EU HEART’S HEAT: Brussels’ cuisine on Gedimino Avenue celebrating Europe Day last year.
VILNIUS - On May 9, 1950, Robert Schuman, a Luxembourg-born politician who later became French foreign minister, made his famous speech about the necessity for European countries to co-operate more closely. This year, Europe celebrates the 60th anniversary of Schuman’s declaration, which resulted in the establishment of the Coal and Steel Community by six Western European countries in 1951. The community evolved into the European Union. In 1985, the EU decided to start celebrating this day as Europe Day. For the sixth consecutive year (Lithuania is an EU member already for six years), this day will be celebrated with the aroma of various cuisines on Gedimino Avenue, the main street of Vilnius. Vilniusites and other passers-by will be able to taste Europe.
On May 7 - 9, Gedimino Avenue will be turned into the longest restaurant in Europe - crowds of people will come to taste Lithuanian, Belgian, Italian (the latter is especially symbolic because several days ago, Vilnius became the official twin city of Sicilian Palermo, and this fact, of course, provokes some jokes about a possible increase in mafia cooperation) and other EU countries’ specialties - Vilnius restaurants of various cuisines will have their outdoor kitchens-kiosks-restaurants there: Belgian monastery-made beer on tap, Polish stew named bigos and, of course, Lithuanian potato dumplings cepelinai are already traditional food for Europe Day on Vilnius’ main avenue. The gourmands’ fiesta will be assisted by fairs of European books and crafts. This entire three-day event is called “Lithuania - little star of Europe.”
On May 7, the fiesta will be opened with a concert on nearby Kudirkos Square, in front of the Lithuanian government building at the monument to Vincas Kudirka, author of the Lithuanian anthem. The concert will start with a performance of the children’s “Young Europeans’ Concert” at 15:00, and will be finished with a concert by the Lithuanian jolly rock band Biplan at 19:00. During the next two days, concerts and Europe-related quizzes will concentrate around the Kudirka monument’s area. The European Parliament and the European Council announced 2010 as the year on combating poverty and social exclusion. This is why the theme of tolerance will be present at the celebration as well. On May 9, two Vilnius ensembles of folklore dances and songs, Jewish Fajerlech and Polish Wilia - both were created in the 1950s and both were the only Jewish and Polish music ensembles in the entire Soviet empire - will give their concerts near the Kudirka monument, from 11:00.
On May 9, those who like bicycles will be able to push pedals together with MPs and, maybe, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius (if he will have time for it) some 10 kilometers via Vilnius to the classical style palace of Verkiai and the wonderful botanic park which is situated nearby Verkiai palace. The start of the bicycle ride, soundly named “With bicycle to Europe,” starts at 10:00 near the Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament.
The celebration in the mineral water spa town of Druskininkai will be held on May 8. After various events in the central streets of Druskininkai, which will include a basketball competition with the participation of disabled people, the outdoor concert by probably the best Lithuanian pop group Skamp as well as funk group Saules Kliosas and pop singer Jurga Seduikyte, will be held on the Druskininkai entertainment square on Vilniaus Avenue from 19:30 to 22:00. This year, on this EU day, the European Commission focuses on the poverty problem - therefore, some anti-poverty speeches by quite rich officials can be expected before the concert.