Time to express some final thoughts on my experience in Lithuania through grading the country in several different key areas. All grades will be on a 1-5 scale with stacked Oli hats as the units.
Lithuania certainly had a unique culture: between the emphasis on the outdoors, a relative lack of tourism, remote castles, unique culinary dishes, and a proud history (despite its bleak outcomes), you can definitely feel the culture. That said, I was definitely not a fan of the general lackadaisical nature of workers (of which the waitresses were unbelievably slow) and the volume of unique architecture styles in the major cities was not substantial. Sure, most of it was destroyed in war, but there is a significant difference between being in front of a 1000 year old building and being in front of a building rebuilt in the 90s to resemble the original 1000 year old building. It’d be like if an eighteen year old girl decided to do her makeup to look like a 90 year old, and then tried hitting on you: just not the greatest.
The people of Lithuania were awesome. Between the coolest hostel owner I’ve ever met, the general helpfulness of locals, the approach-ability of all the people at bars, Lithuanians were incredible. It also doesn’t hurt that the women from Lithuania are unbelievably attractive; seriously guys, it was unreal. I never met a single person who was rude to me because I spoke English, and never saw a single crime committed. If Lithuania doesn’t get full marks in this category, no country does.
If Lithuania doesn’t get full marks for scenery, I’m not sure which country could. I guess you could say the United States would beat it, but come on. Lithuania is the size of West Virginia and it had basically it all: the island castle, abundant forestry, the Curonian Spit, the Baltic Sea, etc. The only thing it’s really missing are mountains, as the highest point in Lithuania is less than 1000 feet.
Food & Drinks
The food in Lithuania actually sucked, in my opinion. Everything seemed to include potatoes, sour cream, beetroots, and “meat”. The only dish there that I truly enjoyed was the beer snack of fried bread covered in garlic. And even those were inconsistently prepared from place to place — some seemed stale or not freshly prepared. Even the one Western dish I tried — pizza — was lackluster. If you’re looking for good cuisine, look elsewhere.
The beer, on the other hand, was pretty good. In addition to having some good local brews, the widely brewed Švyturys Baltas was a great hefeweizen. I also tried some locally-made, illegal vodka which was quite good. The beer makes up for the food, but I recommend drinking a few beers before eating if you want to even somewhat enjoy your meal. Or just don’t eat because, let’s be serious, you’re fat. Yes, you!
On the plus side of the other category: wireless internet is available basically everywhere for free. This is particularly useful if you’re from California and cannot interact with people from home except for very small windows of time. It has afforded me the opportunity to call people from cool locations or cafes that I wouldn’t be able to in the States, or update this website on the fly. Pretty cool and I wish it was more like this in the States.
There were some weird things I’ll remember about Lithuania, though. One: despite being the most popular sport in Lithuania, it is not possible to buy their jerseys. They only sell team shirts or other forms of clothing to support the team. I was disappointed with that because I really wanted to sport a Valanciunas jersey for the rest of my trip, and to send one to Jack. Two: the railway system in Lithuania does not connect to Latvia or the northern Baltics, so you are forced to take buses to the north. If you end up on the bus I was on, which included a kitten let loose in an AC-less cabin that you couldn’t eat in for the entire trip (of roughly five hours) then good luck. That was the second worst part of my trip thus far, trumped only by that time Niklas came and hung out with us in Dusseldorf; it’s hard not to hit my keyboard just thinking about when he showed up.
Overall, Lithuania definitely deserves a visit. I actually enjoyed Lithuania more than I enjoyed several of the Western countries, including France and Italy. It’s also ridiculously cheap everywhere for everything, so cost shouldn’t be an issue. Overall, I spent eight days in Lithuania, and it was basically the perfect amount of time to explore some of the lesser traveled parts — Curonian Spit and Trakai — while seeing the two largest cities in Vilnius and Kaunas. If you think Lithuania is potentially not safe because it’s more Eastern Europe than Western Europe, and that’s why you’re not going, that is really, really stupid. I felt more safe there than I do back home or when I’m around Kevin Maar and headrests.