Journey starts at home

Month: March 2018

A Beautiful, Cheerful and Meaningful Amber Easter at the Seaside

A Beautiful, Cheerful and Meaningful Amber Easter at the Seaside

We will soon sit at the table with our relatives to celebrate Easter. As every year, there will be joyous reunions, friendly quarrels, festive meals that are enough for three families and traditionally decorated eggs. The city of Palanga is also preparing for Easter. The […]

Amber Mythology: from the Romans to Jūratė and Kastytis

Amber Mythology: from the Romans to Jūratė and Kastytis

Amber is undoubtedly a unique creation of nature. Although reminiscent of stone, it is of a different substance altogether, and fossils trapped in amber droplets are fascinating with their preserved secrets from the past. But interest in Amber is not new: the Aestii, who collected […]

Palanga Smelt: About the Festival, Its Initiators and the Amber Smelt

Palanga Smelt: About the Festival, Its Initiators and the Amber Smelt

The residents of Palanga cheerfully and deliciously celebrated the centennial of restored Lithuania. After the celebration events of 16 February, on 17-18 February crowds of joyful visitors were attracted by the traditional Palanga Smelt Festival with its scent of cucumber.

The date of this festival was dictated by nature because the smelt is caught in Lithuania only once a year – in February, when it arrives to spawn in the coastal waters of the Baltic Sea. Seaside fishermen unanimously agree that the smelt is delicious only when fresh and when caught before spawning.

Although previously smelt was not very well known to people who lived far from the sea, fishermen’s families always found a place for it on their table. Most likely, this fondness was influenced by the seasonal nature of the fish – one can hardly get bored of a dish eaten only once a year. But the most important feature of this Lithuanian delicacy is its odour of fresh cucumbers and the variety of ways of cooking this fish.

Guests of the Palanga Smelt festival had the opportunity to try both traditional and non-traditional recipes. Battered and fried smelt and dried, smoked, marinated or grilled fish was offered at the fair, and fishermen praised their traditional fish soup. Traditional recipes are often complemented by a wide variety of culinary experiments – in the history of the festival, there have been Asian-style fried smelt, big dumplings made of potato dough stuffed with smelt and other surprises.

The fishermen of Palanga, the pioneers of the festival, took care that Palanga Smelt would be much more than a tasting of the seasonal fish. Traditional and new entertainments are arranged for visitors every year. A fishing competition, bathing in the sea for health-conscious attendees, concerts, and a barbecue championship are arranged at the Palanga bridge, and Basanavičius Street tempts with scents and colours of the fair and artistic performances. Fishermen’s competitions, such as anchor holding, boat towing, smelt eating and similar are particularly fun and attract much attention. High spirits and plenty of delicious fish characterise this festival, so it’s no wonder that Palanga Smelt has grown into a huge event over the course of fifteen years and attracts more guests to the seaside than the hottest summer weekends.

The Smelt Order

This now popular and colourful smelt festival was established fifteen years ago by Klaidas Pakutinskas, a true fisherman. Everything started from the desire to turn the spawning of this fish into a festival not only for fishermen but also for others. For several years, the organizers were distrusted and regarded with suspicion, and Palanga Smelt was not very popular – at that time the Lithuanian seaside was falling into a deep winter sleep during the cold season, so an outdoor festival in winter was something very unusual.

The group of enthusiasts and supporters gradually grew, the odour of the smelt fried in the street attracted passers-by, and more and more new entertainments were planned every year, until finally Palanga Smelt developed into one of the most popular events in Lithuania. Nine years later, when Palanga Smelt could undoubtedly be called a traditional event, the Stint Order was established, which became a colourful accent to the festival.

The members of the Smelt Order have an abundant sense of humour because their goal is to add a joyful spirit to the Palanga Smelt festival and to make smelt famous. The order has its own castle – the Molinis Ąsotis (Clay Jug) restaurant, which belongs to Klaidas Pakutinskas, Master of the Order, who is also called the father of the Palanga Smelt festival. The Order also has its own Marshal, Chancellor and lots of knights. Do not let the names mislead you – this order has nothing to do with the military. According to Gintaras Sičiūnas, the Order Marshal and the originator of this idea, “this is a fraternity of gourmets, and the tool of sacrifice for knights is not a sword but a ladle”.

 

The Amber Smelt

On the occasion of the tenth Palanga Smelt festival, Albertas Bukauskas, a Knight of the Smelt Order and folk artist, made a smelt two metres long from amber. The length of the fish sculpture was chosen not accidentally – the average length of the smelt is 20 cm, therefore a two-metre smelt symbolized the decade of the festival and the fact that the festival has grown tenfold in 10 years.

The 5.5-kg smelt inlaid with amber decorates the Smelt Order Castle (the Molinis Ąsotis restaurant). Each year, during the Palanga Smelt festival, the smelt is hung outside to be seen from the street, and for the rest of the year it is exhibited inside the restaurant. The members of the Order proudly affirm that for whoever touches it, fishing success is guaranteed for the whole year.

