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.
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.