Hostels Revisited

Fresh Birthday Cake
VILNIUS, Lithuania
July 22, 2012

It had been years since hostels had last been my choice of lodging when traveling. But for the beginning of this journey I decided to see what staying at them is like, today.

Ordinarily, I would tend to stay in just about every other type of accommodation while out on the road. Much of eastern Europe works well for short-term private apartment sublets. CouchSurfing is great for meeting and staying with people across western Europe. Throughout Asia and Central America I usually stay in basic guest houses or hotels. Anywhere around the globe where I happen to have friends who are able to host, theirs is always the best place to stay.

But, none of those options quite fit for this leg across the Baltic states. I'm not close friends with anybody in Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. I did try sending several requests through CouchSurfing to stay or just to meet up with people while in town--but nothing came together.

After spending these last 10 days in the hostel system of today, I've found they've evolved from what they were like when I used them more regularly many years ago:

Vilnius Town
I would have loved the Home Made House for its own merits: tidy, filled with games, and in a central location. But, when the owner, Lina, noted that I would be staying over my birthday she went well beyond any necessary role as hostel owner. She bought a unique homemade cake for all the guests to share, a cake which is baked for traditional festivals and special occasions in Lithuania.

I'd never seen anything like it. The cake resembled some sort of ragged, elongated volcano. Lina, the hostel owner, brought up a video on YouTube that demonstrated how such cakes are made. A conical spit rotating above a fire is slathered in batter, which is then daubed about in another thicker batter once the base becomes crispy. It was delicious.

Eating that was simpler than any other birthday cake I've eaten. Just tear off the edge of whatever forms the summit and pop it into your mouth. There were neither candles nor frosting, but I suppose those wouldn't be traditional. These cakes are evidently found at all celebrations here, including Lithuanian weddings, as well.

Lina and David Share
Birthday Dinner
For my birthday dinner we went out for traditional Lithuanian fare: pig ears with sauerkraut and mustard and a side of something that looked like chick peas but tasted like corn. There was an appetizer of local cheese sprinkled with cumin all washed down with a hearty dark beer.

Thank you, Lina! I hope your Home Made House will still be in business should I ever visit Vilnius again. It's been a very happy birthday, indeed.

Next stop: Berlin