About 6 years ago, my Mom and I became travel buddies and at the top of the visit list were those places from which her family emigrated. Her father’s family came from Italy and her mother’s family came from Lithuania. When I started at Exeter, I was thrilled to see that they specialized in the Baltics – the name for the three countries on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe – and decided that is where we’d go next.
When word came that Europe would be opening in the summer of 2021, I started looking at airfare and we decided to take the chance and book flights for the end of October. Our plan was to go from Lithuania to Latvia and on to Estonia. Just a few days before we left, we had to switch gears a bit due to some regulation changes in Latvia. Luckily, Air Baltic’s flight schedule made this simple – we opted to simply leave Latvia out of our itinerary (this time!) and fly from Vilnius, Lithuania to Tallinn, Estonia.
The extra time we were able to spend in Lithuania and Estonia really turned out for the best. We got to explore not just Klaipeda and the Curonian Spit but also Kaunas, an often overlooked city (and soon to be one of Europe’s 2022 Cultural Capitals). In Vilnius, we took a food tour and sampled Lithuanian cheeses, beer and delicious fried black bread. One of the most memorable things during our trip actually took place during our food tour. We were guided into the back of a tiny market a bit off the beaten path in Vilnius’s Old Town. Set up on a small table, there was a block of soft cheese, sausages, cucumbers and bread. We settled in and began our tasting. After one bite of the cheese my mom said quietly “Oh my gosh, my grandfather used to make this.” She’d completely forgotten about her grandfather’s farmers cheese and it was a gift to see her recalling her childhood while in the country of her grandparents.
All the while in Lithuania, we stayed at the lovely hotels we recommend to our clients – the Kempinski in Vilnius, the Michaelson House in Klaipeda and the Radisson in Kaunas. We were, of course, sad to say goodbye to Lithuania.
We flew to Tallinn for our final portion of our trip. Since we were staying a few days more than originally expected, we opted to go outside the city for a night, allowing us the opportunity to explore Lahemaa National Park, the quaint fishing villages along the sea and the highlight here, a bog walk in Viru Bog (an absolute MUST).
During our stay in Tallinn, we stayed at a new hotel, L’Embitu, located just a 5 minute walk from Old Town, and just loved our stay there. The spa had a beautiful pool, steam sauna, Finnish Sauna, cold plunge pool and a Japanese soaking tub. It was the perfect place to wind down after a long day exploring the Old Town and markets. I’d been lucky enough to have visited Tallinn in 2019 for their Christmas Markets and it was so much fun to show my Mom some of my favorite places!
My Mom has already decided she’d like to explore Lithuania more. After we returned, she found some contacts of relatives still living there, and she’s curious to see more of the countryside. This is, for me, a great compliment – wanting to return to a land to experience just a bit more and to feel true kinship with strangers based on heritage. We left Lithuania with a sense of pride of this part of our familial history, which is a priceless gift that couldn’t have been acquired by any other way except having been there ourselves.
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