The first festival I have ever took part to. Taking place in the last week of April, this event was announced as a special experience in nature and it offered a wide range of activities. There were some activities addressed only to children, such as making crown by means of previously collected branches or pretending to take “flying” lessons in order to get closer to different species of birds. As for adults, they could buy something from the market showing products made by local farmers or artists or be actively involved in the creation of wooden tools or cheese. Not to neglect families too, which took part to a sort of hunting-quest for the crane’s treasure. I do not want to reveal this secret ;D.
Although I had no full responsibilities about the planning and organization of the event, I managed to live it to the full by making a crown on my own with children or taking part to the excursion to Meškos swamp. For me the most authentic and exciting experience was campsite at Kastinio Lake from evening to full night. See the picture of Romas (our bee keeper) and other participants trying to light fire by means of flints (Laužo kūrimo titnagu pradžiamokslis in Lithuanian).
The magic of that moment was finally ensured by old ladies dressed in traditional national costumes and Mindaugas (Head of Nature Division in Dzukija NP) telling stories about their traditions, habits and memories about their youth. This was very cool except for the teensy tiny little fact that I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND A SINGLE WORD OF IT (Oh Gosh XD). Here is what Julija reported to me (thank you so much Julija!!!):
They have always picked cranberries (spalgena -this is how people of Dzūkija call them in their dialect). They said that there was a lot of this kind of berries in Cepkeliai swamp. And after women picked them, the men took and brought them home with their horses (on carriages). The same with mushrooms. They knew places in the forest where every kind of mushrooms can grow. Mostly, they picked these kind of mushrooms: boletus or porcini (grybai – in people of Dzūkija’s dialect) , chanterelle (lepeškos), gyromitra esculenta (šmarškos), tricholoma equestre (zelionkos). If they picked a lot of mushrooms, they helped bringing them home with horses+carriage too. The Gyromitra esculenta species were not eaten, but only sold to resellers. And there was also the mowing procedure. They used to mow grass which was growing in the swamps with a scythes. The resulting hay was put in some heaps after few days. And they could bring it home only in winter time, when the swamps were frozen. Also in their youth time they saw a lot of young people living in the villages. They liked to do some parties with live music and dances. Then, Mindaugas talked about natural fires, those provoked by lightning striking pines and trees and the fact that local people were afraid of these fires, because their houses were wooden.
I also turned a can of beer into an improvised cup to drink tea with herbs boiled on the fire. Everything was so picturesque but I had to come back to my apartment to rest as much as possible because the event was not over (there were some brave tourists who slept in the campsite). We had to wake up at 03 am in the morning in order to explore Čepkelių swamp and listen to nature sounds and cranes. Armed with courage, determination and warm clothes we headed to Kastinio Lake in order to wake the others up (by means of blocks of wood, a spoon and something we found from the previous fire XD) and split in two groups as to go to this swamp where a useful watching tower stood up as to help us in our purpose. All along the path and after reaching the place we had the possibility of hearing different species of birds, from cranes to hoopoes. That is how we wait for the sunrise…