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  • April 16, 2009

    Attractive places in Lithuania

    Filed under: Touristic attractions of our town — pikrides @ 8:31

    Most attractive place of Klaipeda region is Curonian Spit. This is unique place which every tripper must visit…

    Geographical And Political Description

    The Curonian Spit is a unique monument, light multisided strip of a land, uniqueness of which is comprised of relief created by the sea and wind, the highest spit in the whole Northern Europe, Lagoon marl prints, remains of former Lagoon‘s forest and soil brought by the wind and constant interesting eolic processes.

    A considerable contribution for formation of the existent uniqueness was made by human, who after unmerciful extermination of the spit‘s forests personally started the works of forests‘ regeneration. The process of regeneration was long and hard; therefore, current natural and introduced vegetation, rare plants that are typical for this region only, their communities, and their growth locations request special care. Such care is also necessitated by tracks left by humans in this region, since “the most important task is to preserve and propagate the region‘s culture together with its creators – local residents – and with the natural environment, where the culture had blossomed and left its tracks.“

    The natives of the spit, who had created an original ethnic community of fishermen, disappeared during the War and post-War period. Only the spit, forests, and empty fishermen‘s settlements remained. During the post-War period, the territory was populated by immigrants from the Great Lithuania and other republics, which were a part of the contemporary Soviet Union.

     

    Borders of Lithuanian Spit

     

    The Curonian Spit is a narrow sand peninsula of 98 km of length, which divides the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. This is a fragile nature, which requests a considerable and constant attention. In the South, Lithuanian part of the Spit borders with Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation. The borderline marks the external borders of the European Union.

    According to the origin and composition the Spit is comprised of natural and human-made complex sections of protective dune-ridge. These various forms were created by waves, wind and the human, which were also helped by the sand grains of various sizes, flora and its distribution, angles and height of dune-ridge‘s slopes, and  position of the ridge according to the coastline and its inner composition.


     

    Nature And Dunes

    A pearl of the Baltics, an adornment of the seacoast, the native land of Neringa‘s fairy tales – these are the words repeated ferquently by the people who were affected by the charm of the Curonian Spit. Our spit changes its facing annually. It always has an original beauty: in spring and summer, blushing the leaves of the sand plains‘ forests in autumn, or spreading a friable snow cover in winter. The most typical and impressive element of the spit‘s nature is the dunes. However, the value of uniqueness of the Curonian Spit hides not in separate components of its nature, but in unrepeatable combination, coexistence and interaction of those components. The Curonian Spit is the reachest humans‘ and nature‘s laboratory of natural research of interaction of ecological coast processes, and an original museum of life nature. Only here you can observe and integrally investigate ecological processes of the coast and their particularities. The dunes of the Curonian Spit is an excellent laboratory for analysis of not only formation and dynamics of the dunes, but also of spontaneous grassing of the dunes, and formation and development of new plant communities of the dunes.

     

    The Prie-History Of The Region

    Formed over 5,000 years ago, the Curonian Spit is a 98 km long strip between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon. Agelong rivals dominate the Spit: sand, the sea, and forest. Over time, this ding-dong fight highly troubled local inhabitants; however, namely the confrontation of wind-blown sand and vegetation eventually formed the Spit, renowned for its unique beauty of nature and referred to as the Curonian Spit in historical sources (neria curoniensis). The origin of the Spit’s name is linked to the Curonians – a tribe of Western Balts, who lived at the nowadays Latvian seaside, with their settlements spreading as far as to the south, reaching Klaipeda neighborhood. As early as in the Stone Age, human beings found there a land that was suitable for living (4,000 BC). Approximately, at that time, Semba peninsula let amber layer loose under the plough. Thus, since those times, the wonderful mineral became a vital aspect of the Curonian Spit inhabitants’ household and decoration.

