You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Summer’ category.

This past weekend, the Artisans Guild presented Vilnius residents with an opportunity to travel back in time to the late Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.  The Bartholomew’s Fair celebrates the granting of privileges to the first artisan guild in Lithuania — the goldsmiths — in 1495.  Town Hall Square was filled with artisans demonstrating various trades, as well as dance and music performances.  You could try your hand at the bellows or bore holes with an awl or sew a book binding.  After checking out the booths on Saturday at lunch time, I returned in the evening to listen to Remdih, a Czech group that plays European music from the Middles Ages.  They were a rollicking band and even featured a tight-rope walker.

Watching a hand-cranked "movie" about the life of St. Christopher

Watching a hand-cranked "movie" about the life of St. Christopher

I loved this kiln!

I loved this kiln!

Last Saturday, we had a welcome return to summer weather so a friend and I took a bike ride through Verkiai Park.  I have been on four bike rides this summer — a significant number since I think the last time I rode a bike was 20 years ago.  But they say you never forget how to ride a bike and, after a bit of a shaky start, I did just fine.

Saturday’s ride went along the Neris river and then into the forest.  The highlight — seeing a red fox running through a field.  Unfortunately I don’t have a photo for you because the fox had disappeared into the trees by the time I got off the bicycle and got out my camera.  We stopped at a beach on the river and watched the kids swim.  We stopped at another point along the river and watched some men fish.

The air temperature was warm, but the water temperature was much too cold for me to swim.

The air temperature was warm, but the water temperature was much too cold for me to swim.

Taking a break on the bank of the River Neris

Taking a break on the bank of the River Neris

Here are a few more photos from my weekend at the beach in Palanga.

The two things you need most at the beach -- sunglasses and beach towels

The two things you need most at the beach -- sunglasses and beach towels

The boardwalk on a summer Saturday evening

The boardwalk on a summer Saturday evening

View from the dunes

View from the dunes

I spent this past weekend in Palanga on the Baltic Sea coast.  In May, I went to Klaipėda —  a port city — and Nida — a rustic beach resort.  Palanga is more like the Daytona Beach of Lithuania, a beach vacation town for the common person.  An American friend and I took the Friday evening train to Klaipėda and spent the night, then took a bus to Palanga on Saturday morning.  I almost canceled the trip because the weather forecast said it would rain all weekend.  Luckily for us, the weather forecast was wrong and, although it was cool and windy, the sun was shining.  On Saturday we walked on the beach in the afternoon and the botanical gardens in the evening, then watched the sunset from the pier.  On Sunday we rented bikes and rode on the beach and on trails through the pine forest along the coast.  Then it was the bus back to Klaipėda and the evening train home.  I liked Palanga — it’s crowded and touristy, but fun.  We stayed at a clean, convenient and unremarkable hotel.  I want to figure out how to make reservations at one of the cute guesthouses in Palanga.  They weren’t in my guidebook but there were quite a few that looked like they would be great places to stay.

On the beach with the bikes

On the beach with the bikes

Waiting on the pier for the sun to set

Waiting on the pier for the sun to set

One of my favorite groups in the song festival parade were these Canadians who turned a classic rock song into a national anthem.

On Monday, over 40,000 song festival participants marched from the Vilnius Cathedral to Vingis Park.  My neighbor, her father and I found an excellent spot on Gedimino Prospect to watch the parade pass by.  Our plan was to then go to Vingis Park ourselves and watch the concert.  However, the rain started at the same time that the parade started.  Although it was a light rain, we were unprepared so we were wet and cold when the parade finally ended two hours later.  We decided that we’d rather go home, get dry and warm, and watch the closing song festival event on television.  I was a bit disappointed not to be in the crowd and to see the mass concert live, but we saw and heard more on t.v. than we would have at the park — since we probably would have ended up far away from the stage.  My neighbor and I enjoyed the concert while sitting on my comfy sofa drinking mugs of hot tea.

Each group carried a sign with the name of their town and I think that every single town in Lithuania was represented in the parade.  Some of the larger cities, such as Kaunas and Klaipeda, had more than one group participating.  In addition to many groups in national costumes, there were marching bands and girls with pom-poms.  Most of the choirs were singing as they walked along.  By far, the song we heard most often was “Graži Lietuva.”  They waved to the spectators and we waved back and cheered for each town.  There were Lithuanian groups from countries as nearby as Belarus and as far away as Australia, Brazil and Argentina.

The dance festival event lasted for two and a half hours.  The first part featured dancers in costumes that I think represented the medieval period of Lithuanian history.  The second part featured dancers wearing traditional 19th century costumes.  Below are two brief videos to give you an idea of the dances performed in each part of the event.

I can now say that regardless of nationality and whether there is a sporting event or cultural festival on the field, it is human nature to do the wave when in a stadium.  I was surprised and entertained that the crowd of spectators enthusiastically did the wave while folk dancers twirled below us on the field!

Midsummer is a major holiday in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  Although it is now celebrated in conjunction with Saint John’s Day (June 24), this holiday goes back to ancient pagan traditions.  In Lithuania, these traditions include bonfires, singing and dancing, weaving oak leaves and flower wreaths, and fortune-telling.  While most of the festivities take place out in the countryside, most notably in forests or on hill sites of ancient settlements, I attended similar festivities in a park in Vilnius last night.  I was out late last night and I am off to Riga this morning so I’ll post more about our adventures on the weekend.

Women wearing traditional wreaths at the Joninės festivities

Women wearing traditional wreaths at the Joninės festivities

View of Neris River from Verkių Park

View of Neris River from Verkių Park

Thousands of people stayed up all night in Vilnius on Saturday to celebrate the summer solstice at the Let There Be Night festival.  I didn’t manage to stay up all night, but I was out quite late enjoying the festivities.  There were stages and performance venues throughout the city center.  Museums  and galleries stayed open all night.  Events includes music performances, poetry readings, films, illusionists, and more.  Vilnius doesn’t seem to have laws banning open containers since we saw quite a few people walking around with bottles of beer.  But I was impressed with how well-mannered the crowd was — no raucous drunks or violence or vandalism that I observed.  People were there to enjoy the shortest night of the year — and it was a lot of fun!

Listening to Beethoven's Sonata Nr. 7 in the park at 11 p.m.

Listening to Beethoven's Sonata Nr. 7 in the park at 11 p.m.

The Fire Dancers' van making its way through the crowd to the performance site.

The Fire Dancers' van making its way through the crowd to the performance site.

The Fire Dancers performing across from Cathedral Square at 12:30 a.m.