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Vilnius Lights Up For Sixth Time — City Marks Entrance to Its New Century 

The highly anticipated sixth Vilnius Light Festival has begun, and has already transformed Vilnius’s streets into illuminated art. Artists from the Netherlands, Poland, France, Lithuania, and the UK began showcasing their installations yesterday, bringing thousands of people eager to see newly interpreted urban areas within the city. 

January 26, 2024. The tradition to brighten up the post-holiday slump in January is going strong in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The sixth annual Vilnius Light Festival returned to the streets, courtyards, and alleys of the Old Town on January 25. It is expected that around 200K visitors will visit the festival, as every year.

Vilnius is celebrating its 701st anniversary on the 25th of January with the Vilnius Light Festival while entering a new century after the jubilee year, a grand celebration that brought together more than 150 partners and hosted hundreds of festive events. During this time, the capital of Lithuania was celebrated as one of the 100 best cities to live worldwide by Euromonitor, while the country is among the top 20 happiest nations according to the World Happiness report. Additionally, Vilnius was awarded as the 2025 European Green Capital.

In 2024, the Vilnius Light Festival program consists of two parts: the main one with curator-selected installations and the second with initiatives by culture, arts, science, education, and business organizations, concluding to 20 light art installations.

This weekend, the Old Town draws visitors with unique venues like the Arts Printing House. Housed in a 16th-century printing house, this contemporary arts center showcases two light installations. One, called Flux by Polish artist Ksawery Komputery, explores virtual communication through 4,800 meters of LED strings and 144,000 pixels, unveiling hidden algorithms of virtual meetings. Another installation is Continuum presented in the yard of Lithuania’s presidential palace, by the UK artist duo Illumaphonium. The piece transforms the urban landscape with geometric mirrors, mesmerizing light, and sound monoliths while asking how we identify the city’s space where we live. Additionally, the capital invites visitors to dive into the alternate space-themed Vilnius through a mockumentary by artist Rimas Sakalauskas, offering a speculative vision of the city’s creation, history, and life beyond Earth. 

The Vilnius Light Festival is open January 25–28 from 6 PM to 11 PM. It is important to check the description of each installation for the exact visiting times. Visitors can find all the festival routes in the map provided by the organizers and easily plan their commuting in the city area. Additionally, the festival’s app with routes and installation information is available on Google Play and App Store.

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In Pursuit of the Northern Lights: The Ultimate Guide to a Breathtaking Experience

The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon that has captivated travelers worldwide. In this guide, we unveil top travel destinations and experiences for those seeking the ultimate Northern Lights spectacle.

Top Destinations for Viewing the Northern Lights

  • Tromsø, Norway: Situated ideally for Northern Lights viewing, Tromsø offers spectacular sightings, especially during autumn and winter months. The city hosts numerous guided tours and activities aimed at providing an unforgettable experience of this celestial wonder. Additionally, Tromsø’s surrounding areas offer numerous secluded spots for light-pollution-free observation.
  • Abisko, Sweden: Known for its clear skies and minimal light pollution, Abisko National Park is a prime location to admire the ethereal display. At the heart of the park lies the Aurora Sky Station, one of the world’s premier observation points. The elevated station offers mesmerizing panoramic views of the Northern Lights.

  • Rovaniemi, Finland: Recognized as the home of Santa Claus and a top destination for Northern Lights viewing, Rovaniemi in Lapland provides excellent sightings, particularly during November and February. The city boasts several spas and glass igloos, offering a unique and comfortable setting to marvel at the sky’s spectacle. Guided tours are also available, where experts share the best observation spots and photography tips.
  • Reykjavik, Iceland: While the Icelandic capital offers Northern Lights views, it’s recommended to venture slightly outside the city to reduce light pollution and enhance visibility. Thingvellir National Park, an hour’s drive from Reykjavik and a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides a scenic and tranquil setting for light-watching.

Unique Northern Lights Experiences

Observing the Northern Lights can be more than just sky-gazing. Here are some exceptional experiences to make your trip unforgettable:

  • Glass Igloo Stay: Several hotels offer glass igloo accommodations, allowing you to watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed. This privileged view of the sky lets you revel in the spectacle without braving the cold outdoors.
  • Guided Tours: Led by a professional guide, you can discover the best viewing spots and learn about the captivating phenomenon. Additionally, guides can offer photography tips to help capture your unique experience.
  • Husky Sled Rides: Imagine being on a sled pulled by huskies while the Northern Lights dance above – a romantic, adventurous, and breathtaking combination that enhances your Northern Lights experience.

Travel Tips for Northern Lights Chasers

To optimize your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights, consider the next travelling tips:

  • Weather Forecast: Check the weather, especially cloud cover and any reported Aurora Borealis sightings. Clear skies enhance viewing opportunities. Several websites and apps offer specific Northern Lights predictions to help plan your observation times.
  • Darkness Matters: Light pollution can hinder visibility, so seek out dark, isolated spots like national parks. A short distance from urban areas can greatly improve your viewing experience.
  • Night Vigil: The Northern Lights are often most vivid late at night or early in the morning when darkness heightens visibility and color intensity. Stay awake and keep an eye on the sky for a potentially unforgettable sight.
  • Be Patient: Remember that the Northern Lights are unpredictable. Their appearance can’t be guaranteed.

Entertainment for Aurora Enthusiasts

While waiting for nature’s light show, consider these entertainment options: read a book, listen to music, play card games with fellow enthusiasts, or practice night photography. If you enjoy online entertainment, consider the GetLucky online casino for some excitement during the wait. Play your favorite games for an exciting and rewarding wait. However, don’t forget to immerse yourself in the surrounding nature and remain vigilant for the Northern Lights.

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7 Things To Know About Vilnius, Host of NATO Summit 2023


ImageVilnius panorama. Photo by Joana Suslavičiūtė

Vilnius will be hosting NATO Summit 2023 on July 11-12. From 700th anniversary events to the booming tech scene, the Lithuanian capital has more non-political aspects to take into account.