     

    From XIII Century To The Post-War Times

    A more specific image of the Curonian Spit’s development can be formed only from XVIII century, when the Germanic Order conquered this territory and started to record events related to the adaptation of the Spit – strategically significant territory – in historical sources. For that reason, the Germanic Order built several castles at the Curonian Spit, of which the most important was the Rasyte castle (Rossitten, currently Rybachy settlement), mentioned for the first time in 1372. It stood there till the end of XV century. By that time, the Curonian Spit was a focal intermediate traffic link between Marienburg (currently Malbork) and Riga. Hostelries were founded there to secure the traffic function, which thus conditioned establishment of settlements. The following names of places were mentioned during the times of the Curonian Spit subjection to the Germanic Order till the beginning of XVI century – Sarkuva (Sarkau), Kuncai (Kunzen), Rasyte (Rossitten), Pilkopa (Pillkopen), Nida (Nidden), Karvaiciai (Karwaiten), Nagliai (Negeln), Juodkrante (Schwarzort), and Smiltyne (Sandkrug).

    The beginning of XVI century was the time of the significant changes: the state of the Order fell into decay, in place of which the secular Duchy of Prussia emerged with the Curonian Spit as its integral part. The Reformation brought respect for the vernacular language, i.e. from those times to the middle of XX mentury, Lithuanian language was heard in the churches. A firmly established Lutheranism and harsh subsistence shaped spiritual world of the Curonian Spit inhabitants, their moral principles in assessing truth, hard work, and order. Besides, at the intersection of XV and XVI centuries, the Curonians, who spoke Latvian and distinctly represented an ethnic originality of the Spit up till the World War II, settled at the Curonian Spit. Those fishermen had been cutting the waters of the Curonian Lagoon on the kurenas – sailing boats of especial construction, the masts of which were adorned with weathercocks. Woesome existence lead the Curonians to master hunting crows and consume them as food, as well as determined the ascetic habitation and dress code of the Curonians.

     

    Nida as a summer resort fancied by famous people

    By the end of XIX century, German expressionists (Max Pechstein, Lovis Corinth, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Mollenhauer and others) started to place Nida on the map by spending their summers there. They had established Nida Artists’ Colony with its “quarters” in the “Hermann Blode” hotel, which was one of the oldest Nida hotels and was built in 1867. During the semicentenary heyday of the artists’ community, “Hermann Blode” Hotel was visited not only by many great artists, but also by litterateurs Hermann Sudermann, Ernst Wiechert, Agnes Miegel, Fritz Kudnig, psychotherapist Sigmund Freud, and others. A Nobel prize winner, writer Thomas Mann was one of the respectable hotel’s guests, who had visited Nida for the first time in August 24, 1929 and had spent several memorable days in the “Hermann Blode” Hotel. Fascinated by the Curonian Spit landscape and Nida fishermen’s village aura, he decided to build a summerhouse in Nida, where he spent three summers (1930 – 1932) and wrote part of the trilogy “Joseph and His Brothers”.

     

    Geographical and Political Situation After 1923

    In 1923, for the first time in 700 years, the Curonian Spit was intersected by the state border: a section from Nida to Smiltyne became a part of autonomic Klaipeda region of the Republic of Lithuania. It did not yield significant changes in the life of the Curonian Spit inhabitants, although, some of them became German citizens and others – Lithuanian citizens. Resort business kept on flourishing in Nida, attracting up to 10 thousand holidaymakers per season. In 1939, that part of the Curonian Spit, which belonged to Lithuania, along with the Klaipeda region, were annexed to Germany again. However, that event and even the commencing World War II did not unhinge the accustomed resort life too much. However, the summer of 1944 became fateful for the Curonian Spit: With battle line drawing closer, all of the local inhabitants had to leave for the depth of Germany, and majority of them did not come back. Suddenly, the age-old cultural tradition of the Curonian Spit, in which German, Curonian, and Lithuanian languages and heritages were intertwined, had ruptured. After 700 years, the wheel of history had ended up drawing one trajectory and started to roll a completely different track, enriching new experience with historical memory.

