We had a chance to venture outside of Vilnius and into the Lithuanian countryside for a day, thanks to a local friend and Malta connection.
Our target was Kernavė, site of four old castle mounds that were once hilltop forts.
UNESCO called the area an “exceptional testimony to 10 millennia of human settlements in this region.”
It’s believed to be the place where Mindaugas was crowned in 1253 — he was the guy who united Lithuania for the first time. And many remains were uncovered there, from the Palaeolithic right through to the Middle Ages.
Walking below the mounds and climbing their steep sides, it struck me that this must have been a very defensible position in prehistoric times, before the advent of the bow. I sure wouldn’t want to run up it with rocks and spears raining down on me.
As we wandered the park, I was reminded of the stone circle settlements we found in the eastern Sahara around Jebel Uweinat, often located on the highest points in the area. Though there could be no cultural connection between these groups, that instinct to seek the high ground was strong for these Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples too.
It’s a beautiful site in a broad cultivated valley, where the River Neris winds its way through a scene painted in shades of green.
The countryside around Vilnius reminded me of my hometown region in Ontario. All those rivers and shining blue lakes… The smell of pine needles and cultivated fields… Grasses waving between patches of forest… And so many different layers of green.
It brought back memories of everything I loved most about my Ontario childhood.
Though I sought culture and history in Europe and the Mediterranean world, a part of me still belongs to the forests and lakes of the St. Lawrence Valley. And in Lithuania, I find my memory going back there often.