July 17, 2023. On July 11-12, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, will be hosting global officials for the NATO Summit 2023. Although the world will have eyes on the Summit, Vilnius has some unique qualities that extend beyond politics.

Here are seven main takeaways that offer a glance at the host of the NATO Summit.

  1. 700 years young

Vilnius is celebrating its 700th anniversary throughout the entire 2023. Its multicultural heritage is highlighted in the anniversary program that focuses on connecting the city’s communities and showcasing Vilnius’ rich historical past.

One of the biggest festivities of the year, a free urban festival As Young As Vilnius will be held on July 21-25. Celebrating the day of St. Christopher, the patron saint of Vilnius, and the half-year of the anniversary, the festival will bring together beloved Lithuanian artists and British stars Bastille and Clean Bandit. Another major artistic event will be the city’s first-ever Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art on July 23-August 6. The Biennial will convert the city into one big stage with world-renowned artists from Lithuania and other countries. 

  1. Relentless support to Ukraine since the invasion  

Since Russia’s unlawful attack against Ukraine, Vilnius has been a relentless supporter of a war-struck country. The capital has welcomed the influx of people fleeing the war and over 20K of them are now safely established in Vilnius. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky bestowed the Rescuer City title upon Vilnius for all of its continued multidirectional support to Ukraine and its people.

Vilnius has also taken a firm public stand to condemn Russia’s aggression. The locals have mobilized for protests, the city officials have named the street, where the Embassy of Russia is based, Ukrainian Heroes Street, and “imprisoned” Putin’s cardboard cutout in the century-old Lukiškės Prison 2.0. Various forms of protests continue to date—runners of a marathon will carry a Ukrainian flag for over 1,500 kilometers, all the way from Kyiv to Vilnius, to raise it in Lukiškės Square specifically for NATO Summit on July 11.

  1. Future-forward plans for the largest tech campus in Europe

Lithuanian capital boasts a rapid technological advance. It is already home to three unicorns, among them—Vinted, an online marketplace for buying and selling second-hand items, and Nord Security, a digital security provider. Vilnius’ TechFusion encompasses biotechnologies, fintech, IT, and laser sectors where tens of thousands of professionals create the city’s future. TechZity has just announced plans for a €100M tech campus which is slated to be the largest in Europe and will house 5K employees.

Simultaneously, Vilnius has swiftly become the hub for Europe’s fintechs thanks to the favorable business environment, a future-focused central bank, and a developed technology ecosystem. As another step into a tech future, Vilnius has just become the first city in Europe to launch driverless vehicles into real-life traffic and the bustle of the city streets for last-mile deliveries.

  1. Perpetual cultural buzz

Vilnius’ UNESCO-listed Old Town is the largest Baroque old town in Eastern and Central Europe. The cobblestoned streets, narrow alleyways, as well as the blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Classic, and Baroque styles and must-see objects like Gediminas Tower, Vilnius Cathedral, the 16th century Vilnius University, or the Gothic gem St. Anne’s Church emanate the aura of a medieval town.

The artistic side of Vilnius is manifested in the bohemian district Užupis that has cheekily proclaimed itself a separate republic on April 1st—April Fools’ Day—in 1997. The district, which is the smallest and one of the oldest in the city, even has its own currency, anthem, government, and Constitution which has been translated into more than 50 languages and has 41 articles such as “Everyone has the right to be unique” and “Everyone has the right to idle.”

  1. Creator of Pink Soup Fest and bagels 

This June Vilnius celebrated Pink Soup Fest—an entire festival dedicated to the iconic summertime dish, cold beetroot soup šaltibarščiai.  The dish has become an instant hit with any traveler coming to Lithuania, therefore the festivalgoers celebrated that by dressing up like the soup’s ingredients and sliding down the hill into an artificial bowl. Another hidden secret of Vilnius’ gastro scene—New York might have put bagels in the spotlight, but they actually originated in this region. 

The city’s multicultural cuisine stems from Jewish, Polish, and Lithuanian nobles’ roots and combines traditionally prepared ingredients like pickled vegetables and fresh seasonal produce. Fine dining is thriving as well—two of Vilnius’ restaurants, Džiaugsmas and Nineteen18, have been recognized by the prestigious La Liste ranking.

  1. Cinematic background for Stranger Things and Chernobyl

In recent years Vilnius has become a tempting destination for filmmakers because of multiple cinema-worthy locations. When Netflix filmed parts of Season 4 of the cult-favorite Stranger Things in the century-old former prison Lukiškės Prison 2.0, Vilnius rapidly became a destination for set-jetters. The Prison invites to day and night tours, parties, concerts, and other events and gives a glimpse of parts of the facility featured in the show. Multiple other foreign projects have been filmed in Vilnius: Netflix’s Young Wallander, HBO’s Chernobyl, the historical TV series Sisi, and more.

  1. Capital of hot-air balloons

As the only capital in Europe to officially allow regular hot-air balloon rides over the city, Vilnius’ sky is full of them every summer. Airborne travelers can get a good view of the city’s colorful panorama and the lush greenery surrounding it. Those yearning for more adventures high up in the air can take a stroll on the TV Tower, one of the 30 tallest TV towers in the world, attached only by cable.

Vilnius is also designed for explorations on foot—walkable distances allow discovering locals’ favorite hangout spots, as well as artistic, architectural, and cultural objects without the added hassle of the traffic.

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Ho Chi Minh – Travel tips and hidden gems of Saigon

Sadly, during the last 3 years living in Singapore and Bangkok, I could not fulfill the dream of most expats in South East Asia: to travel around the region. Luckily, now that restrictions have eased up and traveling has reignited (although flight prices are in general more outrageously higher than what they used to be in the pre Covid era), it was time for my first visit to Vietnam. Destination: Ho Chi Minh, a pearl to discover the essence of Saigon.

It is advisable that depending on your nationality, you check if there is the need to apply for a visa before your flight. Vietnam allows visa free entry to some nationalities and some others not. In my particular case, being Spaniard, we are allowed a stay of no longer than 15 days for tourism with no need of applying and paying for any special visa.

