Mikalojus Kristupas Radvila Našlaitėlis’ Exotic Trip

Lucas Kilian, Dominicus Custos. Mikołaj Krzysztof “the Orphan” Radziwiłł. 17th century. Lithuanian National Museum of Art

Of the major travellers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania who went overseas was Prince Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł, nicknamed “the orphan” (Lith. Mikalojus Kristupas Radvila Našlaitėlis). On Literatų Street in Vilnius, you can see an image of a map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania he commissioned. The nobleman travelled to the Near East for two years and accumulated experiences and impressions he later described in his memoires entitled, Trip to Jerusalem. The book was so popular that after its release in Lithuanian it was translated into Latin, German, Polish and Russian, and was distributed and read all over Europe for a few centuries.

When he was in foreign countries, Mikalojus Kristupas Radvila Našlaitėlis documented unusual customs and food traditions. He revealed that Syrians thought that Adam and Eve ate a banana, not an apple, in the Garden of Eden. He wrote: “After the fruit is cut into small round pieces, the letter T can be seen, which is in the shape of a cross.” In truth, Radvila the Orhpan was not sure of that. The description maintains that the bananas that can be bought anywhere today had not yet reached Vilnius. However cucumbers, for instance, were common for Lithuanians: “Visually, the fruit looks like our cucumber but is slightly longer, thicker and curved.”

The traveller also tried avgotaracho (caviar of salted mullet with a wax coat); now this dish is included in the database of EU products bearing a protected designation of origin.

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