     

     

    From The Postwar Times To Nowadays

    In the summer of 1944, with the front line drawing closer, majority of inhabitants fled to Germany. Till the beginning of 1945, practically all of the local residents, most of whom came from Central Russia, had left, and civilians started to inhabit the Curonian Spit,. The Curonian Spit of the postwar times represented ill communication with the mainland, bad roads or absence of the latter, wasted and ravished the land. For newcomers, the Curonian Spit was an alien land for a long time. Nida, Preila, and Juodkrante’s neighbourhoods functioned prior to the foundation of the town. On November 15, 1961, the LSSR Supreme Council issued a decree “Regarding Nida, Preila, and Juodkrante’s Summerhouses Liquidation and Neringa Town Foundation, Subordinate to the Republic”. The concerns of the first town head were to provide Neringa with electricity, telephone communication lines, as well as to reconstruct the road Nida - Smiltyne. At that same time, the foundation for the development of Neringa as a resort was laid. Special attention was paid to the border regime and establishment of a life-saving station.

    In 1966, the status of a unique landscape reservation came into effect, which practically equals the status of the national park. The latter definition was avoided due to the fear to use the word “national.”

    In 1967, the hurricane cut a swath through the Spit, unthreading 21 thousand cubic meters of the most beautiful forest. The speed of wind reached 35-40 m/sec.

     

    Management of the territory according to the general plan

    In 1968, the territory of Neringa town was started to be managed according to the certified general plan (the plan was prepared by the Architectural and Construction Institute of Kaunas, head Ph.D. V. Stauskas).

    In 1970, a secondary school started to function, and in 1973 – music school and residential district were built on the Taikos street.

    In 1972, a canteen and a trading center was built in Juodkrante. A gym and a wing of the Nida secondary school was built. Traffic communication with Kaliningrad has improved. The most important projects: construction of dwelling houses in the Kopu district and foundation of the Museum of Miniatures in Juodkrante.

    In 1976, LSSR Cabinet Council confirmed provisions about the Curonian Spit management. The same year, State Forest Park was established.

    In 1979, Neringa town complex children-youth sports school SSD “Zalgiris” was opened in Nida. Even prior to the establishment of the sports school, Nida yachtsmen were well-known in Lithuania and former USSR.

    In 1988, the churches of Nida and Juodkrante were returned to Evangelical-Lutheran parishes. That same year, 110 KW electric transfer line was laid. In September 1988, “Sajudis” was formed in Neringa. That was a new democratic force. The entire Lithuania, including Neringa, experienced a great ethnic and spiritual upsurge.

    In 1991, the National Park of the Curonian Spit was established, according to the LR Supreme Council resolution. In July, yachting final competition among Lithuanians of the World took place in Neringa.

     

    Cultural Tourism

    From 1995, the most focal turning point happens in the town’s infrastructure development. Special attention was paid to the cultural tourism and solution of inhabitants’ social problems. In that time frame, municipality considerably improved the town’s infrastructure. In 2001, the biggest infrastructure object in Lithuania was yielded – Juodkrante quay. In 1995, the quay clearing works were started. Prior to 1995, that bank of the Curonian Lagoon was unkept, unaesthetic, and untidy, which caused the raised Lagoon’s waters to flood the road. Nowadays, the quay is the most visited place, where one can not only walk, but also admire Lithuanian and foreign artists’ stone sculptures. Municipality pays considerable attention to the renovation of the apartment houses – houses facades were changed, span roofs, traditional for this land, were fitted instead of flat roofs, environment was cleaned up.

    When Lithuania regained independence, a lot of work has been done in the cultural tourism sphere. Most of events organized in Neringa became traditional. Those are holiday of the Summer Season Opening, international folklore festival “Tek sauluze ant maraciu”, Fisherman’s Holiday, international Thomas Mann art festival, opera and symphonic music festival “Musical August at the Seaside”, chamber music festival “The Curonian Spit”, Christmas and New Year cycle, etc.

     

    The Curonian Spit is in the UNESCO List

    By the end of 2000, the Curonian Spit territory was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list as a cultural landscape object. This recognition is the best evaluation of cultural inheritance, nature protection, and infrastructure improvement works being done on the territory of the Curonian Spit.