Preparations for the trip

For flights, I tend to use Skycanner search engine and for hotels, Hotels in Saigon go in a wide array of price ranges, but you can get a nice one with a good location relatively cheap if you pay attention. I always like reading the reviews of previous users, especially filtering by the recent ones, to have a clear idea of the place I am getting into.

My choice of stay was Singita Saigon Boutique Hotel, located in district 1. Nothing luxurious but clean and tidy, with friendly hotel staff and in a very easy location that allowed me to go walking to many of the sightseeing main spots quite easily. Besides, on my last day, as my flight back to Bangkok was late in the evening, paying a small extra fee, they allowed me to stay until the evening in the hotel room. Even if you do not want to do that, they still offer the chance to take a shower when you want to refresh before going to the airport, so extra kudos for the kindness to them!

Arriving in the city

The international airport of Tan Son Nhat is not far from the city center. Expect some traffic, but in any case, if your place of stay is located in any of the central districts, you should arrive at your destination in 30 minutes or less.

I pre booked a taxi so they would pick me up more comfortably as my arrival time was a bit late in the evening, but if you are tight on budget, you can also order a Grab Taxi from the airport and it will be a cheaper option. In general, I advise you to install Grab app. as you can easily use it in many cities in South East Asia (although it is true that in Bangkok the prices have been raising in the last year). Still, in Ho Chi Minh, most of my rides, when a destination was far away to walk to, were costing 5 euro or less. Quite a bargain, especially if you share the cost with travel partners.

I also recommend doing a bit of investigation when you arrive in the new city and have some spots listed that you want to visit during the next few days. I stayed a total of 4 days in Ho Chi Min, and had more than enough time to see the main highlighted spots that I wanted to see.

Things to see:

  • Cafes

If you are a coffee lover, you are really gonna love Saigon. There are so many cafes and restaurants around, and the Vietnamese there really seem to love the coffee culture, always accompanied by delicious cakes and snacks. When I arrive in a new city, I love walking around and then resting and having a good coffee when I feel a bit tired after a long stroll. The city center is perfect for this. Some nice places I visited during my stay that I recommend:

La Viet Coffee Saigon

Charming cafe with free wifi and nice sandwiches. I visited there on my way to Xa Loi Temple and enjoyed sitting on its terrace. Nice variety of cold and hot coffees, and you could see a big crowd of IT nomads around there.

Paris Baguette

Big cafe with a nice cozy terrace on the upper floor. Big selection of bakery to enjoy while having your caffeine dose.

  • Churches

Cha Tam Church

Beautiful yellow church. When I visited it was very quiet so pretty much entering inside, I had all the church for myself. Worthy to see

Tao Dinh Church

Absolutely beautiful pink colored church. The bad side is that it was closed when I tried to visit, so my only chance was to snap a few pictures from outside.

Notre-Dame de Saigon Cathedral

Nice to walk around, but currently it was undergoing renovations so it did not look so spectacular from outside. In any case, nice to visit as then you can also see nearby the bookshops street and the old Post Office

  • Temples

Ten thousand Buddha Pagoda

One of the hidden gems in the city and I absolutely loved visiting it here. When you face the building, it looks almost like a normal housing building, but when you enter, the more you climb the stairs, the nicer the temple looks, with a gorgeous last floor that could serve as a background for a videogame scene. Do not miss this one!

Giac Lam Buddhist temple

Apart from the beautiful main pagoda, the complex allows you to visit different temples with a lot of charm and nice statues. Another must see if you visit Saigon!

  • Museums

War Remnants Museum

It displays outside its main building a nice collection of war machines from the Vietnam War era: planes, tanks, motorboats. Inside the exhibitions are really interesting, but beware that they are not for sensitive stomachs, many of the photos displaying death, torture and the cruelty of the war can cause a deep impression in your mind. And obviously, the whole tone of the museum is clearly very Anti American. Very interesting to see, but think if you are ready mentally for the content displayed inside, cause it can sour your day.

Ho Chih Minh City Museum

Very interesting displays about the city history inside, and you also have a small collection of war machines in the gardens outside. It seems to be a favorite place for the young local ladies to snap millions of photos and selfies of themselves, which can be slightly annoying when you want to see the exhibitions in peace, but still recommended and easy to access in the city center.

Reunification Palace

I put this one in the Museum category as it is pretty much the function that remains nowadays of the old Government Palace. Very picturesque garden outside, with some old war tanks displayed in the gardens, and interesting halls inside.

Shopping souvenirs

You can buy a lot of small souvenirs around for a decent price, bargaining a bit is recommended as they will try to give you the tourist price. I especially liked buying some presents at the Saigon Kitch shop. It had many interesting items mixing the Vietnamese flavor with Western popular culture characters.

Nightlife and Dating

I really did not go out so much during the night, as my goal was more to visit the city during the daytime. However I discovered a very cool cocktail bar with a very friendly waiter and delicious cocktails that I consider another hidden gem in the city:

Nightcap Saigon – Cocktail Bar

If you are a single male looking for some dating and female company, be aware of your surroundings. Many girls look gorgeous, but a big majority will be freelancers trying to get your money. The same applies if you use dating apps like Tinder, a lot of freelancers or girls who have some “professional” intentions like serving you as tourist guide. So pay attention and filter very well before meeting anybody.

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Pink Soup Fest in Vilnius Invites to Celebrate Lithuania’s National Gastro Pride 

The national pride of Lithuania’s gastro scene, cold beetroot soup,  is getting its own celebration. Pink Soup Fest will sweep over Vilnius on June 10th, inviting festivalgoers to try the most delicious variations of the dish and participate in themed entertainments.

May 4, 2023. Cold beetroot soup, a beloved staple in every Lithuanian household throughout the summer months and famous for its bright pink color, is getting a grand celebration in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Pink Soup Fest will be sweeping over the city center all day long on June 10th. 

The soup, similar to the Spanish gazpacho because it is also served chilled, is the cult-favorite dish of Lithuanian cuisine. Bright in color and refreshing in taste, the dish combines unexpected ingredients like beetroot, cucumber, fresh dill, eggs, and buttermilk with a side of hot potatoes to create an unmatched flavor burst. Since it is cold, the soup is featured heavily on Lithuanian menus during the heat waves and has been seeping into pop culture as well, turning up on clothing items or in various snacks.

