Dzūkija is distinguished among other regions of Lithuania by the richness of its ethnocultural heritage. The larger part of its territory is inhabited by the so-called Dzūkians of the fields, who have been engaged in agriculture since olden times. The early villages of raftsmen and fishermen have survived on the banks of the Nemunas. The southern, forested part of Dzūkija is the kingdom of the so-called Dzūkians of the forests. In this part the terrain has changed little and is the most archaic, and the centuries old traditions and customs, unique lifestyle, traditional crafts and household implements have survived. In the villages features of communal life are common: collective cattle herding, fires built in cemeteries on All Souls’ Day and collective prayer for the dead. It is only in Dzūkija that one can still see how rye is sown “under the plough”, how rye is flailed, and how an injury or a dislocated joint is cured by incantations.

Many elements of building decoration and, certainly, crosses – high, double, with spears – have been preserved. One can expect to see a cross decorated with an “apron” – the way only Dzūkian women adorn them. In the pagan period oak trees, the abodes of God Perkūnas, used to be enveloped with shrouds. Upon the introduction of Christianity, it was allowed to adorn crosses in the same manner on the grounds that Christ also wore a shroud on his loin. Gradually a shroud turned into an apron tied on a cross as a sign of respect and gratitude. It is also known that they were tied by way of repentance, farewell, apology or seeking for help…

Folk wisdom is a huge treasure - herbal medicine, incantations, beliefs, magic, superstitions, interpretations of dreams and natural phenomena, weather and harvest predictions, deep knowledge of nature and the ability to live under its shelter. The unwritten code of moral integrity is still valid in villages and is passed from generation to generation…

However, the small villages that give the national park unique colours and vigour are on the verge of extinction. As the old owners of homesteads do not live there anymore, soon there will be no one to protect the monuments of early village architecture and ethnic culture, customs, traditions, dialect and the living non-material heritage…

In some villages bread is still being baked and sourdough is made. There one can taste buckwheat muffins, potato cakes, mushroom rolls and other Dzūkian delicacies. The kneading and baking of bread is one of the women’s most difficult toils. Nowadays bread is baked rather seldom, and even more so-on a peel. Though somewhat forgotten, buckwheat muffins return to the Dzūkian table and are offered to a welcome guest.

Local inhabitants distil moonshine, also called “the capercaillie’s tear” or “spring water”, only for their own needs and always rather cautiously. Having watched the process of distillation for several nights, one can realise how complex it is, but will not be able to master the skills… However, it is impossible to imagine a visit to Dzūkija without a richly laid table, songs and moonshine.

Local inhabitants of the Dzūkija national park walk on the “mushroom paths” inherited from their fathers and grandfathers. Dzūkians consider boletus a real mushroom, while others chanterelles, yellow knights and morels – they dry and sell rather than eat them.

Authentic songs can be heard in villages less and less frequently. Ethnographic bands of the villages of Žiūrai, Marcinkonys, Margionys, Zervynos, Musteika still sing the songs passed from generation to generation, greet their guests with them and teach them their dances and games.

You are welcome to visit the villages of the Dzūkija national park they will bring to you back to your childhood, while young people and children will get glimpses of the time that seems to have been gone forever...

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