    In 2002, Nida’s beach was awarded with the Blue Flag. In 2001, World orientation sport veterans’ championship successfully took place in Neringa, where more than 2,600 sportsmen from 35 countries took part. That was the biggest sports forum in Lithuania.

     

    Famous people of the region

    Thomas Mann

     

     

     

    Thomas Mann had visited Nida for the first time in 1929. In his memoir later he wrote: “We had spent several days in Nida’s fishermen’s village and were so much thrilled by indescribable originality and beauty of that nature, by fantastic world of wandering dunes, and by elks living in the pinewoods, that we decided to purchase a permanent residence”. In 1929 – 1930, a house that is a reproduction of a fisherman’s house was constructed on the Hill of Mother-in-Law in Nida according to the project of the architect H. Reissmann. On July 16, 1930, Thomas Mann with his family arrived to his new summerhouse. The writer had spent three summers in Nida with his fanily (1930 -1932). Here he followed his routine schedule. He continued writing “Joseph and His Brothers”, the essay “My summerhouse”, articles, letters for offices, publishing, translators, friends. In 1933, Thomas Mann was forced to emigrate with the family from Germany and never returned to Nida.

    The residents of Neringa are proud that a Nobel prize winner Thomas Mann had visited and was writing in Nida. When he was writing here his novel “Joseph and His Brothers”, Thomas Mann was fifty-five years old at that time. He was arriving to Nida as a writer-humanist, who had stable positions in literature and culture life and was already fast enough to speak out for democracy and warn his fellow-countrymen and people of other regions about the threat of fascism becoming effective in Europe.

     

     

    Summerhouse on the Hill of Mother-in-Law

    Having accidently visited Nida in 1929, T. Mann and his wife sensed that this visit was not the last one. Having a sincere talk with H.Blode about his wish to spend summers here, shortly after that, he received an information about possibility originating to reconstruct a summerhouse in Nida. The next summer they already arrived for spending summer in his summerhouse on the Hill of Mother-in-Law. Settling in Nida for the summertime, the writer hoped that this will be the restplace beside his favourite Baltic Sea, where he will be able to create. He was right. An atmosphere predominating in Nida suited the process of creation perfectly. The writer had spent many hours on the second floor of the house, creating and looking through the window at the Curonian Lagoon.

     

    Ludwig Reza

    Ludwig Gediminas Reza was born on January 9, 1776, in Karvaiciai village.

    Having his father dead in 1782, the orphan Ludwig was sheltered by fisherman of nearby Nagliu village Radmacheris, and during 1882 - 1883 he was living with his distant relative, the owner of Rasyte’s Post Station Boehm.

    In 1785, L. G. Reza moved from the Curonian Spit to Kaukenai (in the region of Nemunas’ delta), where the husband of his mother’s sister theologian Christian David Wittich was living.

    L. G.Reza had spent six years with Ch. D.Witticha, was studying further hard, and being fifteen years old, with the help of Ch. D.Wittich in the summer of 1791 he got to Lebenicht paupers’ shelter in Koenigsberg. 

    In 1795, L. G.Reza, being nineteen years old, entered Theology Department of Koenigsberg University, and this department was a dominating one with the number of its students and its importance since the very establishment of the university (1544). Apart from theology, L. G.Reza had studied ancient languages, history of literature, rhetoric, attended history lectures, and was interested in philosophy and Eastern languages the most. Maturation of his personality was influenced the most by the philosopher lecturing in the university I. Kant, orientalist J. Hasse, historian K. Mangelsdorf and Ch. Kraus. The theory of J. Hasse was not scientifically valid, but it thrilled the imagination of L. Reza and stimulated his interest in the history of the amber region, a part of which was the Curonian Spit.

    During the studies,  L. Reza visited seminar of Lithuanian langauge, which took place in the university from 1723, later, he had been leading it for a long itme, rasing the level of this seminar and, thus, contributing to Lithuanian linguistic preparation of future Evangelical Lutheran priests of Lithuania Minor (Prussian Lithuania).

