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When you come to Anykščiai, a small town in the western part of Lithuania, you will notice that everything here is different from the rest of the country. Anykščiai is surrounded by dozens of lakes and hills (which is a very rare thing in Lithuania). It has the oldest tradition of wine producing in the country, and it has its own skiing resort. Actually, here you can explore the oldest Lithuanian traditions and lifestyle. Together with beautiful nature, this town is famous for its valuable cultural heritage. A great poet Antanas Baranauskas lived here and wrote the poem “The Forest of Anykščiai” (Anykščių šilelis) (1861). Thus, today, I will take you on a wonderful journey to this cultural town in Lithuania, starting with the words from the famous poem of Antanas Baranauskas:
Viewing this wood the eye was appalled, The heart and soul were gaily enthralled; The mind, awakened, moved to surmise, Is this a world or a Paradise? Here all is beauty, all fresh and green,
All smells so sweet, and all is serene. Each time you listen, rustling you hear, In your heart feeling enchantment dear, Soft mossy bedding thickly bespread, Draws to its bosom the weary head. - The Forest of Anykščiai, by Antanas Baranauskas (translated by N. Rastenis)
Can you feel all the love that Antanas Baranauskas put into this poem? The poem “The Forest of Anykščiai” has two parts, and the first one was written when the writer fell in love. The love is very vivid in all the words of this poem, and the author was so impressed by Anykščiai, and especially its pinewood, that he wrote about this town from three perspectives: to see, to hear, to smell.
So, what to see in Anykščiai? First of all, the famous pinewood that served as an inspiration for the “The Forest of Anykščiai”. You can take a simple walk in the pinewood, enjoy the sun and beautiful landscape, but this town offers something even better. The best way to explore the forest of Anykščiai is to use the 300-meter-long and 21-meter-high Treetop Walking Path. For sure, this place is one of the most trendy locations in the whole Lithuania. Opened just a couple of years ago, the Treetop Walking Path is a very loved among all Lithuanians and tourists. Also, the path has 13 stops with the quotes from the Antanas Baranauskas poem.
Anykščiai is a town full of culture - many Lithuanian poets and writers spent their summers in here and wrote many of their works. The best place to gain more knowledge about the literature's heritage of this town is to visit A. Baranauskas and A. Vienuolis-Žukauskas memorial museum. The museum was established in 1927, with the aim to protect the values reflecting the development of Anykščiai culture, literature and history. This site has various exhibitions related to different Lithuanian writers. In honor of Antanas Baranauskas, the museum offers the visits to Antanas Baranauskas cottage, where the biography of the author and quotes from his famous poem are exhibited.
Do you know about a body trick when you lose one of your senses and the other ones become sharper? Imagine you are standing in the forest with the closed eyes - you will hear the birds’ chirp more strongly. Near the Anykščiai town, you can find the Monument Beacon of Happiness (Laimės Švyturys), which is dedicated to another famous Lithuanian writer Jonas Biliūnas. Jonas Biliūnas was a 19th-century writer, poet, and is considered to be a significant contributor to the national awakening of Lithuania in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 'The light of happiness' is a tombstone monument dedicated to Jonas Biliūnas on the hill of Liudiškės.
Coming back to a sensation of hearing, there is a legend about this monument. There are the stairs to the monument, and the legend says that while going up to the monument, it is forbidden to look back. You can go up with the closed eyes (can be a little bit dangerous) or look just forward. Legend says that if you look back, you will turn into a stone and fall down from the hill. Believe me, many times I go there with my friends or family, and we never look back. I think Lithuanians are really into this thing. So, never look back, just relax and enjoy the sound of the forest.
And finally, what to smell in Anykščiai? This town is famous for its traditional wine producing and the Tree Cake - Šakotis (drum rolls). These delicacies, you can find in every restaurant or shop in Anykščiai, but there is one more thing to mention. In the Anykščiai town, there is the Horse Museum, an ethnographic museum. This museum shows the lifestyle of Lithuanians between the 18th and the 19th centuries, as well as the importance of horses in the agriculture of Lithuania. The museum also organizes the workshops of traditional Lithuanian black bread baking. Believe me, the smell of Lithuanian bread is incredible.
To see, to hear, to smell - the cultural town of Lithuania - Anykščiai has many things to offer. Make sure to explore all of it - enjoy the views of the Anykščiai forest, listen to the birds’ songs with the closed eyes, smell just baked Lithuanian bread and explore the nature and traditions of Lithuania.
Cover picture © Credits to iStock/Krivinis
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