There is never a free moment in a Baltic summer, it seems, as all weekends are packed full of concerts, dances, holidays, and, of course, markets and fairs. Each country lends its own flavor to their festivals, fairs, and markets, and a lover of crafts could happily travel from one country to the next in search of the next great artisan, weaver, or wine-maker. The great element of celebrating a medieval festival in the Baltics is that they had a burgeoning medieval time period to harken back to, lending an air of authenticity to the event.
Tallinn’s 17th Medieval Days will take place from July 07-10 this year and is one of the most important annual events of the Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union. The full flavor of Hanseatic days are brought to Town Hall Square, complete with jousting tournaments, workshops, music, and dancers. There is even a children’s medieval area on Niguliste Hill. Opening processional is at 13:00 on 7 July starting from Viru Gates of Old Town Tallinn.
Each country has its own greenery/herbs market before the celebration of Midsummer, and Lithuania is no exception. On June 18, over 100 herbalists, artists and pharmacists gather in Vilnius’ center to allow residents and visitors a chance to purchase healing, ecological, medicinal, and decorative herbs. There is also a traditional beauty sauna, concerts, and fortune-tellers.
On July 06, Lithuanians celebrate the crowning of Mindaugas, founder of Lithuania. According to Vilnius’ tourism board, Days of Live Archeology take place at the foot of Gediminas Hill and in the Old Town where craftsmen demonstrate old crafts, knights can be seen standing in groups, participants listen to old music and are welcomed to the fairs, and concerts of ethnographical bands or other festivities are organized around the city.
The Latvian town of Cēsis holds epic field battles, workshops, and feasts on July 30-31 at the medieval Cēsis castle. Many events and demonstrations transport visitors back in time and lets them be a part of the action. While there, don’t forget to take a candlelit tour of the castle itself.
During the first weekend of June, the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum celebrates the 46th anniversary of its much-loved event, the Traditional Applied Folk Art Fair, more commonly known as Gadatirgus. Adding to this year’s festivities, the museum will hold a piparkūka (gingerbread) contest among the event’s vendors. “Gadatirgus and piparkūkas are inseparable,” says museum vice director Kristīne Kūla. “It’s this year’s special product,” which will be judged by noted culinary experts. While a traditional food, piparkūkas have evolved to fit modern trends, explains director Ilze Millersone. Hearts used to be the most popular shape, and these would be minimally decorated with a touch of pale frosting. Nowadays, the spiced cookies come in a variety of shapes, colorfully frosted in order to resemble popular cartoon characters and even cars. “If you have a child with you, he’ll want his favorite film superhero,” she says.
Another Brīvdabas market, Mūsdienu Amatniecības Festivāls (the Contemporary Arts Festival), will be held on August 06-07. In its sixth year, this fairly new event protects the historical nature of Gadatirgus while still supporting its artisans’ more creative fantasies. Their crafts are “more modern, although they still take into account our traditions and materials used” in the past, says Millersone.