     

    Scientific activity of L. Reza

    L. Reza completed his studies in Koenigsberg University in 1799, and, even though, he was attracted by scientist’s career, he chose this path some years later: Being fifteen years old, L. Reza occupied the position of military preacher and only from 1816 he related his activity with the university. L. Reza had been preparing for academic work all the time after the end of studies: he had studied philosophy, history, Hebrew, Chaldic, Arabic languages and in 1807 defended his scientific paper “About Interpretation of Morals of the Holy Books According to Kant”, acquiring the Doctoral Degree in Philosophy. In 1810 L. Reza became an extraodrinary professor of Koenigsberg University and started to lecture the course on History of the Christian Church and Introduction to the Old and New Testaments. L. Reza was also granted with the Doctoral Degree in Theology for the studies on history of Lithuanian Bible, and in 1819 he was appointed to be the Dean of the Department of Theology and later became a Rector. In 1828, L. Reza became the first professor of the Department of Theology – the lord.

     

    Evaluation of social and scientific work of L. Reza

    L. Reza was an active agent of society.

    From 1810, L. Reza was participating in activity of Prussian Bible Distribution Association.

    From 1811, L. Reza was an active member of the Royal German Asscociation of his town, there he was reading the papers on historical and folklore issues.

    In 1819, L. Reza, who became known for his Lithuanian linguistic works, was elected to be an honoured member of the Curonian Land’s Literature and Art Association. This was an association of a liberal movement, founded by local Germans in 1816, which was cherishing the region’s culture.

    In 1832 L. Reza – well-known authority in science of theology – became the member of Leipzig Historical Theological Association.

    The membership of L. Reza in the contemporary elite of Koenigsberg is demonstrated by his election as an honoured member of Conshistory and Schools College of Prussian Province (Das Consistorium und Provinzial – Schul – Collegium) in 1829. This institution resolved important questions of Western Prussia church, education and culture development.

    L. Reza’s sympathies towards liberal ideas are revealed in his participation in activity of one of three Masonic lodges that were functioning in Koenigsberg – The Three Crown Lodge of St. John (Maurer-Loge zu den Drey Kronen).

    Scientific and social activity of L. Reza was highly evaluated at the end of his life: In 1840, he was awarded with the Prussian State Order.

    Traditions

    Fishering And Fish Smoking

    Ancient inhabitants of the Spit were all fishermen without exceptions. Fishing business had penetrated not only the whole of their household life, but spiritual culture as well. Every household had one or several boats, by which all tours were done. Chidren sailed by boats to schools, adults travelled by them to the church. Frequently, the fishermen started out for fishing for 3 - 5 days. There was always enough of work, since various species of fish “were comming” at different times.

    The ancient Curonians were fishing in the boats called kurenas. They were up to 10 meters in lenth and 3 meters in width.

    There was a separate smokehouse’s building in the fishermen’s farmsteads, which was named the beech-house. The work of women was to process and hook the fish for smoking.

    The diet of the Curonian Spit’s fishermen was rather simple. The main food was fish. It was consumed as meat, also instead of bread and vegetables. Fish was also used as feed for animals. Dried and salted fish was the main food reserve for the winter. Smoked fish was intended for the holy table as well. The most tasty fish was and still is, when for fish smoking pines cones are used.

    Even today, walking the streest of Neringa’s settlements, your nose gets pleasantly “tickled” by the smells of smoked fish. You can taste smoked eel, bream, perch and even smelt almost in every cafe or restaurant or just sitting next to the table of smoked fish mongers.

     

    Proffesional and amateur fishing in the Curonian Lagoon

    Nowadays, the Curonian Lagoon is perfectly suitable for not only professional, but amateur fishing as well. Experienced fishermen independently start out for fishing not only during summer, but winter too, when the season of ice-fishing begins and smelts are biting in great quanitities.

    The beginners prefer organized fishing when an experienced ship captain can join.

