Linas Jegelevicius for the BNN
Lithuania‘s adoption of the euro has jerked prices steeply upward and chit-chats of what-costs-what is one of the most daily topics across in Lithuania and in the Palanga resort, rightly dubbed Lithuania’s summer capital, too.
A visit to Palanga, price-wise, nowadays can be dumbfounding: many of the prices after the adoption are the same as they were in the Lithuanian currency, litas, before it.
Prices depend on weather and people traffic
If you were this summer to quench your hunger on the beach with a cheburek, a deep-fried dough turnover with a filling of minced meat and onions, you will have to depart with two euros from your pocket. Well, the greasy thing cost only two litas in the summer of 2014!
If those slim twinks and ripped dudes carrying on the beach heavy bags filled with chebureki and shouting out incessantly the same phrase «who wants hot chebureki?» can be the reflection of the average Lithuanian’s purchasing power, it has obviously become a lot weaker with the euro in Lithuania.
«People would rather bring some food from a local grocery store and eat it right in the dunes than buy chebureki,» complained a young chebureki seller.
Thank God, the correlation of the prices after the changeover is not always the same as that in case of chebureki.
A tumbler of Lithuanian beer on the busy Jonas Basanavičius promenade, the resort’s main pedestrian artery, will thin your wallet by 2-2,5 euros and zeppelins, the Lithuanian traditional dish made of boiled coating of grated potatoes and stuffed with seasoned minced meat, will ease your pocket by another 3,5-4,5 euros.
Just a month ago, a portion of zeppelins cost only 3 euros on the bustling and hustling street! You have to trust me, the dweller of Palanga! And I don’t mean to wrench your guts, but the price for the dish two years ago hovered in the range of 4-6 litas!
«Well, prices on the promenade and Palanga in general are subject to a constant fluctuation as they reflect the pedestrian traffic,» Gintaras Sičiūnas, the owner of Diemedis Hotel, situated a few steps away from the bustling promenade, explained to BNN.
According to him, local hoteliers and restaurateurs tweak local prices «looking» at the busy avenue.
«It does not make sense to keep prices on a higher end when there are few people on it,” says the businessman, adding, “So during the course of day, one change the prices depending on the weather and traffic. We do the same: due to the slowdown following the Solstice feast last weekend, the prices went down at our hotel. A luxury room now costs only 56 euros and the rest of the rooms can be afforded for 49 euros.»
The euro adoption did not have affect on the Diemedis room fares, he insisted.
«What I always say is that Palanga prices are defined by a single factor: the weather. I am sure the rest agrees with me on that,» Sičiūnas claimed.
That local business wants to get most of a summer season should be «understandable» to all, and to the visitors of Palanga, too, he underlined.
«We are not in Turkey which basks in the sun most of the time. Here in Palanga we’ve got only a couple months of sunny days, hence the up-looking prices,» he said.
Fewer Russians, more Westerners
The adoption of euro has been a factor on local economy, however. Especially affecting the tourist flows from Russian.
«Because of the geopolitical tensions, fallen value of the ruble and the expensive euro in Lithuania many Russians cannot afford Palanga trips anymore» says the hotel owner.
But the void, in his words, has been patched up with higher influx of Western tourists.
«Now we see a lot more Germans and Scandinavians coming here,» Sičiūnas pointed out.
According to him, Russians’ reservations on booking.com were «very sizeable» before the standoff with the West.
«I sometimes think that Russians’ prevalence on it would deter others from making them. With fewer Russians there now, it is Westerners who are replacing them on the booking site,» the hotelier noted.
As high season has just commenced, it is too early to strike far-reaching conclusions, insists Alma Slaboševičienė a manager at Palanga’s Tourism and Information Centre (PTIC).
«But speaking in general, we are off to a good start. Here’s definitely more buzz about the new direct flights to London and Kiev, as well as the new venues that Palanga built recently. I mean the brand new Concert Hall first of all,» she told BNN.
Asked to break down the crowds in terms of nationalities, the PTIC official could not point to a single one as the most prevalent.
«Before, there were many Russians; now they have become a whole lot scarcer here. But we started hearing a lot more of the Belarusian language and Ukrainian, too,» Slaboševičienė noted.
Beside the direct air connection with Kiev, Palanga in summer also offers one-hour direct flight to Minsk, too.
According to her observation, here are more Latvians and Estonians in Palanga this season, too.
«For now, visitors, speaking illustratively, are trickling into our Centre, but soon, with July around the corner, we will certainly see a deluge of walk-ins. As always in July,» she said.
Russian money-bags are gone
Speaking of the Palanga prices, Slaboševičienė noted that they are on the tip of tongue of many holidaymakers.
«But the talk of the kind always evolves to a broader conversation on the euro prices in Lithuania,» she noted.
Despite fewer Russian tourists, Basanavičius promenade keeps exuding Russian culture in various ways on it.
If you were to take a stroll on it, do not be surprised to hear Russian music blaring loudly from the cafes’ loudspeakers, although the waiters might stammer or resort to the ubiquitous language of gesture if asked in Russian.
«Russians have not vanished yet, although their numbers are on a steep decline. And those coming here now tend to be penny-pinching, not like the Russians before the 2008-2010 economic downturn, who were true money bags,» Romas Tuminas, a former hotel manager, noted to BNN. He added: «And many of today’s Russians are less sincere and a lot more demanding.»
Concurring, Audronius Macius, owner of Lietuvos Rytas hotel and restaurant on Basanavičius promenade, remembered a recent row with a young Muscovites.
«They checked out well before the time they were supposed to and did not pay for the stay, explaining they could not sleep at all at night because of the music on the street. Formally, they were right, but who will remunerate me the losses that I incurred? Russians were not so picky before,» the businessman says.
«Indeed, Russians nowadays have become a lot more demanding and spending-conscious, similarly to the Lithuanians,» noted Jolanta Kazlauskienė, a renter of rooms in the centre of Palanga.
But, well, one should be careful with conclusions.
«I’d say that many of the Russians are still generous and sincere like before,» believes Brigita Bružaitė, the front desk clerk at Senoji Hanza hotel.
And the Russian language heard in Palanga does not necessarily come from the lips of Russia’s citizens.
«You have to carefully listen to the twang as it can come the mouth of Belarusian, Latvian, Estonian or Ukrainian,» the Palangians say.
Although there’s a wide understanding that the euro prices make many potential Palanga visitors to double-think whether to head here now, those who make it here do discover that Palanga offers a good variety of activities as well as the range of prices.
So then next thing you may want to do is get on the plane, bus or in the car and get on the Baltic coast to check out things how they stand indeed.