Baltic ‘beet down’: Latvia and Lithuania clash over cold pink soup

Cold beet soup is a culinary staple in Latvia and Lithuania and across Eastern Europe. This year, Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, hosted its “Pink Soup Festival” celebrating the dish. But the city’s tourism agency also started a public beef with Latvia, claiming that the Lithuanian version of the soup is better.

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Over the weekend, a citywide event called the “Pink Soup Festival” was hosted in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. Over 1,000 people sat together at a table the length of four football fields to share this Latvian and Lithuanian delicacy.

People eat pink soup at a table 362 meters long during the Pink Soup Festival celebration in Vilnius, Lithuania, June 1, 2024. Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

Event participants set the record for the most people eating pink soup at once, together, while they beat spoons against their bowls in anticipation for the event to start. 

Though only in its second year, the Vilnius Pink Soup Festival has already caused a bit of a stir as the city’s tourism agency might have just started a public beef between Latvia and Lithuania over cold beet soup.

Vilnius tourism agency statement on which cold beet soup is better.Go Vilnius Instagram account

It might not be Drake versus Kendrick, but the controversial claim made by “Go Vilnius,” the city’s tourism agency, started a rap battle over cold beet soup.

It made the claim on Instagram that the Lithuanian version of the soup tastes better than Latvia’s. Soon after, the two Baltic nations’ capitals — Vilnius and Riga — responded by throwing barbs at each other via Instagram reels.

Riga’s tourism agency response to Vilnius controversial statement.

“Lithuania step back, it’s Latvia’s game,” the rap from Riga’s tourism agency goes. “This cold beet soup, we’re claiming the fame. Pink soup’s from Latvia, get it through your head.”

The next day, Go Vilnius released a response. “In the soup, we sail, we swim, we sink. If you cut us open, we will bleed pink,” it rapped back.

Vilnius’s tourism agency response to Riga.Go Vilnius’ Ingstagram account

The heated rap battle culminated in the June 1 event.

Gintare Kavaliunaite, public relations manager with Go Vilnius, said the difference in the way the pink soup is consumed in Lithuania versus Latvia is in the sides.

“Lithuanians serve it with a side of boiled potatoes, Latvians eat it with bread,” she said.

She added that she thinks that for Lithuanians, this is really a strange way to eat pink soup. “We are saying, ‘No, you never eat pink soup with bread; you only eat it with hot boiled potatoes.'”

Visitors slide down a water slide into a giant soup bowl during the Pink Soup Fest in Vilnius, Lithuania, June 1, 2024.Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

But Madara Oga, Riga’s tourism agency senior project manager for the marketing division, explained where Latvia is coming from.

“Latvians eat rye bread with everything, so bread is our potatoes in this case,” Oga said.  

She said there are a few key differences between the cold beet soups, as Latvians use marinated beets to make it and add mustard and horseradish, whereas Lithuanians use boiled beets.

Kavaliunaite from Go Vilnius said that the truth of the matter is that this soup is loved all over the region, including Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

“We just enjoy the love and passion that this soup gets all over the region,” she explained. 

Oga from Riga’s tourism agency, on the other hand, admitted that her team is envious of the “Pink Soup Festival,” but she added that Latvia’s soup is better.

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