The Curonian Spit and Cepelinai

I apologize to you all for missing out on a festival downtown yesterday and I know you would have enjoyed the pictures.  However, Chuck and I walked up to the Catholic Church for Sunday service in the a.m. and after sitting in the cold church (although we got there early enough to sit under those hanging heaters) for nearly an hour and then walking home with the cold wind and sleet in our faces, the thought of going downtown and standing out in the weather  some more was too much for me.  So in furtherance of your knowledge of Lithuanian culture, I’ll tell you about what we all missed.  The celebration of Shrovetide, or Uzavenes here, takes place right before Lent.   Townsfolk dress up in costumes of characters from folklore or as particular stereotypes.  In the past it was popular to dress as members of minority groups such as Jews or Protestants (we have even heard tales of Jews being burned in effigy) but things are now more politically correct and the costumes might represent bribe-loving police etc. Scheduled entertainment includes a large straw effigy of a woman, symbolizing Winter, being burned and there is a fight between a large man who symbolizes spring and a puny one symbolizing winter.  Spring always wins.  Children love wearing masks of all sorts and I think they do go door to door some–sort of like Halloween.  Pancakes are the food associated with the festival–just as they are in our own Shrove Tuesday celebration.  This is one of those instances of a meld of pagan and religious celebrations.

On Saturday, Algis took us on another outing. This time our destination was the Curonian Spit–a long (98 kilometers) peninsula from the border of Kaliningrad to Klaipeda ( very short ferry ride)  which separates the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon.  It is made up of sand dunes and a constant effort has been made since the 19th century to preserve it.  Before that, its forests were depleted for the large ship-building enterprise in Klaipeda and the blowing sand had obliterated the old fishing villages (maybe as many as 14 are buried there) and it was eroding into the sea.  Now, much of it is once again covered with forests.  Along the sea shores is a beautiful beach so it has been for many years a resort area.  In the center is a strip of great dunes consisting of the dead dunes which are no longer blown out and the mobile dunes.  It’s unique landscape has qualified it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I think this will be a great place to return to when the snow has gone but as you can see below, it looked beautiful in the snow.

Snow covered dunes

People enjoying the dunes--sledding etc.

Two old folks climbing to the top of a dune.

Large sundial at top of dune. That's me in the middle.

Boardwalks over the dunes–the Baltic Sea in the distance.

Chuck uncovers modern petroglyphs!

An example of some of the architecture

The majority of the cottages were this dark red color and trimmed with bright blue

More of those carvings in tree trunks

The Curonian Lagoon is frozen over but the Baltic, on the other side of the peninsula, is not. The picture at the top of the post shows people ice fishing out on the frozen lagoon. There was no visible horizon--just white on white. I couldn't see anything so it is just a point and shoot picture.

After we returned to Klaipeda, Algis took us to an authentic Lithuanian restaurant to try a traditional Lithuanian favorite, cepelinai, also known as Zeppelins for obvious reasons.  This is a large dumpling made from potato flour which is stuffed with ground pork and served with sour cream and a sauce of fried meat bits on top which looks like, but did not taste like, bacon.  Algis said he can sometimes put away five of these at a sitting but Chuck and I struggled to get one of them down–they are big.

Algis also urged me to try some herring soup which was cold and served with a small baked potato.  I could not eat much of that so had to be impolite.

Now I must bake some muffins for a “Mug and Muffin” event tonight–a discussion group for the women students, staff and faculty.  I’m not sure whether I will attend but I’m happy to do the baking.  I hope my baking efforts are more successful that they have been before–I haven’t discovered what is different yet–maybe the flour.

This will be a busy week and I know Chuck will have some things to share–just as soon as he has time.

Laba Diena,



One thought on “The Curonian Spit and Cepelinai

  1. What a treat to see your pictures and read your narrative. I think the cold herring soup might have been difficult for me. Even more I think it was a good reason I did not go on the mission field – -at least not to a foreign culture/land. Is the flour really heavy? Could you lighten it up with corn starch – – or do they even have any there? That’s how you make cake flour via subbing 1 T corn starch for 1 T flour (for each cup of flour).

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