Lithuania, with its strong, majestic oaks, vibrant folk costumes and a million ways to prepare a potato, is also famous for its multitude of crafts, alcohol and textiles; perfect for holiday gifts.
The most identifiable crafts are detailed embroidery and small scale weaving, especially linen. Adorned with folk motifs and ancient pagan symbols, embroidered placemats, napkins and tablecloths are souvenirs that will most likely last forever and add a special something to the table. Luckily they are available in many specialty shops throughout the country.
Have someone more manly to shop for? Monks first mentioned the strong and bitter Trejos Devynerios alcoholic beverage over 1000 years ago and the drink is still popular today. Chockfull of herbs and spices, this drink is perfect on its own or mixed. The bottles are labeled with ‘999’ and come in three different varieties, all equally intriguing. The drink can be purchased at any shop or supermarket around town.
Krupnikas is another liquor from a land than knows their alcohol. This strong liquor, made from clover honey and herbs, is sure to satisfy the sweet tooth. The drink is sometimes heated before being served, and legend has it that Benedictine monks living in Niasviz originally created the concoction. Not just known for its taste, the beverage was also used as a disinfectant for Polish soldiers in World War II.
Amber everything can be found throughout the country, especially in the old cobblestone streets of Vilnius. From amber encrusted knives and letter openers to amber chess sets and earrings, there is something in amber for everyone.
This holiday season is predicted to be an especially cold one, so make sure to stock up on adorable (and warm) mittens, socks, shawls and hats to keep you toasty throughout the frigid winter months.
The Baltics are rich in tradition, and there is no better tradition than the delectable edibles the region produces.
In Lithuania there’s poppy milk and herring. Latvians and Estonians have a tradition of baking gingerbread cookies called piparkukas or piparkoogid respectively, and share them between friends and family.
Then there are the Christmas gifts, which if not carefully selected, remind giftees of tchotchkes from the nearest gas station. Therefore it is important to really take your time and pick out something creative, useful and interesting. So why don’t we take a couple of minutes to think these small gifts through?
When it comes to small stuff, we automatically get very indifferent, unless it’s a diamond ring of course, and tend to pick the first thing that’s closest at hand. It’s a vicious circle, especially for guys– who don’t care about the souvenirs because they think that the people who receive them don’t care either, so they start caring even less and end up bringing home a bottle opener from Egypt with an Eiffel Tower engraved on the side. When it comes to bringing souvenirs from Latvia, it’s fairly simple.
Every place with SUVENIRI written above the door will offer you a wide range of the same clay plate, but with different names of the cities, a set of amber beads and socks and scarves made of wool. However, if you venture into other boutiques and into the markets, you’ll find a wide variety of knitted items with traditional symbols, amber everything, leather goods and furs. If you happen to drive past the town of Sigulda you’ll also be able to buy some wooden canes with traditional ornamentation and designs burned into the wood.
If you’re looking for a good Christmas gift, you should definitely take a look at Latvian sweets. Laima, the main Latvian chocolate factory, produces a special range of Christmas themed chocolate sweets every year, which is only available around Christmas. The only other thing to mention is the local pottery. In addition to the clay plates, there are mugs, cups, bells and little angel-shaped ornaments. However, when people are looking for traditional Latvian souvenirs, they often simply buy local beer and Riga Black Balsam, which has become a popular souvenir over the years, a much appreciated beverage on cold winter nights mixed with hot black currant juice.
Despite the challenge of selecting the perfect holiday presents, Estonia makes it easy to find the ideal gift. A required place to stop whenever shopping in Tallinn is the outdoor knit market on Muurivahe Street, where craftswomen sell their knitted products in the shadow of the town wall.
Even more intriguing for the adventurous shopper is the Katariina Passage. Here in medieval-style workshops run by the Katariina Guild’s artists, onlookers can admire glassworks, ceramics, leather goods, quilts, mugs with graphic panorama of Tallinn Old Town, handmade medieval-theme dolls, tapestries with Tallinn City and Old Town sights, lead-cast figure of Old Thomas and other items created right before their eyes.
Whilst walking through the open-air markets, one can find a large variety of traditional and classical souvenirs. Favorites such as carved wooden beer mugs, fun felt hats, juniper coasters and limestone candle holders are an ideal gift for a friend or a family member. Favorite gifts from Estonia also include original art such as graphic prints, handmade jewelry, colorful glassware or fine ceramics. CDs of Estonian composers of international acclaim such as Tormis, Part, Tubin, Tuur would be a suitable gift for folk lovers.
One of the oldest traditional Estonian handicraft gifts is the Haapsalu shawl (or Haapsalu scarf), which is a traditional knitted lace shawl originating from the small town of Haapsalu in Estonia. Another souvenir that will take you back to the places that have already become familiar to you is a DVD of the film Estonia - A Land of Simple Treasures, which takes you through all the counties of Estonia, accompanied by beautiful Estonian music. While watching it you will get a glimpse of Estonia’s winter, the rush of spring and the autumn gold.
Happy holidays and happy gift giving!