Monday, August 29, 2011

Seminar and holidays

Last week-end, we had the chance to cross the whole country to attend a seminar in Nemunas Delta Regional Park with about a hundred attendants : employees and directors of almost all regional and national parks of Lithuania, employees of Protected Areas from Vilnius, and members of the Ministry of environment. The seminar last for a day. Then, on saturday and sunday, with colleagues of Aukštaitija National Park and Labanoras Regional Park, we spent some good time together in Nemunas Delta and near Klaipėda, by the sea.

The director of Nemunas Delta Regional Park welcomed all participants of the seminar :
employees and directors of regional and national parks, as well as the ministry of environment,
Protected Areas (the national institution in charge of all parks in Lithuania) and EVS volunteers of course

Nerijus and Leonas, from our hosting organisation Deineta, said how important it is to
spread the word about volunteering in Lithuania, something still not wellknown enough

Two boats allowed all of us to (re)discover Nemunas Delta


The atmosphere was great during the boat trip on the Delta


Picking up rabbish near the river : task accomplished!

Let's apologize for polluting rivers and be thankful for the water...

...said this group of volunteers, beside the seminar,
 for an association of protection of water ressources.

Ramūnas Lydis, director of Nemunas Delta Regional Park,
thanked in some symbolic and funny way,
with cold water poured over his face and half-naked body
by these women of a folk group


The lutheran church of Rusnė,
little town in the heart of Nemunas Delta Regional Park,
on an island separated by rivers from the mainland.
On the other side of the river : Kaliningrad (Russia).

The bridge separating the island of Rusnė from the mainland

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Here is the very end of Ventės Ragas (literally 'world's edge').
It is a sparsely inhabited area on the tip of the south-pointing promontory of the delta,
which, with its dramatic nature and uplifting isolation, is beautifully wild.

The main attraction here is the Ventės Ragas Ornithological Station,
66km south of Klaipėda at the end of the Kintai-Ventė road.

The lighthouse of Ventės Ragas was built in 1862

No, the bagpipe is not only irish, it is
actually a traditonal instrument of Lithuania.
Gydrius, from Labanoras Regional Park,
is one of the few dozens of people who have one.

Our mentor Linas used to play it regularly
and is actually pretty good at it

Place and time chosen to play were perfect...

On the 6th and 7th of June 2009, 1000 hats were hanged on this tree,
as an original way to commemorate Lithuania's 1000th anniversary.
Every visitor had a chance to contribute in that record. 
A hat on a tree is a symbol which means
"It was good to be here, and I'm going to be back"

It was sunset time at Olando Kepurė (or Dutchman's cap,
in reference to the shape of this 24 m high cliff overlooking the sea)

From left to right : Edouard, Irena, Andrius, Vanda, Linas, Sigutė and Florence

One of the last summer week-ends on the beach. Lithuanian seaside remains
wild and natural enough, with no hotels, houses or restaurants by the beach.
Just sand and mostly pine trees. A big change compared to french or spanish coasts!

The sea was pretty wild on sunday.
A good occasion to have fun in the Baltic waves altogether

Palūšė : 360 years and a happy regata

360 years old. For sure, Palūšė is not the oldest village of the Park. But this anniversary appears to be, each year, a good occasion to celebrate and to organise a nice event for locals and visitors passing by.

Neptune, God of the Sea, appeared with his crew of beautiful Naiades, to give prizes to all participants of the Regata 2011

For a nice little clip of photos about the crazy "regata", watch this:

Figuriada 2011

These bronze medals and this "champagne"
were are reward and awards for our craziest jumps...

Figuriada is an annual event held in Palūšė. Anyone can participate alone or in teams of two, no limitations of age, sex or nationality. The contest consists of three parts:

1. Compulsory jumps: a draw decided whether we had to play "bomb", "deadman", "total analphabet" or "scissors".
2. Homework, prepared by contestants.
3. Improvisation on a theme decided, once again, with a draw.

All events feature live music. The winners are selected by the votes of the judges, with marks going up to 10, and actually never reaching less than 7. The price ceremony is followed by a party that goes on all night and the day after (said the very humoristic program).

Palūšė, the boat that was successfully used for the Palūšė - Nida trip,
was there, showing off its beautiful celebration habits 

As you've probably understood, this contest is all about having fun, something that quite a few Lithuanian people know how to do. Perhaps even more in Aukštaitija, the region that has the reputation to be the most relaxed one in the whole country.

So our team's name was sraige, meaning snail in Lithuanian. We played with the cliches related to France...
Our first jump was the analphabet one. Florence carried Edouard on her back, and we played...
For the second, we improvised a romantic scene (what else can you expect from french people?!)
for the last, the draw decided we would play... a mountain goat! Florence was imitating the goat, while Edouard was playing the shepherd, a quite angry one because of its uncontrolable animal.

