I am in Vilnius first time after 33 years. I visited it several times before when I was still in school (the Baltic countries were “affordable West”), and 33 years ago, it was our first romantic getaway with Boris. After that, he visited Vilnius several times for many conferences, but not me.
I was looking forward to DevDays Europe in Vilnius, but then as I mentioned, they moved online. I could cancel the hotel, but as for the plane tickets, I could only move them to a different date. I thought: we talked about going to Vilnius before, so why not now?
I moved a hotel reservation to the end of the week, cut one day off our stay, and moved the plane tickets, so here we are now! The hotel location is perfect; the room is super cozy, the weather is sunny, and the food is great and half-price of what you have in Finland.
The biggest food/drink discovery of that visit to Helsinki – glogg! I have no idea why I didn’t try it before; it’s not the first time I am in Helsinki during the season. Perhaps, the previous visits at this time of the year were too brief, and also I could not imagine it is that different from what you can buy at IKEA…
My only regret is that I didn’t buy any to take with me, although I had checked luggage. For some reason, I thought they might have it in a duty-free at the airport, and they didn’t…
I smuggled several dairy products and a box of lingonberries from Finland. The berries were only sold in large containers, so I could not finish all of the while I was in Helsinki. But then I remembered that when I was a young pioneer in the summer camp, we would pick lingonberries and store them in the jars or just cardboard boxes until our moms would come to visit. I remembered that nothing happened to them.
I decided to pack the rest of berries to take home, and it work perfectly fine, especially because I genuinely forgot I had them in my luggage and with all honesty told the custom control that I have no fruits or plants with me:)
Finished the box just yesterday – so good! Or, and by the way, out of all dairy which I smuggled I only ate one, the pear skyr. Anna and Nadia ate the rest :). I should smuggle more next time 🙂
I always blog a lot about food in Helsinki, because I like it so much, and because it is so different from other places. And since I do not want to end up having each and single of my Finnish blog post about food, I decided to have a separate food post. My old friends know 🙂
In summer, the best part is the abundance of local berries. Local strawberries are tiny and taste a lot like wild strawberries. I do not have pictures this time, but Boris added them to every fruit salad we consumed.
Unfortunately, it was too early for black and red currants, but wild blueberries were available in the stores and the cloudberries – you can’t find them in the US.
Then comes the salmon soup – the best staple of Finnish cuisine, FOr the past two years we favored the one from the shore cafe in Suomenlinna, but Boris told me that they stopped serving it. We tried in two other places, and the Fazer cafe didn’t fail us.
Back to the conference, back to Cyprus. After the amazing tour of Kurion, we headed back to Limassol. Once again, we learned a lot about Cyprus’ history from our tour guide. In Old Town, we disembarked the bus and had a walking tour. We had one more option to visit Limassol Castle. I posted al the pictures in this post, and I think it was worth visiting the Castle twice, in the daylight and the evening. After walking around and seeing more old streets, we finally arrived at the place of the conference dinner. Mezedopagida tavern.
If you do not know what “meze” means in Cyprus (and in some other countries), let,e tell you! That is a never-ending appearance of amazing dishes, and when you think that’s it, three more appear at the table. You have to sample them all, because it is impossible not to!
I was somewhat prepared by Boris and by hints from the local organizers. so I had a light breakfast and light lunch (both were quite challenging to achieve, having all the buffet options available!
And then there was meze. We sat at the table with local organizers, which made our navigation through different foods somewhat easier. There was also very nice local wine. And now I will stop talking and start showing 🙂
One of the best things in Finland is Finnish cuisine. Although it’s difficult for me to select just one thing which is ultimately the best if pressed to make a choice, I will choose the Finnish salmon soup.
Boris and I have a whole grading system for the establishments in Helsinki and around, which serve the salmon soup. Sometimes the place we love would stop serving the salmon soup or do not serve it every day, or the quality degrades. However, for the past several months, our Number One salmon soup place is a ravintola by the pier of Suomenlinna, right where the passengers disembark for the ferry.
I do not know why it is almost never too crowded. Perhaps, because people think that the first place they come across can’t be the best. Or maybe they do not like salmon soup as much :).
But we made a choice. Sometimes, when we do not even have time to walk around the island, we come there just for the soup – after all, it’s only 15 minutes of the ferry ride. For 10 euros you get a quart of soup as thick as a stew, yummy like nothing else, as much of the freshly baked baguette as you want and a cup of coffee or tea.
The only close to that experience I can remember is being in Prague in September :). So many tourists on the streets, it’s difficult to walk. Weekend or weekday – does not matter. Lot’s of people everywhere. Lots of bicycles. People, cars, and bikes are trying to get from point A to point B and back without even pretending they are following the rules :). If it were by me, I would choose different dates to come here.
The city tries to survive this tourist invasion. Honestly, I can’t even blame anybody. On the big scheme of things, that’s their city; it belongs to people who live there, not tourists. My local friend commented on the poor quality of service here in Amsterdam, and in Holland in general. And sadly, I have to agree with her. But once again, I can hardly blame anybody.
In addition to really wild traffic on the sidewalks, the next problem we’ve faced was the operation hours of most of the places where you can eat. Being not just American, but also from the North, and even for a person from the North an extremely early riser, not being able to get breakfast on Saturday before 9 AM was a real problem. I am up by 5 AM regardless of the day of the week, so you get the situation :). On Saturday morning, although my sleep time was adjusted for the previous 31-hour day:), I was up by 6-20. We tried both breakfast places recommended by our host, but one was closed till 9, the other one was opened by 7-30, but they said, that they might have some breakfast “in an hour.” A couple of other places where just opened (about 8 AM), but took our idea to have breakfast in such a time on Saturday as an insult :).
Finally, one place close to the central train station was opened and had decent food, good coffee, and even fruits 🙂
Most of the time we travel, we enjoy trying some local street food, and I have some “calorie budget” allocated for that. One very satisfying experience was baked potatoes: