Kernave, December 27, 2005 - Tuesday

Trip Start Dec 22, 2005
Trip End Jan 08, 2006

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

And then we finally arrived in Kernavė. As we pulled over and parked, it was not later than three thirty, but visibly darker than when we had set out from Vilnius. We didn't exactly have all the time of the world.
Of all three places we stopped in, Kernavė is the smallest, but also the most renowned. It is situated on the Neris river, the same one flowing through Vilnius, too, some 35 kilometres upstream. Dūkštos was for Kernavė almost a local hub. But Kernavė was the one that skimmed local glory. According to some sources, in 1253 a certain Mindaugas, who for the first time unified entire Lithuania, was crowned the king there. According to other sources, if fewer in number, that same Mindaugas never even came close to Kernavė, so there is not as much as a whiff of him in them. But by and large, Mindaugas or no Mindaugas, there was enough of it for the UNESCO to list Kernavė as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2005.
There are four castle mounds around there, as well as parts of a medieval settlement, and all that obtained Kernavė a name "Troy of Lithuania". Or "Pompeii of Lithuania", depending on a source again. Either way, it used to be medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Grand Duke Traidenis, growing into an important medieval economic centre, with highly developed handicrafts and trade relations, until it was besieged and sacked by the Teutonic knights.
The most visible Kernavė landmark today is a red neo-gothic-style church built a century or so ago. That was the first thing we saw as noteworthy. And then a funeral procession caught our attention. Solemn and silent, few dozens of people trailed after the coffin and the priest through the snow and freezing temperature of gloomy late winter afternoon, and slowly waded towards the cemetery. In Christian world few people ever deem death as welcome, regardless of the season. But I would say that in this case, due to the winter chill, many of them were additionally less than enthusiastic about the whole thing.
We circled around the church and inspected the statues of which there were several rather interesting. One, right in front of the gate, was Moses with Ten Commandments slabs. The other was an Iron Wolf, which according to Lithuanian lore is exceptionally important. Wherever Iron Wolf howls, Lithuanians erect castles. OK, not any more. But they used to. Back in historical times. After all, that's how location for Gediminas Castle in Vilnius was allegedly picked.
Thereafter we proceeded on to the museums. But just up to the entrance. There we cast a look at the Pajauta valley and decided that satisfied us. And then we turned back and walked slowly to the car. Rows of long icy needles were hanging from the eaves of all private houses. Interestingly, most of them had their lights off.
"Most of these people live and work in Vilnius now," Ruta explained.
But where the lights were on, it looked as if we had entered a Christmas card or commemorative postal stamp. If it had not been that cold, you would've easily called it an idyll.
This way, though, with an onset of twilight we left.
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