The reason why I travel as much as I do is purely because I like it.
I have been on the road since I was 18 and i am 41 now and plan to continue with
that a few decades more. I earn my living from doing freelance jobs in tourism.
This is both as a tourleader, as a consultant and as a lecturer. I am showing
some tourists around the Azores at the moment and when that is done then i take
3 months off for a round the world trip taking me to Turkey, Malaysia, Borneo,
Brunei, the Phillipines, Vietnam and California.
The soil was collected on a roadtrip I did with some people I met through the
travel site www.virtualtourist.com. It´s
a travel tip sharing website, but it has a very good community spirit too and
we were 6 persons from 5 different countries who did this trip very spontaneously
after a chat in the travel forum on virtualtourist.com. We visited 7 countries
in 7 days (Finland, Estonia, Latvia. Lithuania, Belarus, Poland and England)
and in all the countries we met up with people we got in touch with through virtualtourist,
so it was a bit of a party trip.
The biggest challenge when collecting the soil was that we did the trip in january
and the temperatures were around minus 30 degrees celcius and the ground was
But we got it up with tools we borrowed from locals and the soil in Estonia was
collected from just outside the train station in the old university town "Tartu".
Lithuania I got the soil from a Park in the center of
Vilnius and in Belarus we got the soil from a little
forest next to the train station.
was a little tricky in Belarus as we were actually refused
entry because we did not apply for visas in advance,
but we had to wait 6 hours for a train to deport us so
I had time to get the soil in the little forst next to
the train station.
That was my 5 cents.
Just write me if you need more info.
Jheri St. James
A Lithuanian Prayer
“That I may love and respect my
mother, father and old people; that I may protect their graves
from rending and destruction; that I may plant oaks, junipers,
wormwoods and silverweed for their rest in cemeteries. Those
who do not love and respect their bearers will await hardship
in their old age or will not grow old at all.
“That my hands may never become
bloody from human blood. That the blood of animals, fish or
birds may not soil my hands, if I might kill them satiated
and not hungry. Those who today kill animals with delight
will tomorrow drink human blood. The more hunters live in
Lithuania, the further fortune and a happy life escapes us.
“That I may not fell a single tree
without holy need; that I may not step on a blooming field;
that I may always plant trees.
“That I may love and respect Bread.
If a crumb should accidentally fall, I will lift it, kiss
it and apologize. If we all respect bread, thee will be no
starvation or hardship.
“That I may never hurt anyone; that
I may always give the correct change; that I may not mistakenly
steal even the smallest coin. The Gods punish for offenses.
“That I may not denigrate foreign
beliefs and may not poke fun at my own faith. The Gods look
with grace upon those who plant trees along roads, in homesteads,
at holy places, at crossroads, and by houses. If you wed,
plant a wedding tree. If a child is born, plant a tree. If
someone beloved dies, plant a tree for the Vele (shade) of
the deceased. At all holidays during all important events,
visit trees. Prayers will attain holiness through trees of
thanks. So may it be!”
This prayer was smuggled and hidden during
the Czarist prohibition of the Lithuanian language in the
latter half of the 19th century. In 1938, Pranas Antalkis
recorded the recitation of this prayer by Elzbieta and Marija
Palubenskaite. The text was edited by Jonas Trinkunas, Seniunas
of the Vilnius Romuva. Romuva is the name of the most important
sanctuary of the Prussians, which was destroyed by crusaders
in the 13th century. The symbol of pagan Romuva is a stylized
sacred oak tree with three pairs of branches, topped by a
sacred flame. The Baltic faith does not negate other religions
and Gods, but emphasizes the sacredness of nature first and
foremost. The core of the faith is harmony (Darna).
First, darna aspires to inner harmony; people at
peace with themselves. Second, it endeavors to create harmony
at home and in the community. Third, it pursues harmony with
the ancestors. Finally, it quests for harmony with the universe,
life and divinities.
* * *
Castle at Trakai
The Republic of Lithuania is
an ancient land located in Northeastern Europe. The largest
of the three Baltic States situated along the Baltic Sea,
it shares borders with Latvia north, Belarus southeast, Poland
south, and the Russian exclave of the Kaliningrad Oblast southwest.
This obliquely heart-shaped country entered into the annals
of European history when first mentioned in the German Quedlinburg
Chronicle on February 14, 1009. The official coronation
of Mindaugas as King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253, marked
its recognition by Christendom, and the official recognition
of the Lithuanian statehood as the Kingdom of Lithuania.
during 1316-1430, the state occupied the territories of present
day Belarus, Ukraine, and part of Poland and Russia, becoming
the largest country in Europe by the end of the 14th century.
