Monthly Archives: January 2017

Visit Lithuania this summer

Stuck for summer holiday inspiration? Lithuania has loads to offer, from wild, dune-backed eraches to even wilder festivals. And, with the country gearing up to celebrate 100 years since the restoration of the state (in 2018), there’s never been a better time to visit.

The Centenary Song Festival (in the capital Vilnius, June 2018), an extravaganza of folk music, dance, art and costume, will form a major part of the commemorations – but there’s plenty more to keep you entertained this summer.

From café culture in Vilnius to street art in Kaunas, and from peace and quiet on the coast to adventures deep in the forest, here are seven reasons why Lithuania should be your next trip.

 

1. For midsummer madness

Lithuania kicks off festival season with nationwide celebrations for St John’s Day (June 24), also known as Day of Dew, which has been celebrated on midsummer’s eve for centuries.

Locals stay up until dawn, taking over town and village squares, or heading to the countryside where bonfires are lit, herbs gathered and dew collected – magical powers can be harnessed, it is believed. Of course, all this is experienced against a backdrop of feasting, drinking, music and barefoot dancing.

 

2. For a glimpse of history

Kernavė, 40km northwest of capital Vilnius, is a quiet spot for most of the year. But this rich archaeological site comes to life when thousands descend for the summer solstice.

The area includes hill forts and burial grounds and has UNESCO World Heritage status. Finds dating back to Paleolithic times were first uncovered in the seventies and are strikingly well preserved thanks to the layers of silt that submerged them when the River Neris flooded. Many are on show at the site museum, from padlocks and arrowheads to fine jewellery and what look like extremely well-worn shoes.

At its peak in the thirteenth century, Kernavė was considered the country’s capital and the crafts that helped earn it that status are celebrated in the popular Kernavė Festival of Experimental Archeology. Held every July, the festival sees lively demonstrations of traditional skills (from mead production to yarn dyeing) and contemporary local arts and crafts to browse alongside.

Best homestay experiences when you are travelling

Why struggle as a stranger in a foreign land when you can opt to travel as a friend in a familiar city? Homestays offer a more intimate alternative to traditional hotels that, with the help of a friendly host, can showcase the soul of a city shielded beneath the mask of a modern megalopolis.

In our last feature, we revealed the best cities in Europe to try a homestay. Here, we look at the best cities from around the world, from Toronto to Tokyo, and what to look forward to when you’re prepared to swap the hotel mod cons for a spare room in a local’s home.

 

1. New York City

From Brooklyn to The Bronx, The City That Never Sleeps strikes an electrifying chord composed of the shrieks of sports venues, cries of concert halls, whines of office workers and the drunken babble seeping from the city’s bars. A homestay in the Big Apple can help you escape from the claustrophobic cluster of hotels surrounding Midtown Manhattan and have you dancing to your own beat. Options include the arty maritime neighbourhood of Red Hook, the bustling backstreets of charming Chinatown or slow-paced Inwood, home to acres of peaceful parkland where the city’s howl dims to a pleasant hum.

 

2. Sydney

That iconic snap of Sydney – the sun spilling over cocktail-swilling crowds swarming the hallowed harbour that reflects the resplendent opera house in its calm waters – can promote an image of Australia’s largest city as somewhat one dimensional. Mixing with locals in a homestay can awaken guests to the city’s myriad of exciting activities. Visitors can sink into a salt-water swimming pool, swerve through the city on a Segway or attempt that most archetypal of Aussie activities: surfing (not barbecuing).

 

3. Toronto

Canadians are renowned for their hospitality, and in Canada’s largest and most multicultural metropolis it can be beneficial to have a host help cut through the city’s modern veneer. A recommendation for the best exhibits in the monolithic Royal Ontario Museum, one of the largest museums in North America, could very well turn into a day out that sees you sampling Queen Street’s sloppiest poutine and scoring rink-side tickets to witness the Maple Leafs, Toronto’s professional ice hockey team, carve up the ice. You’ve been warned.