Friday, August 8, 2014

July 11, Vilnius, Kernave, Trakai

10:00-17:00 Visiting ancient capital cities of Pagan Lithuania.
Leaving from: LEU Guest House, A.Vivulskio g. 36, Naujamiestis, LT-03114 Vilnius
Raining again, but Sharunas said I should come with him in a small car with Vytautas and Valentinas who was wearing a copper belt he had hand-tooled with amber beads on the links between the pieces. Trakai is one of my favorite places in Lithuania. As many of my readers already know, the best amber (see myth below) at the best price is sold near the castle. Rita was waiting for us; she has great stuff and always gives me quantity discounts. I spent over $300 with her in about 10 minutes. I left her to sort and pack and price it for me while I checked out the other vendors. We were only given about an hour to shop. I passed the Danes having coffee, and Andras remarked that there seemed to be a lot fewer vendors than the last time he was here. I told him it was because of the rain, and showed him to a vendor who had nice green amber, since he was looking for some for his wife. Amber just keeps going up in price (like gold), and on 1/1/15 Lithuania will go on the Euro and prices will probably rise some more! Because of the rain, I actually went inside the 4 or 5 shops that I usually pass up and found some great presents and clay drinking horns. Then I went back to the Danes (who were having more coffee), and Kevin the German asked for my help with some amber arm rings. Mad rush back to Rita to pay and meet the gang, but Andras was still shopping. No photos of Trakai due to rain.
          Then we drove to a road house near Kernave for lunch. Valdas had pre-ordered for everyone, except it was saslik with rice and salad with peppers. I can’t eat any of that. Valdas says, well, have the chicken saslik. I don’t like saslik. How about the vegetarian? Even worse; still has saslik sauce and the kabobs are loaded with peppers and cucumbers. He finally lets me order what I wanted which was potato pancakes with ham and cheese. Good Lithuanian food! (And it was delicious.) The rain was clearing up and we were off to Kernave. I’ve only been there on my birthday with 10-20,000 people so it was really charming. Ignas was hoping for more time at the site to go to the newly-opened museum, but we mostly ran around the site taking pictures. The Danes and I sat on a bench and watched a wedding procession come out of one of the four churches in a town of less than a hundred people, and one of the hostesses offered us chocolates which we were happy to eat.
According to local legend, amber (gintaras) originates from the tears of the sea goddess Jūratė and the stones from her castle, which was destroyed by Perkūnas, the pagan god of thunder, when he discovered her passionate love affair with the mortal fisherman Kastytis. Scientists, not generally being of the pagan faith, think different. Some 50 million years ago or thereabouts the earth got warmer, causing an increase in the secretion of resin in the pine forests in the region. The streams of resin swept down rivers and into the Baltic Sea, sometimes sweeping up a stray bug along the way. It's this fossilised resin that now sits in deltaic deposits off the coasts of Kaliningrad, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden. Ask most people and they’ll tell you amber is a dark honey colour. However, visit anywhere selling the stuff and you’ll soon see it comes in such diverse colours as blue, black, white and yellow. White amber is called royal amber and is widely available in Lithuania. Blue and black amber are more rare here. (from Vilnius in Your Pocket)

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