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Welcome to Lithuania, land of smoked mackerel ice cream

The Baltic nation rolls out an unlikely tourist attraction: 47 weird ice cream flavors.
Key Takeaways
  • Lithuanians fell in love with ice cream in the 18th century, and have been crazy about the frozen treat ever since.
  • They go for variety rather than volume – and they make a sport of developing weird flavors.
  • This map guides you to places where you can get ice cream based on nettles, bacon, beer… and more.

Perfectly normal mode of transport in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania – a country under the spell of ice cream. Image: FaceMePLS – CC BY 2.0

Why Lithuania? If you haven’t yet added the Baltic nation to your post-corona world travel bucket list, here, finally, is the perfect reason: a map of the country’s 47 weirdest ice cream flavors. A scoop of smoked mackerel, anyone?

According to national tourism agency Lithuania Travel, which produced the map, Lithuania’s love affair with ice cream dates back to the 18th century and Lithuanians currently eat an average of 7 liters (1.85 gallons) of the stuff each year, making them “the world’s biggest fans of ice cream.”

Mmm, not quite. At least not for sheer quantity: global champions are the New Zealanders, who munch their way through 28.4 liters (7.5 gal) of the frozen treat. Next in line are the Americans (20.8 liters, 5.5 gal) and the Australians (18 liters, 4.8 gal). Closer by (both in terms of volume and geography) are global numbers four and five, the Finns (14.2 liters, 3.8 gal) and Swedes (12 liters, 3.2 gal).

But what Lithuania lacks in terms of volume (1), it more than makes up for in terms of variety. When it comes to inventiveness and sheer weirdness of flavors, it may well be the world capital of ice cream.

This too has its roots in the country’s history: W.W. Wieladka’s famous cookbook “Kucharz doskonaly” (1753) already includes recipes for making ice cream with various kinds of fruits and plants, including cherries, currants, and sea buckthorn. Today, it’s quite common for Lithuanians to flavor their ice cream with roses, saffron, coffee, or even clove.

An overview of purveyors of weird ice cream flavors in Lithuania.Image: Lithuania Travel

But why stop there? In a trend redolent of the microbrewer’s quest for ever-weirder bouquets for their beers, Lithuania’s artisanal gelatieri have in recent years pushed their craft to new highs – or lows, if the thought of mustard-flavored ice cream makes your stomach turn.

As this map shows, Lithuania’s weird ice cream flavors are unevenly distributed. Most are to be found in the country’s southeast. The coastal zone in the west is another hotbed. Both areas are connected by a narrow corridor of frozen delights. However, in a large patch of central/western Lithuania, your inquiries for keista skonio ledai (that’s ‘weird-flavored ice cream’ in the local lingo) will fall on deaf ears.

Some cafes and restaurants specialise in just one weird flavor, others offer multiple ones. Some flavors are available at multiple locations, others just in one place. So keep this map handy to complete your Ice Cream Tour de Lithuania.

Image: Lithuania Travel

Vilnius, in the southeast, is the capital and largest city of the country. It’s no surprise you’ll find lots of weirdness, such as ice cream with…

  • Tomatoes / mustard: restaurant Dziaugsmas (Vilnius)
  • Salted sunflower seeds / carrots: restaurant chain Jurgis ir drakonas (Vilnius and six other locations)
  • Rhubarb / ‘smetonos’ (i.e. sour cream): restaurant Ertlio Namas (Vilnius)
  • Beetroot: restaurant-bistro Mykolo 4 (Vilnius)
  • Beer syrup with bread chips: restaurant Dzuku Alaus (Alytus)
  • Smoked mackerel: restaurant Apvalaus stalo klubas (Trakai)
  • ‘Activated carbon’ (i.e. black): café chain AJ Sokoladas (in Vilnius and two other locations)
  • Linden honey with dill oil: restaurant Velvetti (Druskininkai)
  • Chamomile: café chain Ice Dunes (Druskininkai and six other locations)
  • Sea buckthorn (sorbet): restaurant Carpe Diem (Alytus)

Image: Lithuania Travel

A smaller cluster to the northwest of Vilnius is centered on the city of Kaunas. Here, you’ll find ice cream with…

  • Black bread / buckwheat: restaurant Vista puode (Kaunas)
  • Jerusalem artichoke / pink peppercorn: restaurant Monte Pacis (Kaunas)
  • Caraway: restaurant DIA (Kaunas)
  • Cucumber: restaurant Grejaus namas (Kedainiai)
  • Oat milk: restaurant Raudondvario dvaro oranzerija (Raudondvaris)
  • Baumkuchen (a cake ringed like a tree): restaurant Kuchmistrai (Luksiai)

And even:

  • Kosher ice cream: Gardziu ledu krautuvele (Vilkaviskis)

Image: Lithuania Travel

A third cluster, northeast of Vilnius, forms an incomplete circle around the town of Utena. This area offers ice cream with…

  • Peony / pine needle / wood sorrel: restaurant Labanoras (Labanoras)
  • Nettles (quark): restaurant Miske (Anyksciai)
  • Caramelized bacon: café Pirmas daigas (Anyksciai)
  • Cotton candy: café MiMi kava ir kokteiliai Ukmergeje (Ukmerge)
  • Paprika with beef steak: restaurant DOMI (Ukmerge)
  • Beer (sorbet): Vasaknu dvaro gastrobaro bravoras (Vasaknu)

Image: Lithuania Travel

The corridor consists of places offering ice cream with…

  • Lavender: café Portfoli (Birzai)
  • Jelly pieces and syrup: the milk bar at the Karvute-shop (Panevezys)
  • Coconut milk (vegan): café Valeriono (Siauliai)

And

  • Hot ice cream in a muesli and coconut shell: Café Mocha (Pakruojis)

Image: Lithuania Travel

And finally, at or near Lithuania’s Baltic shores, you can enjoy ice cream with…

  • Honey / Coffee / cacao with chili: café Kavos Architektai (Klaipeda)
  • Beer (adults only): gastrobar Svyturys Bhouse (Klaipeda)
  • “legendary” Dziugas cheese: cheese house Dziugas (Klaipeda)
  • Elderflower with pollen: restaurant Smagratis (Kretinga)
  • Coffee and chicory: Kretingos dvaro saldainine (Kretinga)
  • Seaweed with caviar / spinach and tarragon: restaurant Komoda (Palanga)
  • Goat milk cheese: restaurant Zuvine (Palanga)
  • Vodka (sorbet): restaurant SALA Plateliai Resort (Plateliai)
  • Beer: café Karciama (Plunges)
  • Sake-fermented cod with pine-lime syrup: restaurant Juodasis kalnas (Juodkrante)
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Of course, this is just the what and the where. The when, the how, and the why are for the adventurous traveler to figure out for themselves.

But if you’re swaying on the fence, let us give you a gentle push by adding that the pine needle ice cream smells like Christmas trees, that the peony ice cream is a lovely pink and gives off an equally delightful perfume, and that the seaweed and caviar ice cream tastes not unlike sushi.

Oh, and the smoked mackerel ice cream is such a delicate concoction that its true recipe is kept a secret. Although we’re quite sure that it contains… smoked mackerel.


Map found here at Lithuania Travel.

Strange Maps #1044

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

(1) Lithuania is in the top three of ice cream-producing countries in Europe though, with 15.1 l (4 gal) in 2018, after Belgium (18.3 l, 4.83 gal) and Estonia (15.4 l, 4.1 gal)


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