Vilnius’s gastro scene has skyrocketed in the past few years—the entire ecosystem was awarded real stars in the sky that symbolize a Michelin-like award, while renowned chefs offer delicacies from fresh seasonal produce and local farms. Residents and visitors of Vilnius are keen on unearthing new tastes in highly popular food courts or exploring the multicultural fusion cuisine that features Jewish, Polish, and Lithuanian nobles’ dishes and flavors from Lebanon, Japan, India, Nepal, France, and other countries. Since the cold beetroot soup is inseparable from warm season treats in Lithuania and is one of the draws for visiting travelers, the festival will, therefore, start the tradition of celebrating the beginning of the summer.

The occasion will unite the members of Vilnius community—restaurants, cafes, pubs, nightclubs, guides, businesses, performers, automotive communities, and many others. Restaurants and cafes will offer special deals on the soup, inviting festivalgoers to try unique variations of the dish. More than that, festival visitors will have the chance to bring the pink soup home scents back with them and feast their eyes on the soup-themed graffiti. One of the artistic highlights will be a mural of the pink soup by the artist Eglė Žvirblytė near Bernardine Garden in the heart of Vilnius. 

Pink craze all over town

The craziness of the fuchsia-colored dish will also reflect on the event—everyone in attendance will be asked to put on a fancy dress costume that relates to the soup, be it a beetroot, an egg, or a carton of buttermilk, and slide down the Barbakanas Bastion hill—which offers panoramic views of the Užupis, the bohemian district, and the self-proclaimed separate Republic—straight into a specially made artificial soup bowl.   

After the hill slide, the Pink Soup King or Queen will be elected, visitors will be invited to roam around food trucks offering a refreshing bowl of the dish, relax in the local park, and enjoy musical performances, while children will get the chance to try out trampolines. Since the fest aligns with Vilnius’ 700th anniversary year, visitors will have the chance to soak up the festive atmosphere and visit other cultural events.

More information:  

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Lithuania’s Instagram Hotspots: From Maximalist Cafés to Otherworldly Dunes

Lithuania is a country dense with picture-perfect landscapes and unique travel experience one would want to share with their followers. Whether it’s a restaurant in a teal greenhouse or an alien-like desert of dunes, travelers can rediscover the country by going picture-hunting.

April 18, 2023. Lithuania is a small country, but searching its name on Instagram leads to a plethora of delightful visuals popping up on the feed: from vast, white dunes reminiscent of a desert to bright pink soups against a backdrop of cobbled-street Old Town. The plethora of experiences in this Baltic gem — some natural, some man-made, some otherworldly —  guarantee that every photo will turn out fantastic.

Experiential travel is one of the key trends influencing the tourism industry in 2023, as an increasing number of tourists seek to discover a destination’s history, culture, and cuisine instead of pure leisure or material purchases. Experiences are also becoming more popular due to the increasing role of social media, which encourages people to capture and share the unique and off-the-beaten-path locations they encounter. Below are a few examples of why Lithuania is so Instagram-worthy. 

Lavish interiors for #decorinspo

Instagram is brimming with examples of luxurious restaurants and innovative architecture, but none match the authentic character of Lithuania’s cozy, eclectic, and colorful interiors. The aura of love that pervades the coffee at Augustas ir Barbora café in Vilnius — the capital city —  is reminiscent of the famous love story of the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sigismund Augustus, and Barbora Radvilaitė, while symbolized by the cascades of pastel flowers exploding out of the forest-green ceiling. Not to mention their fresh-brewed coffee, champagne breakfasts, and stunning desserts.

Lithuanians have never been ones to shy away from quirkiness, and no spot better personifies this taste for the curious than the Klaipėda-based ToLi nuo klasikos, aptly named for its all-out rejection of restaurant norms and expectations. No visit is ever the same, as the unique menu and interior are constantly reimagined through different regions and cultural themes from around the world as part of the one-of-a-kind gastronomic theaters that take place here. Visitors can take in the sun while sitting in a jewel-like blue greenhouse, peppered with eccentric paintings, bright bouquets of flowers, and a collection of ornate chairs any vintage lover would fawn over.

Picturesque panoramas from above

There is no better way to take in the lush nature of Lithuania than from a bird’s-eye-view, where crystalline rivers, majestic hills, and green forests carve a unique mosaic into the landscape. One spot where this image can be taken looms over the Anykščiai regional park. The Treetop Walking Path rises up to 34 meters above ground, offering sweeping views of the romantic Anykščiai Pinewood, the Šventoji River, and the imposing tower tops of the St. Matthew’s Church.

Out on the Zarasai Lake Observation Bridge, visitors may take in the picturesque beauty of small islands floating on the gentle surface of lake Zarasaitis and the almost-futuristic circular walking path constructed along the coast. Walking this path lets visitors hover above the shimmering waters, providing an excellent backdrop for a springtime Instagram update.

The Sudargas Hillforts near Šakiai amazes sightseers from the heights of 5 castle mounds with a wide-open, azure view of the river Nemunas belt. J. D. Salinger’s — the author of the groundbreaking 1951 novel Catcher in the Rye — grandfather hails from Sudargas, and a small monument to him was unveiled on the hillfort complex in 2020. The enchanting sculpture – a hollow silhouette of a man – stands at the beginning of the mounds as if on the edge of a precipice. It directly references a sentence in the book: “I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff.”

Views from a different planet

Although compact, Lithuania presents ample opportunities to sneak away in a myriad of spots that differ greatly from the rest of the region, even feeling extra-terrestrial at times. Built by the wind and sea, the Lithuanian Baltic seaside offers swathes of sandy, migrating dunes that, at first look, seem like a snapshot taken in Venus. Uninhibited views crown the vast solitary beaches in the Curonian Spit, a UNESCO-listed peninsula where nature is strictly protected. One of its most enchanting spots is Parnidis Dune in Nida. Towering at 52 meters, it is one of the highest dunes in Europe, unveiling an awe-inspiring panorama of boundless sandy beaches which blend into fragrant pine forests.

