Although this year’s winter has been warmer than usual, we have been getting light snow every day here in Vilnius. Because Lithuania is located around 55 degrees north latitude, it can get as low as 30 degrees below zero when it is cold in the winter. It’s rare to see sunlight during the winter, when gloomy weather continues. Despite such a winter in Lithuania, there are lots of unique enjoyment of the winter, and I’ll be sharing some of them this time. The first, without any argument, is the sauna. True, we would go throughout the year including spring and summer, but the sauna in winter feels exceptionally nice. On the weekends, family, friends and neighbors bring food and drinks to gather at the sauna cabin. The saunas in Lithuania are a wet type, which uses firewood that is burned to heat the stones, and water is splashed over the stones to heat up the room to around 80 to 100 degrees. When you add a little bit of beer to the water used for splashing on the stones, it gives off an indescribable pleasant aroma. Next, you can enjoy a patting-type massage using bunched up white birch leaves called “vanta.” It has a nice aroma and improves blood circulation, contributing to a very relaxed feeling. Vanta. During the summer time, white birch branches are bunched up to make the vanta and are preserved in places such as the basement. Once you’re all warmed up in the sauna, you can step outside and jump into the snow or into the frozen lake to cool your glowing body. This is the true thrill of the winter! I know it may look extremely cold, but because your body is fully warmed in the sauna, it doesn’t feel cold at all. In fact, being in the icy water makes your body feel warm inside, that staying outside without clothes in 20 degrees below zero temperatures won’t feel cold for a while. And, you have to stay hydrated. Go into the room attached to the sauna cabin to enjoy the beer that everyone brought, and then party! It’s probably hard to grasp the mood with just a photograph, so here is a video for you. Children all enjoy the sauna too, but what makes them more excited is the horse sledding. With the clanging of the bells attached to the horse resonating in the snowy landscape, you can enjoy feeling like Santa Claus. That’s not the end of the enjoyment of winter. Every year, from mid-December to early January, the entire lake freezes as the temperatures continue to decrease. Stand on the frozen lake, open a hole in the ice with ice drill, and enjoy fishing. It’s similar to ice fishing for pond smelt in Japan. Although it’s cold, you can experience an indescribable sense of unity with nature as you drill a hole in the ice and fish alone on the empty lake. So, what do you think? The winter in Lithuania can be gloomy and cold, but doesn’t it look fun? With that being said, I have to be honest that I am becoming fed up with the long winter by this time and am looking forward to spring.
- Hiroshi Yamauchi
- AgeSnake（ HEBI ）
- JobRestaurant owner
- It’s been three years since he fells in love with the Baltic state of Lithuania and emigrated here without really thinking it through. He runs a restaurant (which would sound cool, but it’s actually just a diner) as Lithuania’s first-ever Japanese owner/chef. He lives a relaxed life outside the capital city of Vilnius with his wife, daughter, and dog.