Druskininkai: beyond SPA and resort, a “spring” of culture and history.

If I ask Lithuanian people where to go to find some relax after work or to have some fun, Druskininkai is the first answer. This city is located in the southern Lithuania, close to the borders with Belarus and Poland, and it is not so far from Marcinkonys. On the 2nd of May, I mainly wanted to visit the Gruto Parkas but it was a little too far for the limited time I had. It turned out that there is another rich monumental / cultural system there. Druskininkai is also famous for its mineral springs, beautiful nature and its artistic people.

First, I went to Druskininkų Miesto Muziejus (Druskininkai City Museum) established in “villa Linksma”, an outstanding villa in modern neoclassical style that was used as a representational building over the years. It was difficult to interact with its tourist information centre yet I managed to see its permanent exhibition showing valuable iconographic and archival material related to Druskinininkai. Therefore, I discovered that its name derived from the so much celebrated presence of saltwater intrusions (Druska as Salt in Lithuanian) that, combined with mild warm microclimate, made this city a health resort. Here it is possible to find the best place for entertainment: concerts, theatres and dance performances. Inside the city museum a real shrine full of objects carefully cherished and stored: old postcards and images testifying different stages in the evolution of Druskininkai; several historical documents about the health resort’s achievements; present day objects and ornaments. Too bad that I could not take picture:(. Yet, there was a little portion of the museum that attracted me. Here some photos (yes, this time I have them :D) of little drawings designed as frames of a glorious past with its several protagonists and I could not help but noticing that there is a sort of satirical taste behind them. The beauty of this museum extends beyond it that is in the outstanding surroundings of Druskonis Lake where it is possible to rent paddleboats or having lunch close to golden eye ducks.

Another great surprise was the museum dedicated to M. K. Čiurlionis. I had no high expectations about it also because I had no clue about this artist. However, shortly after crossing the threshold, I noticed that this could be not a typical museum and later on I found out why. Since 1963, the house of the artist and his parents (who lived sporadically from 1890 to 1910) has been turned into a memorial museum where the authentic living atmosphere of the artist’s family, his most significant and creative work in both art and music are brought back to life. In fact, Čiurlionis is not only the most internationally known Lithuanian musician and artist but he also influenced the entire 20th century Lithuanian artistic development and national awareness. The most interesting fact is that this museum is arranged in 4 houses, each of which devoted to a part of the artist’s life. The first house shows some photos of him and his wife and two big stained glasses created by a famous Lithuanian artist inspired by the paintings of Čiurlionis.

The yellow and grey houses (where his family lived) and their interiors, such as the veranda or the kitchen, were reconstructed and nowadays they offer “frozen” yet still living examples of daily life. And lots of paintings by this artist too, such as Christ on the Mount of Olives (1909). There is still the studio of the artist with a painter’s carrying case and an easel. The last brown house is a paintings gallery filled with Čiurlionis’ music and including a little section devoted to contemporary Japanese Woodblock prints or Mokuhanga. This unique wood carving technique consists of water-based paints and printing on special hand-made paper (washi) without any press like in the picture above. For further information click here. I also left my “mark” that is a comment and a portrait of the artist.

The last museum I was so much impressed by is the Druskininkai Museum of Resistance and Relics of Deportations focusing on the Soviet occupation period. When I entered the building, I thought “this can’t be here, it is empty like it’s under renovation” but, few steps of the staircase and a random anonymous little door later, the amazing exposition related to the memorials of the partisans reveals itself and its three topics: the armed resistance; the deportations and the unarmed resistance. The museum focuses on the genocide incurred on Lithuanian population during the Soviet regime. It testifies records of arrests, imprisonments in labour camps and deportations to Siberia. This exhibition may have a strong impact also because there are several authentic objects belonged to those people who suffered from deportations or were killed, such as real hair and photos of corpses exposed to the population as a warning. However, there is also proof of the significant and active role of women in resisting Soviet occupation and the establishment of underground activities (mainly religious) of non-armed resistance.

To sum it up, Druskininkai deserves more than a single day to be fully discovered and I can not wait to visit it again.

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