The Čepkeliai Marsh is unique and mostly unaffected by human activities, and its mystical, fog-filled atmosphere harkens back to the Dead Marshes from Lord of the Rings. The elevated bog is bordered by thick pine trees that cover most of the region, creating the impression of wetlands completely disconnected from the rest of the world. The elevated bog in the south progressively transforms into a fen with sedges, reeds, and osiers — a mysterious sight that would make anyone perusing social media do a double-take.

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Five must-see locations in Lithuania for flower-loving tourists 

As Europe slowly approaches the warmer part of the year, those looking to stumble upon yet-undiscovered places or see it all from a new perspective are invited to experience flower tourism in Lithuania. Lithuania Travel, the national tourism development agency, invites visitors to explore the flowering regions in an unforgettable blossoming trip.

April 29, 2022. Lithuania Travel, the national tourism development agency, together with the country’s tourist information centers invites visitors from all over the world to tour the country in full bloom and stumble upon yet-undiscovered places such as a primrose valley in Šeteniai, the birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz, or a daisy feast in an authentic Ilzenbergas Manor, located on the Lithuanian-Latvian border.

According to Neringa Sutkaitytė, local tourism expert at Lithuania Travel, spring is a perfect time to explore the true beauty of Lithuania. “In the coming months, the country will be in full bloom and the visitors will be able to admire the blossoming nature throughout the country,” she said.

Here are five ideas for an unforgettable spring trip to admire the vibrant plethora of flowers — matricarias, daffodils, forget-me-nots, even sakuras — in Lithuanian countryside.

1. Daffodil feast in Lithuania’s resort town

Although the first mentions of the daffodil, also known as narcissus, can be traced as far as ancient Greece, the flower found its popularity in Europe only a few centuries ago. Druskininkai, Lithuania’s resort town best known for the abundance of therapeutic and wellness SPAs, is quite fond of the flower. 

Each year, Vijūnėlė Park lights up with the yellow blooming daffodils — the spring blossoms cover almost the entire area of the park, with more than half a million flowers blooming, making it a sight not to be missed.

2. Primroses straight from the pages of Nobel Prize winner’s book

When visiting Šeteniai, the birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz, it is impossible to miss the area’s wildflower frenzy. In the valley of Nevėžis, also known as Miłosz’s Meadow, primroses blossom. The flower was extensively mentioned in the poet’s autobiographical novel “The Issa Valley.” 

Since primrose is considered to be a mood-lifting flower, it is suited best for those who are under a lot of stress or are often in a bad mood. The flower, which is affectionately called the “golden key,” marks the transition to summer and will be a delight in May when visiting the Kėdainiai district.

3. Experiencing sakura by sight, smell, and taste

Sakura, the Japanese cherry tree that everyone loves, has spread all over Lithuania. Among the must-see sites for the fans of the tree is Sakura park in Vilnius. The park is adored by the locals and tourists who come here to have lunch, take a selfie, or enjoy spontaneous music or art performances. The park was founded in 2001 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara — a collection of 200 trees was a gift from Japan’s people to Lithuania to strengthen the friendly relations between the two countries.

In Marijampolė, sakura lovers gather in Cat’s Yard. Surrounded by sakuras, visitors can admire multiple murals and are invited to try to count the statues of cats owned by the town’s founder, countess Pranciška Butlerienė.

Visitors can not only smell and admire sakuras, but also taste them in the largest Japanese garden in Europe. Located in Mažučiai, Kretinga district, the garden hosts sakura tea tasting ceremonies all throughout the blossom season. The tea is made from sakura blossoms pickled in Japanese plum vinegar and sprinkled with sea salt — this kind of tea is only drunk on special occasions in Japan.

4. Lithuania’s freedom flower among 200 thousand crosses

Myosotis, also known as forget-me-not, is used throughout Lithuania to commemorate the Soviet aggression in Vilnius in the early 1990s. In May, thousands of forget-me-nots bloom on the Hill of Crosses — a world-famous, must-visit location near Šiauliai. The tradition of bringing a cross to leave on the hill began almost 200 years ago and by the early 20th century it was already known as a sacred place for masses, devotions, and pilgrimages. 

Even though it is a remarkable sight at any time of the year, the hill turns blue with thousands of forget-me-nots in the spring, making the view even more phenomenal, especially during the so-called “golden hour.” The full effect of the lush rolling fields and blue flowers unfurl before visitors who come to the hill shortly after sunrise or before sunset. 

5. Little daisies in an authentic manor

Daisies are the pride of Ilzenbergas Manor, located on the Lithuanian-Latvian border. The 17.5-hectare park is a great place to stroll around and immerse oneself into the life of nobility. There are a myriad of sculptures around the park, as well as an authentically restored barn, smokehouse, sauna, artillery battery, and even a 3D replica of the Stelmužė tree, one of the oldest oaks in Europe. 

After a tour, visitors can grab some tasty goodies from Ilzenbergas farm —  the only manor in the Baltics that continues the traditions of natural farming —  and have a picnic among the daisies for an unforgettable spring experience.

Tourists eager to explore other blossoming destinations, can find more information on the Lithuania Travel website.

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A new exhibition on tobacco opening at the Customs Museum

The Customs Museum will open to public again on 1 June 2021 in Susisaari, Suomenlinna. The new exhibition ‘Leaves of Desire – The History of Tobacco and Finnish Customs’ focuses on the more than 400 years of shared history of Finnish Customs and tobacco products. Throughout the years, the Finnish society’s approach to tobacco has varied significantly. This variation has also been evident in the work of Finnish Customs. 

Imported to Europe from the Americas, tobacco was initially an expensive luxury product and it was deemed that its import into Finland should be restricted. However, the government soon realised that tobacco could be made into a significant source of tax income for the state. To that end, the production and cultivation of tobacco in Finland was purposefully increased in the 18th century. An industry for the processing of raw tobacco was formed, and it was supported by the state in a variety of ways. 

