Man patinka Lietuva

I like Lithuania – a visitor's point of view


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Beer restaurant on Gedimino pr. in Vilnius …. plus ça change

One of the first restaurants we visited in Vilnius over 10 years ago was the beer restaurant on Gedimino pr. not far from the cathedral square. You couldn’t miss it with the statue in the entrance. Was it the pagan beer goddess Ragutiene?

You had to go down the steps, past the microbrewery paraphernalia on your left to enter the main room with smaller side rooms off to the left where we preferred to eat, usually at lunch time.

Not only did it serve a great range of beer from its microbrewery but also good food including beer soup!

 

We also liked the ambience with all the beer posters on the walls in the side room.

The main room is big and one evening we were there hosted a NATO conference meal for delegates at the Lietuva Hotel (now Radisson Blue) along the riverside (somewhere we used to stay until we found the Shakespeare Hotel in the Old Town). I’ve never seen so many top brass, gold braid and fancy hats.

There are so many restaurants to choose from in Vilnius so we don’t notice until a few years later that it had changed its name to Prie Katedros i.e. near the cathedral. Fortunately it was still serving the same kind of food and beer.

 

 

Then last year a new sign appeared: “Craft and Draft” obviously cashing in on the demand for craft beer. And all the signage was in English, a trend I noticed in a few places in the city.

I also noticed the statue had disappeared – perhaps too raunchy for the artisans crafting the beer. A shame really and I didn’t get a chance to check if the food is still as good. Perhaps next time?

 

My earlier posts on beer


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Lithuania losing skilled people

Deserted Lithuania relies on refugees” was the headline over this picture from the Sunday Times last weekend.

The story told of Vilius Leveris‘s problems in recruiting staff for his new upmarket barbers’ shop in Vilnius and how he had to resort to recruiting at a refugee hostel when no locals came forward.

In the last 4 years he has taken on 12 staff from Turkey, Libya, Syria, Morocco and Colombia. He even went to Iran to recruit. He said “I couldn’t find anyone here. Even getting a wet shave is a completely new thing. Now if a refugee who was a barber at home arrives in Lithuania, the refugee centre calls me at once.”scan0234

Vilius’s experience is the result of the depopulation of the country with people leaving to earn more money elsewhere. Average earnings in Lithuania are £166 a week compared to just over £500 in the UK. Vilius says 50% of his university colleagues have left the country, which he finds sad and demoralising at times.

The Sunday Times report mentions other business people who have trouble recruiting and keeping locals, whether in Pizzerias or chicken processing factories, and the problems of finding craftsmen.

The country’s population has declined from 3 million a decade ago, when I first started visiting, to 2.6 million today. Half of the emigrants have gone to Britain. (Although there are many people in Britain who claim to be Lithuanian who can’t speak a word of the language – strange that!). It’s thought some might return after Brexit and the fall in the value of the pound.

The exodus has now become an issue in parliament and has seen a rise in support for the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVZS) which accuses the government of not doing enough to stem migration.

A protest party which had one MP now has 54 of the 141 seats in parliament after last week’s elections. A big shock but perhaps inevitable after grumblings about the way the old coalition worked – not so well!

 


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Lithuanians behind charity scams in UK

As the web-sitename says, I like Lithunia, so I despair every time I read about Lithuanians committing serious crimes in the UK. We’ve had an illegal vodka distillery (which exploded killing sevarl people), gun-running, and a mobile telephone scam.

P1030256Today the Scottish Sunday Post exposed some charity scams run by East europeans viz Lithuanians and Poles.

The Lithuanians are:Mindaugas Okunis who runs Recycling Clothes Company Ltd claiming to raise money for Child Cancer Awarae, Asthma UK and Against Breast Cancer. His company has previously been fined and denied a licence because it only planned to hand over £75 from every £800 it made.

Raimondas Biguzas runs Intersecond Ltd. It claims to raise money for Heart UK, Colostomy Association and Lithuanian cancer charity Do Not Delay! He has been refused licences in three English counties after failing to specify how much it would donate ( legal requirement for these kind of charities).

He is also a director of four other companies including a clothing firm. He says he gives £100 a ton to good causes (most rag traders make £300 a tonne from clothes).

Audrius Stasiulevicius is sole director of Audasta Ltd which says it works with Woodlands Cancer Care, Rags 2 Riches 4 Schools, and KidsOut.

It gives just £50 a tonne to charities and in 2013 had its licence revoked  by a Welsh Council after giving just £12.50 from a collection worth £267.45.

The charities run by Polish directors i.e. Mega Company, Clothing Collection Assistance, and Clothing Collection Team Ltd are just as poor at passing on donations.

People assume that the clothes they donate will be going to charity shops but most are destined to be sold on in markets across the world

Many companies operating in the clothing collection business are acting illegally and without a licence. Some claim to be associated with well-Marque-1-white-300x259known charities when they are not.

If you receive a plastic charity bag it should have the Fundraising Standards Board’s Give with Confidence logo and also say how much the charity will donate per tonne.

This is not the first time Lithuanian “businessmen” have been implicated in charity scams. I first posted about this in 2012.


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One last time: goodbye Lita; I’m going to miss you

SCAN0120Lithuania has finally met the convergence criteria and will adopt the euro as its official currency on January 1 2015. Lithuania has been the only country to have been refused entry to the euro because inflation was 2.7% i.e. above the 2.6% maximum allowed in 2006. (FYI only the UK and Denmark are allowed to keep their own currency although EU members).

