A natural park has an essential importance for the conservation of natural environment. However, to achieve this primary goal many other activities are to be carried out. Among them, education is, without any shadow of a doubt, a crucial one to raise the awareness of the importance of the preservation of our ecosystem in future generations.
Venta Regional Park, and I with it, have been working a lot in this sense. I have already had the possibility to talk quite a lot about lessons, games and other stuff carried out in schools and kindergardens in this blog. In this post we are going to discuss a little about another important issue: educational activities for adults, which, of course, must be different from the ones we perform with children.
Some days ago Antonio and I organised a hike in the territory of our park to go and discover some of the most beautiful natural scenarios. Together with them, we had the opportunity to get to know some of the cultural, historical and paleontological heritage preserved in our area.
The weather conditions we found were excellent for a hike: a sunny and chilly day, with moderate wind. We managed, in this way, to avoid both the unbearably hot conditions we had this Summer (together with a huge amount of mosquitos, horseflies and other insects) and, at the same time, the harsh conditions we will probably have in around one month or two.
The excursion started with a visit to our well organised exposition, capable of giving to the visitor, since the very beginning, a clear idea of the richness preserved in the park. After crossing the old wooden Purviai bridge on Venta River, we went through some cultivated fields and reached “Avižlio atragis”, an important spur between the rivers Venta and Avižlys, originated from glaciers around 70,000-50,000 years ago. Here research is carried out to understand what the flora and fauna composition was before the arrival of man in Lithuania.
From there we headed towards the forest and reached the graves of some partisans killed in Purviai during the Lithuanian Resistance. The Lithuanian Partisan Movement was active between 1944 and 1953, reaching its peak in 1948-1949, where most of the partisan groups were brutally wiped off. This kind of movements was the reaction of the proud people of Lithuania to the Soviet occupation, but it never led the nation to a second independence: we had to wait until 1991 to reach this objective, in a different way.
From the burial site we abandoned the road and crossed through the forest to reach Ramoniškė, the place where Juozas Miltinis (1907-1994) spent his youth. This man was extremely important for Lithuania, as he was an actor and theater director. He had his education both in his country and in other important European cities, Paris included. He managed to become the director of Panevėžys theatre, but then he was removed from his position by the Soviet government and sent to Moscow. However, his artistic production was so great and people in Lithuania used to love him so much that they decided to give him back his original job in Panevėžys theatre, where he remained director until his retirement, in 1980.
After Ramoniškė we had again our way through the wood, to reach an interesting natural but also cultural site: the Sister Pines. Usually plants, when growing, tend to get farther with their crowns, so that they can better exploit the amount of light available. The Sister Pines in Venta Regional Park are an exception to this rule: for this reason, they are considered as holy pines by the local population, and some chapels and crosses have been put there.
After having paid a visit to the Sister Pines, we reached the Cemetery of the Vows, a very peculiar and interested place: tourists were very intrigued by its history. In particular, this cemetery was built in 1815 for all the people that were not Catholic or that couldn’t afford paying for their burial. A box for offers was placed by a tree. This box used to have three locks, and three honest people living in the area had each one key, so that, in order to collect the offers, all of them should gather at the same time. This tradition went on until the 1960s, when the Soviet damaged the box, which is actually still there, even though not used anymore
At this point we started the conclusive part of our hike. To come back to the starting point, our visitor centre, we passed through Užpelkiai, a 3 inhabitant village and unlucky theatre of multiple events of partisans massacre. Having such small villages is nowadays common, as many people, at the time of the Lithuanian SSR, were made to move to bigger cities, and their house was destroyed, so as to be sure that they couldn’t come back.
The final attraction along our road was “Velnio pėda”, literally “The Devil’s Foot”. It is a stone located in a little cemetery: impressed on it there is something that resembles a footprint. According to the popular tradition, that would be the devil’s footprint.
We concluded our excursion again back in our visitor centre: time for the final greetings and to go home, a little bit tired but happy, after having shown to our visitors some of the most representative sites of our park along a 25 km path!
Our excursion started with a visit to the exposition in our visitor centre
Here we are going through the narrow path of “Avižlio atragis”
Our young guests are observing, from “Avižlio atragis”, the point where Avižlys and Venta rivers join together
Here we are on our way to the first Partisan killing site in our excursion: meeting with the former science teacher of Venta gymnasium
Listening to Antonio telling the tale of the Partisans in their killing site in Purviai
Heading to Ramoniškė through the forest
The Cemetery of the Vows is exactly at the border of the park: we took this opportunity for a group picture
A beautiful Autumn landscape welcomes us in Užpelkiai, on our way back to the visitor centre