    Fishing with all fishing tools is allowed in the Curonian Lagoon in the distance smaller than 500 m from the caost only with permissions or licenses issued by the Ministry of the Environment (except for fishing with float rods from the coast). In the night fishing is allowed only from the coast or on ice, fishing is prohibited in the Baltic Sea and pools of border waters without permission of the borderline police. Average weight of the fish caught during one day cannot exceed 5 kg for one fisherman.

    Amateur fishing in park’s waters is performed according to the rules of amateur fishing.

     

     

    (For “Holidays in our country”).

    If you decide spend your holidays in Lithuania you must find some days and visit Trakai – the old capital of Lithuania and The Open Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės


    About Trakai historical national park
    There are 5 national parks and 32 regional parks in the Lithuanian Republic and these cover in total almost 11 percent of the whole of the country. Trakai Historical National Park is the smallest national park in Lithuania. This state-protected territory stands out from the rest in that it is centred on an ancient Lithuanian political centre, Trakai, and has a unique natural landscape to preserve. This task is difficult not only because of the fact that nowadays we are going through a complicated post-Soviet economic and mental situation but also because Trakai Historical National Park is highly populated with 14,000 people and lies only three kilometres away from the nation’s capital, Vilnius. A state-funded organisation, the Trakai Historical National Park Management, has been set up to meet the park’s aims and duties. The Management comprises thirteen persons and the function of founder and watch dog is played by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture.

    Trakai was given special protected status back in Soviet days (1960) and its value was appreciated even before then. In the 1857 Vilnius romantic writer Władysław Syrokomle (1823-62) posed a question typical of his generation: “O why is Trakai not somewhere in England, Scotland or Switzerland? Then crowds would come every day to gaze at its fairness. We would find thousands of their accounts in travel journals and novels. Thousands of painters from all over would sketch it. It’s honour would be conveyed across Europe in millions of prints and this honour would eventually even fall to Lithuania”.However, it was only during the first year that Lithuania regained its independence in 1991 that the chance occurred for Trakai and its surroundings to win the exceptional status of an historical national park. Trakai Historical National Park was founded by the Lithuanian Restoration Seimas in order to preserve cultural sites of Lithuanian historical statehood along with their genuine natural environs. In this unique and compact ensemble of natural and cultural heritage, which reflects important periods and events in the history of Lithuania and eastern Europe as a whole, we can see a beautifully preserved cultural landscape centred on an historic town and castles which are nestled in lake land. Here there are traditional agricultural villages, fieldscapes and areas where primaeval natural formations still survive. The value of Trakai Historical National Park has been preserved finely and its special status has been recognised and protected by a whole body of national legislation.

    The landscape of Trakai Historical National Park exudes particular beauty; in part this is natural and in part it is man-made. It covers an area of 8,200 ha which includes more than 32 lakes (occupying an area of 1,400 ha). The pre-Ice Age relief is responsible for the large formations which dominate the Park, namely the lakes and marshland, and hills which formed during the last Ice Age (between thirteen and fourteen thousand years BC). During the varied stages when the ice melted an undulating plateau formed in the southern part of the park with a chain of moraine hills. The morphological structure of this land relief is a unique feature of the formation of lake land in the Baltic Uplands. Lying in the embrace of a water system comprising Galvės (361 ha), Skaiščio (286 ha), Bernardinų (88 ha) and Totoriškių (76 ha) Lakes is the old centre of the town of (Naujieji [New]) Trakai (169 ha) with its Island and Peninsula Castles, which effectively form the kernel of the park ensemble. The town is girt by mixed woodland (3,900 ha) which gives way in the east to marshland, to a plateau in the south, and a contrasting hill and vale area to the north and west. This landscape forms perfect conditions for a large variety of flora and fauna, which includes species of Europe-wide importance as well as many that feature in Lithuanian and European lists of rare species. The Park’s territory contains well-sited hill forts, castle sites, manors, traditionally appointed villages and isolated farmsteads. All the components of Trakai Historical National Park combine to form an integrated, holistic territorial and visual unit which leaves the visitor with an unforgettable impression.