We invite everyone to visit and touch the amber smelt. If you are a fisherman, it will not really make things worse for you, and if you are not really fond of fishing, but you like smelts and are happy to take part in Palanga Smelt, do not forget to thank those who made this fish with the scent of cucumber popular and created a wonderful festival not only for Lithuania but also for its neighbouring countries.

Ancient Traces in Palanga and Šventoji

Ancient Traces in Palanga and Šventoji

The number of people who like visiting the Lithuanian seaside during the cold season is increasing. Much less crowded than in summer, this land casts a spell of tranquillity with its empty beaches perfect for long walks, winter beauty and a feeling of mystery in […]

Seaside Amber Treasures, Part 2: The Palanga and Šventoji Treasures in the Amber Museum

Seaside Amber Treasures, Part 2: The Palanga and Šventoji Treasures in the Amber Museum

Last time, we introduced one of the pearls of Neringa with an interesting history – the Juodkrantė amber treasure. Today we invite you to go back to the mainland and take a tour around Palanga and Šventoji. We believe that everyone knows the Palanga Amber […]

Seaside Amber Treasures, Part 1: Reconstructed Collection of the Juodkrantė Amber Treasure

Seaside Amber Treasures, Part 1: Reconstructed Collection of the Juodkrantė Amber Treasure

If you plan to spend your holidays on the Curonian Spit and are interested in amber or Lithuanian history, be sure to visit Virginija and Kazimieras Mizgiris’s Amber Gallery-Museum in Nida. Here, in an outdoor exposition under glass, a reconstructed collection of the Juodkrantė amber treasure is exhibited. This collection is fascinating for its impressive amber artwork as well as for its history.

The Juodkrantė treasure was found in the middle of the nineteenth century, when deposits of amber were discovered in the Curonian Lagoon close to Juodkrantė while the shipping fairway was being deepened. Two famous and smart merchants from Klaipėda (which was a part of Germany then) established a company called W. Stantien & M. Becker, named after themselves, and undertook to carry out dredging work in return for all rights to amber found. For 20 years, the company extracted 30-85 tons of amber per year.

Both raw amber and man-made amber objects were found. At the beginning, workers sold these “oddities” or gave them as gifts to holidaymakers in Juodkrantė until, in the third year of amber extraction, selling  these precious, 5,000-year-old objects was prohibited when Richard Klebs, professor of geology, started working as a consultant for the company.

At that time, 434 amber articles were found and collected at a depth of 2-4 metres, in the 2.5 km long Curonian Shallow (the present Amber Bay) 650 metres from Juodkrantė. Klebs undertook care of their preservation and subsequently published the book Amber Jewellery of the Stone Age in 1882 with 200 descriptions and 155 pictures of amber items. Later, the collection was transferred to the University of Konigsberg, but it disappeared from the university’s repository at the end of the Second World War. To this day, only a small part of the Juodkrantė treasure, which was transferred to Germany during the war and stored in the Museum of Geology and Palaeontology of the University of Gottingen, has survived.

The original Juodkrantė treasure consisted of pendants of various shapes: long and narrow, oval and circular, flat and round, rectangular, regular and with a diagonal base. Interesting buttons were found – round, oval or even boat shapes. Many different necklaces and amulets were found. Still, the most valuable part of this collection are amber figurines of people and animals from the Neolithic Period. There are figurines depicting a woman, a stylized face, a horse head, and various human shapes with clearly pronounced legs, arms and faces. These amber figurines of the Later Stone Age Narva culture are considered the oldest examples of plastic art in Lithuania and are famous all over the world.

Researchers are most surprised by the fact that the Juodkrantė treasure consists of articles from different periods and various archaeological cultures – this is not typical for the Stone Age, when people did not settle in one place. Researchers have raised various hypotheses about why this happened: some believe that the articles could have been washed away from the Stone Age settlements of the Semba Peninsula through anabranches, which at that time were often a feature of the Curonian Lagoon. Others try to prove that this could have been a long-standing sacrificial place (alkduobė in Lithuanian), since their places were usually not relocated, and the offerings at that time were commonly not burned, which became characteristic with the later development of agriculture, but immersed in water.

Whatever the reason for the accumulation of amber articles in the shallow near Juodkrantė, Klebs’s treasure simply must be seen by everyone who is interested in the history and culture of our country. Not everyone can go to Gottingen, but thanks to the artist restorer Bronė Kunkulienė, we can explore the masterfully reconstructed collection of the Juodkrantė treasure at the Mizgiris Amber Gallery-Museum in Nida.

 

 

Start of the Amber Tour: Let’s Discover the Mysteries of Northern Gold Together

Start of the Amber Tour: Let’s Discover the Mysteries of Northern Gold Together

Amber, also called the gold of the North, was making our country famous for thousands of years before anyone began to use the name “Lithuania”. It was our first ambassador, spreading the message about the Baltic countries on long-distance trade routes. Amber was the most […]