UTENA COUNTY, Lithuania — The soul of the Baltic states resides in a village, and summer is the best time to uncover it.
Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians were primarily a rural people for centuries, their largest cities inhabited by other ethnic groups. The lyrics of their folk songs are often about forests, mushroom hunting and lakes.
And even in the 21st century with most of them stuffed in concrete apartment blocks on weekends the region’s cities empty out as the locals escape to their family country retreat, and as the heat turned their apartments into ovens this summer was no exception. It’s a place to relax, to see relatives, to swim, to eat fresh produce, to party. The attachment to the village remains strong.
In the last photo gallery I mentioned that I couldn’t find a good translation of Lithuanian poetry to describe Vilnius in summer. Well, I found a passage from Antanas Baranauskas’ “The Anykščiai Grove” that encapsulates the region’s affection for their countryside.
“Where am I — in a wood or Paradise?
All that surrounds you with such beauty glows!
With every scent the forest woos your nose
And lively sounds you hear in every part.
You sense a deep calm soothing to the heart.”
This summer I headed into the Lithuanian countryside, cruising around the northeastern portion of the country trying to capture this sentiment with my camera. The photo essay “A Lithuanian Paradise” is the result.
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