    The natural treasures and the variety of the landscape, especially its specific land formations, provided favourable conditions for the human population which settled within the modern Park’s territory 4,000 years before the Birth of Christ. Trakai attained special significance in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries A.D., when the last pagan state in Europe, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, opposed crusade attempts to convert it to Christianity led by the Teutonic Order. Trakai is mentioned for the first time in written sources in the Chronicle of Wigand of Marburg under the year 1337. Trakai had become an important defensive centre close to the major grand-ducal residence of Vilnius. A unified defensive system was built in Trakai, which was difficult to approach because of its natural defences of wood- and lake land. There were wooden forts at Bražuolė (first millennium BC-fourteenth century AD) and Daniliškės (sixth-twelfth century AD) and stone ones at Senieji [Old] Trakai (early fourteenth century) and on the island and peninsula in Naujieji [New] Trakai (middle and late fourteenth century respectively). Tatars and Karaites helped Lithuanians defend their land from the late fourteenth century.

    The polyethnic town of (New) Trakai with its Lithuanians, Karaites, Tatars, Jews, Russians, Germans and Poles grew up beside the castles and had broad political and commercial links with European towns and their communities and traditions of mediaeval sacral, secular and defensive architecture, secular and religious art and literature. The town had a unique form of self-adminsitration based on Magdeburg Law and from the fifteenth century autonomous Christian and Karaite communities governed their own affairs. Trakai was the centre of a separate duchy in the fourteenth-sixteenth centuries, which stretched to Brest Litovsk in the south (now part of Belarus) and Biržai in the north (close to the modern Latvian border), and it was an important residence of the rulers of Lithuania. Trakai was a favourite grand-ducal residence, an acknowledged centre for political theatre with hunting and diplomatic rituals, ecclesiastical holidays and trade fairs. From the sixteenth century Trakai held a dominant place in a nationwide religious cult. In 1718 Pope Clement XI crowned the wonder-working Trakai icon of Our Lady, which was the focus of pilgrimage for Lithuanians, Poles, Belorussians and Latvians. Alongside Catholic communities Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and Karaite believers flourished in Trakai. In the seventeenth century the town ceased growing because the natural conditions which had favoured the defensive needs of the mediaeval town now formed an obstacle to economic and urban development during the period of the Commonwealth of the Two Nations (1569-1795), and occupations under the Russian Empire (1795-1917), the Second Polish Republic (1920-39) and the Soviet Union (1940-91). The historical and cultural heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania has been preserved in the town of Trakai. This territory’s life was enhanced not only by historic rulers such as Vytautas the Great (1392-1430) or Casimir (1440-92) but also by other famous figures such as the counts Tyszkiewicz, the Radziwiłł dukes, the Sapiehas, Ogińskis, Gasztolds, the fifteenth-century bishop of Vilnius, Matthew of Trakai (who was also rector of the University of Siena), the Karaite philosopher and divine Isaac ben Abraham of Trakai (1533-94) and the physician-poet Ezra Harofez.

    The Open Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės

    The Open Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės (Kaišiadorys District) is an exposition in the open air. The core exhibits of this museum include dwelling houses, farmstead buildings and folk art monuments transferred from all ethnographic regions of Lithuania, Aukštaitija, Žemaitija, Suvalkija and Dzūkija, and reassembled in a 175-ha area, in a beautiful location near the Kaunas Man-made Sea and Praviena rivulet. Some of the buildings were constructed 200 years ago and earlier. They acquaint visitors with the mode of life as well as housing construction and equipment techniques of people during various periods. 140 buildings are exposed as farmsteads and villages while town’s buildings are grouped around a square. The farmsteads show fences, draw-wells, gardens or parterres. The majority of interior expositions display restored household articles and furniture, cloths, kitchen utensils and tools typical to one or other period. The museum also invites to active expositions where weavers, wood carvers, potters and other craftsmen work.

    The museum was founded in 1966. It was opened for visitors in 1974. The length of review excursions is 6 km.

    The museum hosts museum collection and individual folk artists’ exhibitions in its exhibition hall.

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