Spring slinks into Lithuania across the sleeping fields
It is as if the earth breathes in and softly whispers: “No more snow”. Grass sprouts up and trees come into leaf. Then, in the midst of enchanted nights, trees burst into blossom. Have you ever tried walking on a carpet of white petals soaked in the lingering aroma of apple trees? The blooming is a reminder that night always changes into day, and youth always wins. You can find this inscribed in the history of our young, independent country as well. The things we do in spring? We decorate Easter eggs, pack our backpacks for the first hiking trips, and go to forests, gardens or city parks with friends. We also travel to Pamarys to watch the spring flood and feel incredibly proud of its people. Because life is real here. Just as Lithuania is.
Nemunas Delta Regional Park is an exceptional combination of nature, culture, and sustainable tourism. A unique part of Nemunas Delta is Rusnė – an island surrounded by bogs and swamps that is located between Atmata and Skirvytė, which are distributaries of the Nemunas River. The unique landscape is created by the intertwining rivers, Krokų Lanka (a lake/lagoon), the delta flood-meadows, and the village of Minija (Mingė), which is known as the Venice of Lithuania.
Nemunas Delta is an important rest stop for travelling birds, as well as a breeding ground for many rare species. Also worth a visit is the Ventės Ragas Ornithological Station, where you can see how birds are banded. Especially during the big spring floods, this can be an unforgettable experience, since this is when the huge delta meadows are full of rare water birds. Nemunas Delta Regional Park is equipped with educational trails, observations towers and information stands. A favourite among tourists, the Aukštumala Educational Trail provides a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the raised bog and experience its distinctive and inimitable beauty.
On a peninsula washed by the Curonian Lagoon and under one of the main bird migration routes is the Ventės Ragas Ornithological Station. The people who have been working there for almost a hundred years and the ornithologists who come from different countries wait every spring and autumn for the cackling flocks. Each year, tens of thousands of birds are ringed at the station.
Next to the impressive traps, there is also the oldest lighthouse in Lithuania. Its doors are open to visitors who want to get a bird’s-eye view of the wavy waters and the golden dunes of the Curonian Spit emerging in the distance.
When the days in Lithuania brighten up and the spring rains wash off winter’s dust, we start getting ready for long evenings out in the fresh air. The stages of the street welcome those who leave the winter halls behind, singing, jazzing and strumming guitars. Art, design, folklore, Lindy hop, sutartinės, hot air balloons, and kids shouting with joy take to the streets. Reverberating with musical instruments and variegated voices, Street Music Day is expanding out of Vilnius – to other parts of Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine, and with echoes in Georgia, England and Ireland. In Kaunas, the Hanseatic Days foster old traditions and knight fights, the bank of the Nemunas is bedecked with colourful kites, and runners, walkers, cyclists and weightlifters breathe in deeply. It’s impossible to resist the call of spring!
On the day that marks the beginning of spring (one week to Easter), the streets of Lithuanian cities and towns burst into bloom! Lithuanians take branches of juniper or ornate Palm Sunday palms (Lith. verba) to church to be consecrated, believing that they will protect their home from evil and bad luck the whole year. Upon returning home from church, one has to gently whip members of the family with the consecrated palm who didn’t go to church, not as a punishment, but as a wish for good health. The tradition of making Palm Sunday palms from the dwarf spruce tree is centuries old in Lithuania, especially in Vilnius, so on this day, you can buy palms of different sizes next to churches – they make a wonderful souvenir from Lithuania!
Easter eggs are the main attribute of Lithuanian Easter. Colored eggs symbolizing life and rebirth, are the main Easter dish, and the main object of Easter traditions and games. Beating your relatives at the strongest-Easter-egg competition at the festive Easter breakfast table, is everyone’s dream! There are countless ways to color Easter eggs in Lithuania: from scratching and waxing techniques that require high proficiency to archaic coloring using onion skins.
The 15-meter-tall Meteliai Observation Tower offers a wonderful view of one of the most beautiful lakes in southern Lithuania and its surroundings. From early spring to late autumn, it is a perfect spot to observe water fowl, especially the mute swan.
A water and bird paradise that emits pure Baltic tranquillity. This is what bird watchers call the Nemunas Delta. The serenity and quiet of unspoiled nature, the morning fog, the flooded meadows, and the tall grass and shrubs make it a great hideout for the rare species of birds that appear when the freshet begins and leave when the waters begin to ice over. This is a place which provides shelter to globally endangered greater spotted eagles, great snipes, black-tailed godwits, Eurasian curlews, and aquatic warblers. Geese, swans, ducks and sandpipers fly here, and flocks of thousands of passerines and birds of prey fly past overhead.
More than 300 species of birds have been counted in the Nemunas Delta and its surroundings, and one of the first banding stations in the world has been operating in Ventės Ragas since 1929, which also has the largest mist net in the world.
The best time for bird watching in the Nemunas Delta and the grasslands of the Curonian Lagoon is spring or autumn. In spring, the Nemunas Delta Regional Park even holds Parskrenda paukščiai (“The Birds Return”), a special event to welcome the birds back.
Everything in this world is changing, but it’s nice that some things are not. The people who have kept the secrets of their family’s craft for centuries are truly amazing. They throw ceramic ware the exact same way their ancestors did hundreds of years ago, and then fire it in a kiln with real fire, the exact same way their grandparents did. In Lithuanian villages, we can still find looms that our great-grandmothers used to weave their dowry. Today, ancient Baltic weaving patterns have taken on new meaning and a new life. Likewise, people still hang wooden crosses carved according to ancient tradition in their homes, still own carving of the Pensive Christ, and still stir jam on modern stoves with wooden spoons. Blacksmithing has always been an exceptional craft in Lithuania. Having earned respect, artisans now use their talented hands to decorate our homes and surroundings. You can see these crafts at the folk art fairs that are so popular in Lithuania, or you can learn them during educational programmes held by museums or the artisans themselves.
When Helen Mirren walks into her home as Catherine the Great in the new HBO mini series named after the famous Russian Empress, she’s not really in the actual rooms of the famed Tsarskoye Selo palace just south of Saint Petersburg. She’s actually in the historical Vilnius University Library in Vilnius, Lithuania. This and many more secrets are shared in a new guide entitled Vilnius On Screen. It’s a perfect read for those interested in what goes on behind the scenes of the latest productions by the likes of HBO, Netflix, National Geographic, Sky TV, and many more. The guide invites readers to take a deep dive into renowned film and television titles like War and Peace, Jack the Ripper, the Conductor, and more – and shows them how Vilnius provided the setting they needed to bring their stories to life.
Lithuanians drink amber tea, nettle wine, blueberry kvass and dandelion coffee, and they extract so much mineral water they can bathe in it. And, every spring, they drink juice from the trees.
Seasonal food is the main characteristic of Lithuanian cuisine. The sap from maple or birch trees has for a long time been the first natural treat of the year. The time to enjoy this slightly sweet nutritional drink, one sip of which embraces an entire waking forest, is the month of March.
Last year was a record one for the Lithuanian tourism sector. In 2018, 3.6 million tourists travelled in our country and spent at least one night here: of these, 1.7 million were people from abroad, while 1.9 million were from Lithuania.
It is now possible to travel back in time to when Vilnius was known as the Jerusalem of the North. Unlocking the Jewish cultural heritage deeply embedded into the city’s streets, buildings, and history has just become a lot easier thanks to the new free guide entitled, Discover Jewish Heritage in Vilnius.
Your urban birding can start right in the centre of the old town, that is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. While admiring the medieval architecture, also dish out equal admiration for the Black Redstarts that adorn many of the city’s pinnacles.