Dzūkija – Lithuanian least populated region with the most forests, inviting the travellers to get away from the bustle of cities to the centenarian woods, mysterious marshes, and ethnographic villages which preserved the archaic spirit. The nature of Dzūkija will open up a great number of curiosities to the most curious travellers: bubbling Eye of Ūla, endless Devil Spit, impressive cliffs, cursed lakes and remains of the sites of ancient castles. The region of Dzūkija is covered in legends and stories – look into them and your journey will get some mystical spice and will definitely wake your imagination.
The forest used to dress and feed the people of Dzūkija from the very ancient times; no wonder the old saying “if it weren’t for the mushrooms and the berries, Dzūkija’s girls would be naked” still remained. The nature of Dzūkija is blessed during all seasons: the forests are full of edible mushroom, berries, lakes abundant in fish invite to dip your fishing rods, and the hunters rarely come back from the woods without a game. It’s no wonder that the people of Dzūkija respect and safeguard forest – here like nowhere else is plenty of trees of hundreds of years old which are considered sacred.
One of such trees grows at the very heart of Dzūkija, in the district of Varėna – the lime tree of Liškiava. The stem of the lime tree included into the objects of natural heritage is just like a dragon with hundred heads, branching out into a great number of clone sprouts. In the Baltic mythology lime trees have been associated with the female energy and wisdom, fertility and beauty from the ancient times. It’s been said that in order to regain the peace of mind, girls and women must press themselves against the lime tree, talk to the tree and ask him for strength. What could be more fitting for such an ancient ritual than the lime tree of Liškiava counting over 400 years?
The ancient customs are reminded of not only by centenarian trees. Stones used to have great value to the ancestors of the locals as well. Huge boulders in Lithuania are quite rare; therefore, each massive stone used to be immediately covered in stories. The biggest stones used to be used in pagan rituals as altars. Travelling further the region of Varėna you could visit the Witch’s Stone. It’s been claimed that this boulder was blown up by the soldiers of the red army in order to get it out of the way. The stone has split into a witchy number – 13.
You will be able to listen to more stories and legends once you visit the rural settlement of Zervynai, which has remained nearby. It is still populated ethnographic linear village of Dzūkija. Charming wooden cottages, carved shutters, and wooden fences. Everything looks as if in a live open air museum. The people of Dzūkija are friendly and nice people, so you can talk to them with confidence and expect them to share their living folklore and tell interesting stories of this region.
The swiftest stream in Lithuania – Ūla – flows through these places. Cold and fast-flowing water of the river is not too suitable for swimming. However, the wooded surroundings of the river and magnificent cliff of Mančiagirė simply beckons travellers. While visiting these places you should really look for the Eye of Ūla – a round stream of several meters of width. Water emerges from the bottom of it with great pressure, so it seems as if the water bubbles while boiling. There are many legends about this stream. One of them says that the water acquires magical healing powers just before the sunset which gives additional beauty to everyone. Another story claims that the stream is supposedly endless, and any animals fallen into it once had supposedly come to the surface of the lakes several kilometres away.
No less impressive than the mysterious surroundings of Varėna is Trakai region. This region of Dzūkija, abounding in lakes, is a true heaven to any bathing lover. Moreover, there’s surely what to see and learn while resting there. Probably the most famous object is the town of Trakai itself and the middle age castle standing on the island of the lake Galvė. If you’re interested in archaeology, you will be able to see other former sites of ancient castles nearby as well – the mounds of Bražuolė and Lavariškės.
The Devil’s Pit and sinkhole of Strėva, interesting places hiding in the woods in the district of Trakai, near Aukštadvaris, are really worth visiting. Deep pits which are side by side are thought to have formed due to the movement of glaciers. Nevertheless, the imagination of the locals has quickly covered them in legends about devils, witches and the feasts of the wicked that used to be held there. A convenient recreational paths goes through the pits and their surroundings.
While preparing for the trip, visit the website www.lietuvosgamta.lt and you will find more interesting monuments of the nature and history of Dzūkija. You will find a convenient search system, which will help you to plan your journey following the most famous places located on the way. Moreover, you will find plenty of unique photographs, audio guide stories and video films about the nature and history of Lithuania.