This rich program provoked unstoppable laughs among the audience, and the judges loved it enough for us to end up at the third place, behind the untouchables Šarunas and Kostas (2nd) and the winners Jonas and Vytautas.

Before the "competition"

And here is the party itself, with all the craziest jumps. You'll see our romantic jump :

Everyday celebrations

We've both noticed how much Lithuanian people like to celebrate, share, give prizes, for all sorts of reasons they may find. It seems totally normal for them, but slighlty unusual for us. Like this way to celebrate birthdays, the son or daugther of one employee's past or future wedding, or even just the beginning of holidays for the director of the Park.

First thing in the morning, so as early as 8am, all employees of the Park gather in the meeting room. They drink wine and/or some kind of champagne, eat sweets, and chat about the event and other things. Although we (neither Florence nor Edouard) don't have much experience in working places in France, we really don't think that would happen that often over there. It undeniably creates a nice atmosphere at work, as well as the usual every morning half an hour-chat with a cup of coffee, in this same meeting room.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Busy bees

This is the bus that brought us to the museum.
A few hundred people gathered on monday the 15th, a national day off in Lithuania, for the traditional apiculture museum's honey harvest festival.

Perfect weather conditions helped in the success of this celebration.
Crowd was big, and even national television was there.

These belts are worn by Lithuanians, in their traditional "costume".


Kids were definitely not left behind...

Baskets, honey, soap, candles, food...
you could find all sorts of stuff by the entrance of
the museum. Most of them natural and home-made.

After harvesting, honey tasting

Vytautas Šiškauskas is obviously a very popular singer. 
People who came to the celebration almost all gathered
to see his concert.

And after the concert, the singer 
could not resist to the french charm

Thumbs Up Hitchhiking Race 2011 - August 19th-21st

Sunshine and happiness for the departure in Vilnius.
But they all know the Race will be difficult
and this good weather will not last...

Florence Guiral and Robertas Žvirblis,
opponents during the Race,
but together to study the map and
 the locations of the challenges to accomplish.

1007 km all over Lithuania with a thumb up as a unique tool of transportation, 10 stopovers and as many tasks to achieve on the way, all that under rain, heavy rain and/or thunderstorm...

Challenging? Apparently, it was. 32 people were supposed to take part in the Thumbs Up Hitchhiking Race 2011, only 6 brave ones came! But we can say that these six ones had fun, lots of fun. Unfortunately, one of the teams didn't make it to the arrival in Kernavė though.

A night in a police station

Among funny stories, the winners of this first edition Sabrina Buhn (Germany) and Robertas Žvirblis (Lithuania) pitched their tent in front of Klaipeda's big shopping center Akropolis, to be sheltered from the rain. Quite a few local people, totally astonished, took photos of this very unusual scene. The following night, they slept in Ukmergė's... police station! A policeman working there told them it is not a place to sleep overnight, and proposed them to sleep under the staircase, so as not to be seen by anyone in the morning.

The silver medalists Florence Guiral (France) and Fela Winkelmolen (Netherlands) got picked up by a 65-year old man, Vilginius, who hosted them overnight in his place in Vilkija. "The generosity and welcoming spirit of Lithuanians can really be astonishing", said Florence once the Race finished. The alarm clock rang at 6am the following day. Cause Vilginius got so interested in the Race that he motivated both racers to carry on as early as possible, and wishing they would win eventually.

Among other prizes, medals were offered
to all participants of the Race

Around the three Baltic countries

The event managed to raise 554 Lt for Lietuvos Gamtos Fondas' projects :
1. Editing a fish guide for a sustainable use of ressources
2. Developping a better coexistence between farmers and wolves, and protecting both wolves and cattle

This sum of money is of course far less than what was expected, but it still means almost a hundred litai per participant. For instance, Sabrina and Robertas managed to collect 80 Litai during the Race! This is very important, knowing that next year, there will most likely be a second edition of the Thumbs Up Hitchhiking Race. Bigger, longer, earlier, better! 

The idea would be to make it around the three Baltic countries, and for at least a week or ten days. It would probably be in june, best time to get both Lithuanians and internationals to participate. The partnership with Lietuvos Gamtos Fondas would remain, and the equivalent associations in Latvia and Estonia would be called for partnership.

For photos and all informations, go to the official website :

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

European Basketball Championship 2011

Not so common to see a traffic jam in Aukštaitija! The reason?
A convoy promoting the basketball european championships,
that are about to start in Lithuania (August 31st  - September 18th)
and their sponsor (a chain of supermarket).

Basketball is said to be the second religion
of Lithuania. And Lithuania will host
the Basketball European Championships 2011, for the second time since its independance.

The kind of event most Lithuanians will follow with great passion, from August the 31st till September the 18th.

Each relay lasts for one hour,
and these volunteers run all over Lithuania.

And here is how a EuroBasket 2011 medal looks like.
The medals we got as prizes for the
"Thumbs Up Hitchhiking Race 2011" (see other posts) 
come from the same company.