Tobacco generated income

In the 19th century, the tobacco industry was a significant source of income in Finland as well. Production increased in the 20th century, but later the European integration and changes in consumer habits led to a decrease in the production of tobacco products. The last Finnish factories were closed in the early 2000s. After that, all ready-made tobacco products have been imported and the import of raw tobacco has stopped completely. 

In addition to customs duties, tobacco has been subject to other fees as well, such as consumption and excise taxes. Finnish Customs was often tasked with the collection and supervision of these taxes. 

Tobacco and crime

Since the 17th century, tobacco has been smuggled due to a high demand and a will to avoid paying taxes. A particularly large increase in smuggling was seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s – around the same time, the number of Finns who smoked started to decrease. The reason for this was the changes implemented at Finnish borders and the liberalisation of transport. Lately, smuggling snus has been more popular.

Attitudes toward tobacco changed in the late 20th century, when people became more aware of the significant health risks of tobacco. In the 1970s, the health risks became the primary grounds for tobacco’s taxation. 

The exhibition recounts the history of tobacco from the 17th century to current day. It showcases old smuggling methods and describes tobacco’s status in Finnish culture at different times. On display are also unique objects borrowed from other museums. 

Welcome – the exhibition is open until September in Suomenlinna

In addition to this thematic exhibition, the museum provides information on the general history of Finnish Customs. The Customs Museum is located in the Halmilton – Polhem Curtain in Suomenlinna, at the address Suomenlinna B 20 D, Helsinki The exhibition is open until September. Free admission. Due to the coronavirus situation, we will restrict the number of museum visitors if needed, and visitors must wear a facemask.

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Those cute animals symbols in the central streets of Helsinki

You might have just arrived to Helsinki or you might have lived here for many years and never realized about the animals that populate some of the main streets of the city. Next time you go for a stroll near Stockmann, for example along the famous shopping street Aleksanterinkatu, pay attention to the building walls and will not be difficult to discover some blue symbols on the corners of the streets representing animals, including mythological ones such as an unicorn.

From where this tradition comes? Digging into Helsinki history, it seems that this came into place after the big fire that destroyed most of downtown in 1808. Then, the architect Johan Albrecht Ehrenström had the idea to name many of the buildings blocks into animals.

This tradition was used until the beginning of the 20th century and then normal street names replaced it, but in 1994 Helsinki citizens decided to do a revival of this wonderful tradition and brought the signs back to the central streets of Helsinki.

Art Exhibitions Inside Finland Travel

Things to do in Helsinki: A visit to Seurasaari island

Photos by: Antonio Diaz

While the good summer weather lasts, it can be tricky when you are visiting Helsinki for a few days or when you are hosting foreign guests to think about interesting places to see not far from the city centre.

The island of Seurasaari is a little jewel to walk around when the weather is nice. Very conveniently located just 20-30 minutes from central Kamppi area, you can easily reach it by bus (line 24 goes there), by using one of the easily accesible city bikes or even by ferry from the Market Square during summer. A perfect destination to spend half a day when weather allows to enjoy outside.

A charming Open-Air Museum

If you want to travel back on time and imagine how was the rural landscape in different areas of Finland, the Open-Air Museum is certainly the highlight of the visit to the island. It has a great array of buildings from different eras, manors, farms, smoke houses, etc scattered around the beautiful landscape that the closeness to the sea gives to the sorroundings. There are many cafeterias where to stop by while taking stroll to have a coffee or a snack, activities for children like going for a ride on a pony and also local sellers have handcrafts on display for purchase.

TIP: The entrance of the museum is 10e per adult, but honestly, unless you are deeply interested in visiting the houses and see the utensils inside, you could skip that and just walk around the buildings on the island for free. So if you are on a low budget, you can skip buying a ticket to allow entrance inside the museum buildings.

Sunbathing and swimming

Seurasaari is also famous as a place for sunbathing and swimming. Just when you cross the bridge, walking to the right, there is a small beach where local citizens like to enjoy the sun and have a picnic. For the lovers of enjoying nature wearing nothing, there are also 2 nudists beach, separated from men and women. Entrance there requires a fee.

Among other amenities, the island also counts with barbecuing area, and it is specially popular to visit there during the Midsummer celebrations, where big bonfires are torched.

For more information:

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The Formula for Happy Traveling

Backpacking has become one of young Finns’ favorite hobby. Born under the Aurora Borealis, nature’s own spectacular light show, people are later willing to travel a great distance to chase other wonders of the world. Perhaps you, too, have always wanted to hike the Inca Trail to see the first rays of sun falling on the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru? Or maybe it is walking along the Great Wall of China or imagining gladiators fighting for their lives at the Roman Colosseum that truly thrills you?

To a number of people being on the road is a life choice. For some, it symbolizes the ultimate freedom and detachment from material things, while others focus on broadening their horizon, having an experience that can later be told to friends with great excitement and nostalgia. And who would not want to have their picture taken next to a breath-taking scenery, an exotic animal or a new friend with whom to communicate only by using sign language?

While it is true that places the essence of which even the best cameras cannot quite capture exist in this world, witnessing these locations requires initiative and effort. Maybe you have always wanted to travel more, but other commitments and duties, perhaps financial, have put the long-needed decisions on ice?

Luckily, there are solutions. To secure the success of your trip of a lifetime you just need to navigate to the best online deals to save money on your travel arrangements


Today flying is an ever-cheaper option to reach distant continents. Affordable flight tickets are compared for you by different websites, which does not only save up your time, but helps you to spot the best prices at a glance. And it does not end there. In order to really help you manage the budget of your unforgettable journey-to-be, Internet also offers you coupon codes to save on your flight reservation. Look out for the codes prior to reservation and be surprised at the checkout.

While some independent travelers are adventurous enough to choose camping or couchsurfing as a form of accommodation, the rest of us appreciate a fun yet clean hostel or a good-quality hotel. After all, a good night’s sleep is essential to enjoy new sites. Perhaps you have already browsed through a few websites and picked a couple of accommodation alternatives for your trip based on prices and reviews? What if you got told that the cost of your future stay might not be as final as your decision to book it? To lower the price of hostels and hotels all over the world you only need to look for vouchers. Suddenly the minimum effort of simply noting down a short voucher code to get 10% discount starts to seem a small price to pay.