In 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single
dual state, which was dissolved in 1795 when this land was
forfeited to Russia, Prussia and Austria, under duress. Over
90 percent of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian
Empire, and the remainder into Prussia, until 1918 when Lithuania
reestablished its independence. Then in 1940, at the beginning
of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania,
later coming under German occupation during which around 190,000
or 91 percent of Lithuanian Jews were killed, one of the worst
death rates of the Holocaust. When the German army retreated,
Lithuania was re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944. During
the Soviet and Nazi occupations between 1940 and 1954, Lithuania
lost over 780,000 residents, an estimated 120,000-300,000
killed or exiled to Siberia by the Soviets, others choosing
to emigrate. The last Russian troops left the country on August
31, 1993 and in 1991 Iceland became the first country to recognize
Lithuanian independence and Sweden the first to open an embassy
in the country. Lithuania joined the UN in 1991; in 2001 it
became the 141st member of the world Trade Organization; in
2004 a member of NATO and on May 1, 2004, Lithuania joined
the European Union.
Just outside the industrial city of Siauliai
on the road to Joniskis stands the Hill of Crosses, a national
pilgrimage site, where thousands of crosses have been placed
in memory of those deported to Siberia. In the Soviet era
the crosses were repeatedly bulldozed, but always mysteriously
reappeared. Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses
in September 1993.
* * *
Bread, trees, life and death (the heart; blood)—Lithuania’s
story is reminiscent of many other countries’ narratives
in this area of Eastern Europe, and on the globe. But Lithuania’s
story has always been told in the Lithuanian tongue, however
much other powers have attempted to erase that language. Nowhere
else in the world was a nation forbidden to use its native
language to pray, teach its children, publish and read newspapers
and books. Lithuania alone smuggled books, an activity unknown
to the rest of the world.
For whom did the book smugglers bring books
published abroad in a forbidden language? Obviously, not for
the townsfolk, who spoke Yiddish, Polish, Russian or German.
The books were sold in the villages; ploughmen read them under
their thatched roofs during autumn and winter evenings. Lithuanian
villages were never as ignorant and illiterate as claimed
in Soviet textbooks. There was always a Lithuanian book on
a countryman’s table beside a loaf of bread, and bookcases
were unknown only because books were often kept in lofts,
hollow tree trunks, beehives, granaries, or other hiding places.
Public book burnings have been rare, but books have gone up
in flames without fire and without smoke. The wind rustled
schoolbooks that lay scattered in the yard of people who had
been exiled; a Latin grammar, exercise books, history and
geography books. Sent into exile with their parents, the secondary
school pupils continued their studies not in classrooms, but
in cattle cars. Libraries continued to be purged of books
even after Stalin’s death. No book at all was allowed
to remain that could remind the reader of Lithuanian identity,
country, national state, God. (Source: “Books, Which
Are Like Bread” by Roman Sadauskas, 1997. http://pirmojiknyga.mch.mii.lt/Leidiniai/kngduon.en.htm).
* * *
‘Tis not the balm, the
scepter and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farced title running ‘fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the high shore of this world,
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,
Who with a body fill’d and vacant mind
Gets him to rest, cramm’d with distressful bread;
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,
But, like a lackey, from the rise to set
Sweats in the eye of Phoebus (Sun), and all night
Sleeps in Elysium (Bliss).
V, William Shakespeare)
St. John’s Night is a midsummer
night’s festival including a bonfire, refreshments,
singing of Lithuanian songs about youth and love, and telling
Lithuanian folktales about witches, demons, and the fern blossom’s
The origins of the witch is a famous old Lithuanian
tale: Once upon a time, a young woman went off into the woods
to pick mushrooms and with her she took her new hope chest.
While she was searching for mushrooms, it began to rain very
hard. She quickly removed her clothes and placed them in her
hope chest; then stood naked under a tree, until the rains
Later, she dressed and continued picking mushrooms,
until she was spotted by Velnias (Horned God of the Underworld).
Velnias asked if she had been picking mushrooms during the
rainstorm and, if so, how had she remained dry? The young
woman replied that she had a secret that prevented the rain
from touching her.
Velnias was intrigued and pressed the woman
for her secret. The young woman agreed to tell him, but only
if he revealed all his magical arts. So a bargain was struck
and Velnias taught the woman all that he knew of magic and
healing. It was then that the woman told Velnias how she had
avoided the rain. Velnias spit and flew away, raging and screaming
that he had been tricked. Thus, the woman became the first
witch and passed on her teachings to others and from that
time on witches flourished.