This will make it the last of the three Baltic States to adopt it, after Estonia (2011) and Latvia (2014) although its currency has been pegged to the euro at 3.4528 litas to 1 euro since 2002.

This is a sad day for travellers like me who enjoy the varied currencies across the world. At home I have some Swiss, Danish and Swedish currency among others. Moving around Europe is not a problem if you don’t have euros as most countries accept sterling or dollars (as long as it’s in notes and they give you the change in local currency).

It seems whenever a country adopts the euro prices rise. I remember talking to a German taxi driver in Hanover in 2002, the year Germany switched over to the euro, and he was complaining that everything had gone up in price, even getting his hair cut. No doubt there are similar worries in Lithuania.

The first litas were introduced on 2 October 1922, replacing the ostmark and ostruble, both of which had been issued by the occupying German forces during World War I. The ostmark was known as the auksinas in Lithuania. In 1939 Nazi Germany demanded the return of the Klaipeda region (which the Germans called Memel) which they’d lost after WWI  and the German reichsmark was used in the Klaipdea region. However after the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in April 1941 the lita was replaced by the ruble.

After independence in 1991, Lithuania used a temporary currency called talonas which was only issued in note form, It was used between 1991 and 1993 until the new currency could be produced.

The lita now comes in several different denominations of bank note with 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 notes. When the 10, 20 and 50 litų notes were released in 1993 it was only for a very short time because they had no security features and were hastily withdrawn.

The 50 lita note is interesting. The front (obverse) bears a portrait of the national patriarch, scholar, statesman and signatory of Lithuania’s Declaration of Independence of February 16, 1918, Dr. Jonas Basanavičius (1851–1927).

The back of the banknote (below) depicts Vilnius Cathedral and its belfry, the monument to Grand Duke Gediminas, Gediminas Castle and the Hill of Three Crosses. All these objects are considered as the heart of Vilnius and are strong national symbols.SCAN0117

NB This banknote is the only one that closely represents a banknote released in the interwar Lithuania.

The 1993 release was designed by Ray Bartkus. At first the reverse depicted only Vilnius Cathedral and indistinctive houses of Vilnius Old Town. In a later 1998 release, however, the view of the cathedral changed to include the other monuments.

This 2003 issue is the newest banknote but the view featured appears outdated as it fails to display the newly built Royal Palace and Museum.

My favourite however is the 10 lita note. The reverse of the 10 litų banknote features Lithuanian heroes, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas. In 1933 they flew from New York over the Atlantic Ocean with a small plane called Lituanica which had been modified to carry extra fuel. Their planned destination was Kaunas but they never made it as the plane mysteriously crashed in Germany (now Poland). The duo did not survive. The most recent release clearly shows Darius wearing a cap with insignia from the Palwaukee Municipal Airport in Wheeling, Illinois.

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The obverse depicts Lituanica flying over the Atlantic Ocean with visible shores of the North America and Europe. SCAN0119

So with the adoption of the euro we lose some of that sense of history. The only positive aspect of the new euro coins is that on the national side of the coin it features Vytis, the national symbol of Lithuania. I’m not sure what will be on the banknotes.528px-Coat_of_arms_of_Lithuania.svg

Background: Lithuania’s parliament approved a euro changeover law in April 2014, and in their biennial reports released on 4 June the European Commission and European Central Bank found that the country satisfied the convergence criteria.

On 16 July the European Parliament voted in favour of Lithuania adopting the euro and on 23 July the EU Council of Ministers approved the decision, clearing the way for Lithuania to adopt the euro.

DSC00027DSC00018And the transition has already started with dual pricing on restaurant menus and on street advertising and booklets and posters in banks throughout the city.DSC00161

Next time I go it will all be in euros but I’ve saved a couple of the old notes for sentimental reasons.

Originally posted October 2014


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Our experience working in Lithuania since 2006

We’ve worked with many of the universities in Lithuania. Chiefly Mykolas Romeris and Vilnius, where we are visiting lecturers, but also with the ISM and Kaunas Technical University and VDU in Kaunas.DSCN1502

We’ve presented at a couple of conferences (for the ICF and Vilnius University) and a breakfast seminar for the British Chamber of Commerce in Vilnius.

We’ve also collaborated with PK, a consultancy in Kaunas.P1010202

If you’re interested in what we’ve done click on this link here: SGA-LithExp2014


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Keeping your feet warm

I’ve been to Lithuania several times in the Winter and the weather is fine for me, even with deep snow. It doesn’t have that damp coldness we have in North West England.

(For history buffs the damp is why it was perfect for the cotton industry when Lancashire dominated the world with its cotton mills, But that’s another story).

I’d read in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines about felt boots but never seen any. Then there I was shopping in Stiklių street when I saw a felt shop. They had everything made of felt, clothes, handbags, and boots!

So I tried on a pair and bought them. They weren’t cheap – 260 liras – but probably what you’d have to pay for some decent weatherproof shoes or a pair of good trainers.

P1010630 P1010633I wore them in the house that Winter (they have a rubberised sole so you could wear them outdoors) and was toasty warm and I’ve worn them each Winter since. And it’s time to get them out again.

I went back on my next visit to buy some more but the shop had moved, to be replaced by the Mamma Mia delicatessen.

FYI Felt is cloth made from sheep’s wool which has  excellent thermal properties and has been used for centuries (apparently the earliest example of a felt article is from Asia in 600 BC).