Saturday, August 15, 2009

DAYS 38-42 EUROPE TRIP - LITHUANIA – Mosedis Region

23-27 June 2009

LITHUANIA – Mosedis Region

We had a most wonderful stay with my cousin. Our husbands get on really well and hubby had taken an Akubra across specially for him.

The first morning we made ourselves scarce as they were busy getting ready for the party tonight. So we backtracked to Plateliai to visit the Dvaro Svirno Museum which is known for its collection of Shrove Tuesday masks

and traditional ornaments.

I was the only one of our foursome who had been in Lithuania during the Shrove Tuesday festivities and was familiar with the characteres of the festival. Someone was a bit taken back to be confronted by the character ‚Morė‘.

We visited the underground nuclear rocket base in the area. It was very depressing visiting this underground facility. It was damp, cold and no comfort was provided for those that worked here during the Soviet era. They had to be short in stature as most of the visitors had to bend down to walk the corridors.

On returning to my cousin’s we pitched in with the remaining tasks.

A bonfire was soon built on the mound.

Before long it was time to get ready for the big party - 50th birthday celebration of cousin's hubby and midsummer night celebration. It started in the early evening and did not finish till the afternoon of the next day. It was a very traditional party for the region – lots of singing, dancing, eating and drinking. As guests arrived a musician started to play and they greeted the host in the yard.

Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive nibbles were provided in the beer tent.

When everyone had arrived we took our places at the table in the newly finished entertainment room that is above the cool rooms for storing vegetables and preserves. It was a time for speeches and toasts.

Then duties were given out to ensure the party would swing. Two captains for elected – one for each end of the table – as well as their assistants. Appropriate paraphernalia was given out to make them recognisable. Their job was to ensure that everyone in their area participated and that their glasses were always refilled.

A beer captain was also appointed to ensure that during the breaks from the table the beer would flow in the beer tent.

At the table one drank juice and shots as one ate and sang. No beer was available at the tables. A musician kept us all in line and kept the songs flowing.

Hubby and I were surprised that we knew so many of the songs sung. Then when the dancing started everyone would leave the tables, as this was also time for beer. At around midnight the bonfire was lit with some difficulty due to the windy conditions. We stood around the bonfire and sang summer solstice songs.

Then it was time to go back in from the cold for more entertainment, dancing, games,

and impersonations

until the wee hours of the morning when one by one everyone retired for some sleep. Not many hours later it was on again for one and all. A slight hitch in the proceedings whilst the well pump was checked as no water was flowing through the kitchen taps. The problem was soon fixed.

A traditional samogitian fare (as we are in the Samogitian region) of herring soup and kastynis (sour cream butter) followed by blood sausages starts the ball rolling in the morning.

There were quite a few accordionists in the group so each in turn played as the singing continued but nowhere near as robustly as the night before. Eventually we were again seated at the tables and the party, the food continued but the drinking had slowed down totally as many had to make their way home later that day.

It was a fabulous party and a very new experience for my sister in law and her husband. Hubby and I had experienced this before at my cousin’s. I am looking forward to the next time we can participate at such an event.

After the party everything quietened down. We had time to admire the workmanship that had gone into the new part of the building that we had been partying in. My cousin’s husband , even though very unwell, had layed the stonework. His youngest son, now an electrician had put in the lighting whilst the eldest son in the last few months had helped with the finishing tasks.

The next morning hubby and my cousins hubby drove his sister and hubby to Palanga as we were staying here a bit longer. We spent a lot of time chatting, catching up and just enjoying each others company. In the afternoon we went to Latvia to visit our remaining aunt. Two of my cousins were also there. On my father’s side she is the only one of his siblings still living. She is still going strong – a really strong and still agile woman. It was a lovely sunny afternoon. We admired aunt’s vegetable plot. It is not a little vegie patch like here in Australia. It is quite extensive - several hectares in size. Amongst the vegetables beautiful iris flowers bloomed. My cousin brought a selction back with her as she didn’t have the varieties that were being grown by our aunt.

So when we returned we all set to work planting out the plants that had been brought back.

Next morning we found this little creature in the yard – I don’t know what it is called in English but it plays havoc with the chooks.

We spent some time visiting the family grave sites here. It is a lot of wok maintaining the gravesites. Whilst I was just visiting the graves, my cousin was busy attending to the grave sites – weeding, checking the plants, watering the plants. As lifestyles change it is becoming much harder to maintain the traditional approach to looking after the dead let alone maintaining other traditions.

We dropped in on another of our cousins. She has a wealth of family history at her fingertips. She was not that much younger than my father and had recently celebrated her 80th birthday.

It is strawberry season here and the men expressed their desire for an old favourite - mashed strawberries with milk. So we sent them out to pick the strawberries.

This gives an idea of the size of the strawberry patch. A huge bowl of strawberries was mashd and enjoyed by all in place of a meal.

One day we decided to drive to Telšiai to see the Žemaitjos Kaimo (Samogitian Village) Museum. It was somewhat of a disappointment as it it not finished yet. However, it has a lot of potential. The men were particularly taken by the old way of making shingled roof pieces.

In the nearby pond the wreaths were still floating from the summer solstice celebrations.

The old windmill is to be fully renovated.

These buildings will also soon be opened to the public.

After visiting a most spectacular private garden cousin’s hubby took us to a neighbouring farm whose buildings just as old as the ones we saw at t the museum. The owner had only recently passed away. So it had still been a working farmlet till very recently.

On Saturday morning we drove to Palanga to the amber market. We left a little to late as it is only open for a very short period. Even though we were told it closed at 10.00am they were packing up within a half an hourof us getting there – much earlier than what we were told. I’ll know next time. On the way back we stopped at the local brewery "Juozo Bravaras". It is quite a place.

You could spend all day here sampling beers and food. We bought a bottle to take back with us. I should mention it was a 2 litre bottle not 330ml.

There was entertaiment here for the whole family.

I just loved the garbage bins!

Before I knew it our time here was coming to an end.

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