For 221 years in a row, a traditional race of trotter horses is happening in Sartai. This traditional and beloved event among Lithuanians is the most popular horse racing in Lithuania. Taking place every February (the second or the third week) near Sartai Lake, this race attracts thousands of people and dozens of participants. If you want to spend a weekend near a beautiful frozen lake, enjoying winter sun and watching trotter horses, visit Sartai and explore lovely traditional Lithuania.
I love the old stories about Lithuanian traditions. The story about the first race on Sartai Lake is very traditional. Once a rich old toff, who was living in the Dusetos town, was visited by a young villain and his beautiful girlfriend. The toff wanted to steal the girl from the villain and decided to make a race on Sartai Lake. The first man who would cross the finish line with his horse would get the girl. Of course, the toff had a beautiful, strong trotter horse, and the villain just had his old mare. So, the race started, and nobody knew how, but the young villain won the race. The toff was so angry that he told the servants to kill a poor young winner, but just after he said those words, the ice was broken under the toff’s feet, and together with his horse, he was gone into the cold lake’s bowels.
From 1905, the race is happening every year, and it became a tradition. Over time, the race of trotter horses in Lithuania was more and more attractive: offering not only the race but the concerts and horse shows as well. In the middle of the 20th century, together with the race, the winter fair started taking place near Sartai Lake, and it continues till nowadays. In the winter fair, you can find traditional Lithuanian products, like smoked meat, sausages, bread, cookies (uh, please try those ones which look like small mushrooms), pies and other delicious products.
The track for a race is made in the shape of an ellipse, like in a hippodrome. The route on Sartai Lake is 1600 long (interesting fact - from the very beginning of the race's history, the length of route stayed the same). Nowadays, in this race are competing not only the Lithuanian trotters and their riders but also participants from Latvia and Estonia.
Sartai Lake and its surroundings are an incredibly beautiful place in summer, but in winter, it becomes a legendary place for Sartai trotter horse race. So if you are visiting Lithuania during winter, visit Sartai Lake and enjoy Lithuanian food while watching the horses racing. This traditional event will let you feel the Lithuanian traditions and true Lithuanian cold winters, so before going there, prepare really warm clothes.
Cover picture © Credits to iStock/ra3rn
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