Experienced traveler or not, the most important thing is that you are hungry for a new experience and always keep an open mind. Leaving the cozy comfort zone is never easy, but there are things that help. Whether you wish to encounter the new world by yourself or with a friend, a good gear is an essential companion to any thrill-seeker. You might notice that the nearer your trip, the more you flick through web shops offering adventure-proof clothing, trekking gear or sports equipment. In order to live up to the title of a true budget-traveler, it is worthwhile to keep an eye for discount codes. They give the finishing touch to organizing and financing your journey budget-friendly and hassle-free.

Before you know it, you will be making your dreams come true.

Articles Misc Outside Finland Travel

Kuressaare, An Island Full of Miracles

Written by Elena Paraschiv

Estonia is the country that lies on the eastern shores of Baltic Sea. So over the years, the Estonian culture was influenced by the adjacent areas, such as Finnic, Baltic, Slavic, Germanic peoples, but also from Sweden and Russia who have brought major contributions to cultural development of Estonia. Looking through the geographical location, and the influences received for decades, many Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Baltic, and they also have arguments to support that choice, such as Estonian language is similar to Finnish language and the Estonians as a ethnic group are a Finnic one. Even Swedish Ambassador Mr. Dag Hartelius who gave a speech on Estonian Independence day, on February 24, 2009 considered Estonia “A Nordic Country”. In terms of music, Saxo Grammaticus, the famous Danish historian,(the author of first full history of Denmark, known also as Saxo cognomine Longus), talks in his book “Gesta Danorum”, about the Estonian warriors who were spending the nights singing while they were waiting for the battle. Same warriors who were also known under the name of Eastern Vikings (Estonian pirates).


Saaremaa, the largest island of Estonia, it was the home of notorious Estonian pirates. “The Livonian Chronicle of Henry”(a document describing historic events in Livonia, today`s inland Estonia, north of Latvia and surrounding areas from 1180 to 1227) talks about a fleet of 16 ships and 500 Osilians ravaging the area that now is southern Sweden, then belonging to Denmark. The island name`s means “isle`s land”. In old Scandinavian sagas, Saaremaa is called “Eysysla” and in Icelandic sagas “Eysýsla”. Saaremaa forms the main barrier between the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea. To the south of it is the main passage out of the gulf, the Irbe Strait, next to Sõrve Peninsula, the southernmost portion of the island. In Medieval times islanders were crossing the strait to form fishing villages on Livonian coast, in particular Pitrags village. The capital of Saaremaa is Kuressaare.

Kuressaare is situated on the coast of of Gulf of Riga and its first name was Arensburg. The names was changed in 1918(after Estonia has declared its independence from Bolshevist Russia) in Kuressaare. It first appeared on maps around 1154. The town breathes history in every way possible. In Kuressaare was born the famous romantic painter Eugen Dücker (1841–1916) who was the teacher of a great Norwegian landscape painter Adelsteen Normann, (who studied with Dücker from 1869 to 1872). In Saaremma, the visitors can also find Kaali, a small group of meteorite craters, from which they started many legends, all collected by Lennart Meri in his book “Hõbevalge”. The largest of the craters measures 110 metres in diameter and contains a small lake known as “Kaali järv” (Lake Kaali). Kuressaare is also the host of Saaremaa Opera Days, that takes place in the medieval Episcopal Castle of Kuressaare, this year during 16th and 22nd of July. The first documentation about the castle has been found in Latin texts written in 1381 and 1422. Today, the castle houses the Saaremaa Regional Museum, besides the festival. Some sources say that the castle was built in wood between 1338 and 1380, although others claim a fortress was built in Kuressaare in early 1260.

Saaremaa Opera Festival is the first opera festival in Estonia and it was held for the first time in 1999. During the years, the festival became one of the major opera festivals from Europe, having more than 1,000 people coming from near and far to enjoy the extraordinary music. Festival owes its existence to Ludmilla Toon, a music teacher and choir conductor. This year`s edition will be a true spectacle of beautiful voices and world-class singers. The schedule includes Monica Groop (a Finnish operatic mezzo-soprano who made her operatic debut in 1987 at the Finnish National Opera; she has sung leading roles as a guest artist with important theatres such as: the Los Angeles Opera, the Palais Garnier, the Royal Opera London and many others), Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky’s “Borris Godunov” performed by one of the most famous and interesting theatres in the world, Moscow Helikon-Opera (the artistic diresctor and founder of the theatre Dimitri Bertman has already staged more than 90 performances in Russia, and abroad, including Spain, Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zeeland and Denamark), Koit Soasepp (Estonia/Finland), “The Barber of Seville” and “Rasputin”(Moscow Helikon-Opera), Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti’s “Maria Sturda” performes by Vanemuine Theatre and many other surprises.


During the festival, Kuressaare is no longer a simple town, it becomes a dream.This is exactly is the feeling you will experience. Each spectacle is unique in style, performance, emotion and energy, and everything takes place in a wonderful setting that we find it only in fairy tales. In a corner of paradise left in a world that has forgotten to dream. During the festival the world stops, the nature takes a break from development, all the windmills on the island are participating in the festival and capturing people’s emotions and feelings, all under a divine sign, turn the island into a fairy festival. While listening to the music, you can see the leaves crying beauty and the sun going dawn kissing the sea spreading an explosion of orange light that make you feel like the sky is burning.

There is something even more beautiful on this island if God: the old and unwavering lighthouse. The majestic lighthouse that guards the island and that`s waiting for you at the end of a sandy path that separates the sea in two. While you`re heading to the lighthouse you`ll hear the waves breaking at your feet slightly shy. The small beach and the sea breeze fill the landscape with the bluest sky you`ve ever saw. And when you finally get there, you`ll see it. The eternal unlit candle designed to ensure the island forever.

You will be surprised by the emotion and the beautiful peace caused by the inside and the outside together. Everything is a dream waiting for a miracle.

