Northern Michigan’s tourist destination marketing organizations have plenty of material to work with: beaches, dunes, ski hills, boating, hiking, biking, wine, beer, 160 flavors of Moomers ice cream and a cornucopia of other attractions and consumables.

Our area basically sells itself to tourists. Marketers just need to communicate effectively with potential visitors.

Some tourist destinations face more of a challenge. Case in point: Lithuania.

“National Tourism Development Agency Lithuania Travel” last week concentrated on telling the world about the dozen “most bizarre flavors from Lithuania.” The press release deals with ice cream.

I knew virtually nothing about Lithuania, even less about what it offers as a tourist destination. The folks at Lithuania Travel apparently understand that. Here’s the first paragraph on the organization’s “About Us” page:

“To get a picky traveler interested in visiting a small European country that doesn’t boast spectacular wonders of nature or architectural miracles and is doomed with a hard-to-pronounce English name is an incredibly tough task. Not to forget, it still lacks direct flights from major cities and of which most of the world’s citizens know next to nothing.”

Those folks know they face an uphill climb.

But a cruise through website travelolithuania.com reveals some interesting tourist attractions:

  • Baltics in Fashion, in which a tourist can meet a local clothing designer and “become a model for one hour.”
  • Amber Museum and Amber Drink Tour, during which paying customers can “have a possibility to touch natural amber piece, taste amber drink and even try to make your own healing amber amulet with the help of a professional artist.” Amber is fossilized tree resin, classified as a semi-precious stone, so I’m curious about the beverage’s taste profile. Lithuania has a long history of dredging up amber from the Baltic Sea.
  • Drive A Tank, in which visitors can pilot a military-surplus armored personnel carrier on a closed track.
  • Hike Through the Wetlands Tour, touted on a web page that features a photograph of a participant, neck deep in mud, being helped to safety by a mud-covered man standing in slightly shallower mud.
  • Back to USSR Soviet Bunker, “Here you can visit the first-in-the-world Underground Museum of Socialism or join ‘1984.Survival Drama’ and become a citizen of a totalitarian state.” Sounds like fun for the whole family.
  • Lost In The Forest Tour, which sounds suspiciously like a game my older brother used to play with me. “All the groups are taken to the forest and at a certain place the first group is left alone. Later the other groups are also left in different places. And then the game begins. The groups have to do exciting tasks requiring stamina, cleverness and quick reaction. The main task is to find the way home.”

Other listed Lithuanian attractions are more familiar to Michiganders: canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, brewery tours, cooking classes, and downhill skiing at the nation’s Liepkalnis Winter Sports Centre, which offers a vertical drop of 213 feet, about the same as Mt. Holiday.

Marketing organization lithuania.travel recently introduced an interactive online map highlighting Lithuania’s most famous dish.

The “Cold Beet Root Soup Map” details 32 restaurants that serve the traditional meal.

“Dating back to the 17th century, this cold beet root soup is very much a seasonal dish and is made from healthy local products — beetroot, fresh cucumber, green herbs, boiled eggs and kefir,” the website states. “And despite its luminous pink color, you’ll find that all the soup’s ingredients are completely natural.”

Photographs suggest the soup looks eerily like a bowl of chunky Pepto-Bismol with a sprig of parsley floating on top.

Each listed restaurant offers a unique twist. One is described as “white cold soup with beet puree, hemp seeds and pickle juice,” another as “with meat, mustard and kvass.”

I looked up “kvass” and discovered it is a fermented beverage made from rye bread.

The marketing text that accompanies the map states: “Journalists and Influencers alike have lots to say when it comes to Lithuania’s signature soup. And for those who’ve already tasted the traditional version, why not try cold soup with boiled crawfish tails, or with raspberry beer, or with cucumber ice-cream?”

Which brings us back to the 12 bizarre flavors of ice cream touted in the tourist agency’s most recent release.

The flavors are: seaweed and caviar, pine needle, carrot, peony (yes, the flower), rhubarb, beer, lavender, linden honey and dill oil, spinach and tarragon, smoked mackerel, quark and nettle (quark is a creamy German cheese), and — of course — beetroot.

Other ice cream flavors not mentioned in the release but listed on the website include: paprika with beef steak, black with activated carbon, buckwheat, and saké fermented cod with pine-lime syrup.

Lithuania occupies about about a quarter the land area of Michigan and is home to 2.8 million people. It has coastline on the Baltic Sea and borders Poland, Belarus and Latvia. It offers a range of ice cream flavors, a host of unusual tourist attractions — and plenty of cold luminous-pink soup.

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