and with the sea. The Kuren were famous for their boatbuilding skills, the Kurenkähne had similarities with the boats of the Vikings. Everywhere on the Curonian Spit you can still spot spa pennants today. They were used to mark the fishing boats and thus symbolized belonging to a certain place. The ornate pennants or flags go back to a decree that made fishing on the lagoon subject to legal rules.
Also interesting are the houses of the cures, which were always designed in natural colors – brown for the earth, blue for the sky and the water, white for the clouds and the whitecaps on the sea. These color combinations can still be found today on the old fishermen’s houses on the spit.
When walking through the cemetery around the church of Nida, you can admire the wooden tombs of the cures. It conveys a slightly mystical atmosphere, mostly they adorn symbols from nature. They clarify the pagan faith of the cures and combine that symbolism with that of the Christian faith.
The center of Europe
Who would have thought: Lithuania is the center of Europe despite its northern location defined by Countryaah. In 1989, French geographers calculated a point near the village of Purnuskes in southeast Lithuania as the center of Europe. This calculation is based on the extreme European points with Spitzbergen in the north, the Urals in the east, the Canary Islands in the south and the Azores in the west.