In addition to witches, many
goddesses are celebrated in Lithuanian myth and lore. Some
of them are:
Lazdona (lahz-DO-nah) – Hazelnut Tree
Medeine (meh-DAY-nay) – Goddess of Woods and Trees.
Milda (MIL-dah) – Goddess of Love and Freedom, portrayed
as a nude woman who drives a chariot pulled by doves.
Ragana (RAH-gah-nah) – Witch Goddess
Ragutiene (rah-gu-TEAH-nay) – Goddess of Beer
Rugiu Boba (ruh-GIUW BOK-bah) – Old One of the Rye
Lithuanian Gods include:
Distipatis (di-STI-pa-tis) – Household God, Guardian
of the farmstead
Gabjaujas (gahb-JOW-jas) – God of Fire in the Threshing
Giraitis (ghi-RIHE-tis) – Grove God
Pushkaitis (push-KYE-tis) – God of the Elder Tree
Ragutis (rah-GUH-tis) – God of Beer.
Sculpture of Vytautas, Lithuanian Priest/Poet
Today’s Lithuanian writers
and poets continue to celebrate many of the images and icons
of the past. Stasys Jonauskas uses the metaphor of grain to
symbolize the endurance and the powers of resurrection in
his long-suffering land:
They cannot grind it all,
Nor drive by force from home.
It sprouts anew and is green again
As if there never was a war.
Grain serves as a metaphor for agricultural
Lithuania, giving the same meaning to the endless historical
cycles of death and resurrection as the farmer’s ordinary
labor, giving the country’s stubborn patience an aura
of natural invincibility.
Then Stasys Anglickis writes:
Motor vehicles have stabbed
and slashed the cities
The ugly heads of the computers
Are bursting through into the cosmos . . .
Such is the halo of the
The fish are choking in the Northern
Sea, are gasping in the river Nemunas –
Their convulsions cramp their gills.
The victory of man,
In the struggle for survival—
The start of the death of nature,
The wake of the suffering soul.
This time the words of the poet bring us up
to date in Lithuania. We remember the Queen of Serpents story,
the White Wolf fairy tale with nostalgia. But Lithuania is
a part of the 21st century now. And in 2003, prior to joining
the European Union, Lithuania had the highest economic growth
rate amongst all candidate and member countries, reaching
8.8% in the third quarter. In 2004 and 2005 growth in GDP
reflected impressive economic development. Most of the trade
Lithuania conducts is within the European Union.
By UN classification, Lithuania is a country
with a high average income. The country boasts a well developed
modern infrastructure of railways, airports and four-lane
highways. It has almost full employment, with an unemployment
rate of only 2.9%. According to officially published figures,
EU membership fueled a booming economy, increased outsourcing
into the country, and boosted tourism. The litas, the national
currency, has been pegged to the Euro since 2002 and Lithuania
is expected to switch to the Euro in 2009.
Capital of Lithuania and a view of St. Ann’s Church
With a population of 3.4 million, Lithuania
is a full participant in the 21st century, with all the blessings
and curses that entails: television studios number 27, airports
95, cell phones 3,421,500. The capital city, Vilnius, boasts
a new financial center, a symbol of rapid economic growth.
emblem of the Republic of Lithuania is the Vytis (the White
Knight). The heraldic shield features a red field with an
armored knight on a white horse holding a silver sword in
his right hand above his head. A blue shield hangs on the
left shoulder of the charging knight with a double gold cross
on it. The horse's saddle, straps, and belts are blue. The
hilt of the sword and the fastening of the sheath, the charging
knight's spurs, the curb bits of the bridle, the horseshoes,
as well as the decoration of the harness, are gold. The charging
knight is known to have been first used as the state emblem
The White Knight charges forth into Lithuania’s future.
May she always enjoy plenty of bread and if perhaps a crumb
drops now and then, will her people lift it, kiss it and apologize?
Will they always plant trees? Remember their witches, gods
and goddesses? The obliquely heart-shaped country of Lithuania
has a soil that is in this instance only identifiable as an
important addition to the soils of our Great Mother Earth,
the producer of bread and sacred trees, the source of books
and money. Will there always be a book on the table? Will
its natives always respect their parents, avoid killing unnecessarily?
Give correct change? Avoid stealing even the smallest coin?
Respect others’ beliefs? The Romuva prayer cited at
the beginning of the journal entry contains maxims that could
change the world if everyone minded them.
Our collector, Claus Andersen,
is a Dane who kindly picked up some of this dirt in his always
mysterious and anonymous travels. Thank you, Claus. Thank
you, Lithuania. The word for peace in Lithuanian is Taika.
* * *