During our semester abroad, it has been exciting to explore Old Town, try new coffee shops, and walk by the sea. But, if you are here during the Spring semester, I would recommend for you to go to all of these festivals! Not only are they fun for hanging out with friends, but these festivals can teach you more about Lithuanian culture and about living locally in Klaipeda.
- Palangos Stinta (Palanga’s Fish Festival): So, don’t judge the festival by its name. Yes, there were lots of vendors selling fish, but this festival was by far one of my favorite experiences in Lithuania! When we arrived in Palanga, there were vendors lined up the street and down the boardwalk. So many people were out, buying local products like honey, bread, meats, and of course, fish. This is a great opportunity to try out some local Lithuanian goods and even buy some to take home with you at the end of the semester. I loved all of the amber products, wood work, and soap, and I know many study abroad students were excited to buy bagels at the market! This is also a great experience to be around people who live in Lithuania, and it’s also a perfect opportunity to practice your Lithuanian too.
- Klaipėdos šviesų festivalis (Klaipeda’s Light Festival): This year, the light festival fell on Valentine’s Day weekend. The program ran from Thursday to Sunday evening. Again, this is another way to get out of the dorms and experience life, especially in the heart of Klaipeda in its Old Town. At the festival, there was a huge light display that was synced with different songs. Also, there were many vendors and food trucks on the road and in the square in Old Town. Definitely go on an empty stomach, because there are chocolate-covered waffles, tasty local deserts, and…you guessed it…kepta duona!
- Kaziuko mugė (Kaziukas Fair for St. Casimir): The fair occurs throughout Lithuania early in March close to the day that St. Casimir died. Many sell rye bread, cookies, wooden utensils and décor, meat, honey, and fish. One of the popular goods is bouquets, which people will take with them to church for Palm Sunday. Again, this is a great place to purchase local products, made by people in Klaipeda. So many people flooded the streets of Old Town to buy these goods. I also was able to practice both my Lithuanian and Russian numbers when trying to buy some souvenirs for family and friends back home.
- Užgavėnės: Užgavėnės is a traditional holiday celebrated here in Lithuania. It happens around Ash Wednesday before Lent, the time period before Easter, and is often equated with Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. People celebrate the defeat (or burning in this case) of Winter and the welcoming of Spring. In order to scare Winter away, people dress up in costumes. Many celebrations occur in large public areas like City Center by the Theatre (right before Old Town) in Klaipeda. This past Sunday, we went into Old Town and watched the burning of the straw lady, which symbolized Winter. I really loved participating in a cultural event that many enjoyed and were excited to see. So many people were laughing and were very enthusiastic with their costumes and watching the event take place.
Looking back on this past month, I have definitely made some of my favorite memories of my time here in Klaipeda so far. I love being with people who live here and experiencing the events that they enjoy. I hope during your time here, you will go to one of these festivals and experience a part of what it means to live locally in Klaipeda.