Inside Finland Travel

Porvoo, the perfect 1 day excursion in Finland

Many tourists I talked to this last summer who were visiting Helsinki for just a few hours during their cruises were asking me if during their visit to the Finnish capital, they would have time to visit Porvoo. Unfortunately no, Porvoo is not just a neighborhood more in Helsinki, but a city apart, in fact, the second oldest city in Finland after Turku, 50 Kms from Helsinki.


The good news is that for the visitors in Helsinki who have more than a few hours, Porvoo is very easy to reach. Or it can be also people under my case, who have lived in Finland for a few years and never had visited it before. One way or another, Porvoo is the perfect destination for 1 day excursion if you want to see something new or different from Helsinki.

Obviously the easiest way to go to Porvoo is by car, but if you want to use public transportation, it is also fast and comfortable. Unfortunately there is no train line linking Helsinki and Porvoo (only one special summer line from Heinola), but buses run very often from Kamppi station, where you can also buy the tickets at Matkahuolto office. If you buy a return ticket for the same day, there is no discount due to the short distance, but it is still affordable, and of course students can get discount if presenting their student cards. If you visit the area on summer time, other great option is to go by boat in an organized cruise from the capital´s harbour.

In fact, there are two kinds of buses that go to Porvoo. If you do not want to miss time, you can take the direct one that will be there in a bit more than 1 hour. The other option stops quite often, so it will take double the time, but it is also worthy if you want to enjoy the landscape between both cities during daylight.


While on summer time the streets of Porvoo are quite crowded with tourists, I visited there one Monday in autumn, so everything was quiet. I liked the atmosphere; Porvoo has a special charm with many quaint little streets that look like the landscape in a postcard and nice little boutiques, art galleries and second hand shops (that had very interesting items, but pricey).

A city with a nice bohemian touch

Porvoo is bilingual with one quarter of its citizens speaking Swedish, and you can really notice the little higher touch of sophistication in every corner around. For culture lovers, there are a few highlighted points that you cannot miss like the house-museum of the poet Runerberg. Besides, the colors of the autumn were giving the city special magical tones.

If you want to make a pause on your way, I recommend Café Pahtimo, a very cozy place with a great selection of beverages and cakes, just located in and old storage building by the river, so you can also enjoy a cigarette outside in the terrace with a great sight. The atmosphere of its 2 floors reminded me of Telakka in Tampere, one of my favorite places to hang around when I lived and studied there.

Visit Porvoo and discover one of the most special places in Finland, now even more magical while enjoying the amazing array of colors of the autumn season. You will not feel disappointed!

Photos: Antonio Diaz


Outside Finland Travel

Outside Finland: Visiting Vegas

For many people, having the chance to visit the city of Las Vegas in Nevada can be a once in a lifetime opportunity. With this in mind, here are a few tips on how you can make the most of your stay.

As with any holiday, it can be a good idea to plan your trip before you go. Research the area, and find out which attractions are nearby that might be of particular interest to you. This can help you to plan your time, as well as your budget, during you stay. You will also be able to better prioritise the activities which are available to you.

Many people who visit Las Vegas are keen to experience the casino scene for which the area is renowned. The Las Vegas strip, in particular, has become one of the most famous casino locations in the world, so it’s unsurprising that many visitors are keen to experience what this area has to offer. However, if you’re keen to get involved with the action, then it can be a good idea to brush up on your game skills before you do. If you don’t happen to live close to a casino, then you can always try playing online at sites like partypoker in order to perfect your playing techniques. You may also want to look into what each of Las Vegas top casinos has to offer, so that you can be sure to visit those which best cater for your personal preferences.

In addition, it can be a good idea not to simply get caught up in the casino culture of this area, unless that is the only reason for your visit. Why not book yourself into one of the great restaurants, or buy tickets for a show? Las Vegas is brands itself as ‘The Entertainment Capital of the World’, so make sure you don’t miss out on everything else this area has to offer.

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Visiting Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania

Taking advantage of the long Easter weekend (yes, miracle, Friday was a national holiday in Estonia. Not that you have many chances through the year of enjoying long week ends in Estonia…) I decided to visit Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and the only country in the Baltic-Scandinavian region where I had not been yet.

The trip was long, 4 hours by bus to Riga and another 4 from Riga to Vilnius, but worthy. My Finnish friend Ilkka flew from Helsinki to join me, and there we met at Old Town Hostel. I must say that the double room we had was excellent. Actually, one could feel like having a hotel room, because it was separated from the rest of the hostel, and we had our own key to go in and out whenever we wanted withouth disturbing anybody. The price was fair, so I reccommend it.


We wandered during the weekend mostly around the old town, so I cannot say much of the rest of the city. But I liked a lot what I saw there. The city is clean, the buildings are in good shape, and the atmosphere is charming. The nightlife was sadly quite dead, due to many people having escaped from the city for the holidays, but even though, we found a couple of bars where to have fun. We settled our operational base for the night especially at the University Pub. But during those days there, most probably there were more people going to church than to bars. And it is amazing the amount of churches you can find in a few square metres! In every corner there is a church in old Vilnius! Even if you are not a religious person, you cannot less than admire the special atmosphere that this gives to the city.

About Lithuanian people, I must say that in general they were pretty friendly, even better than expected. Girls actually smile you easily at the bars, and are very eager to have a conversation (I would say that maybe more friendly than Estonian girls, who usually give you the look of “do not disturb me foreigner, I prefer to talk with the local guy who looks like a retired boxer” when going out at night. But also Lithuanian guys (ok, those who are not 2 metres high and look like serial killers) were quite friendly, and we had the chance to chat with quite many of them while sharing some beers.


As a final remark, do not make the mistake to confuse Lithuanian language with Russian language (It happened to me once, sorry!!!). In Vilnius, only around 9% of the population is Russian speaker, and the local Lithuanians do not take very well the comparisons. In that sense, they are probably less welcoming than in the other Baltic capitals, where Russian speakers are more widely spread among the local population.

If you still have not visited Vilnius and are thinking about a possible weekend destination, do not think it twice. Prices are affordable, the city looks good and pretty safe, the people are friendly… and the women pretty ;)