Stumbling Across Lithuania's Stonehenge - and a UFO Sighting!
Yeah, you read that right.
Things got weird, y'all.
And it all started, of course, with a desire to explore Lithuania beyond Vilnius.
After eating homemade Eggs Benedict with a friend, we all piled into his car, zooming through forests and snow-packed roads - all to check out a dirt bike that The Scientist was interested in buying. (Is anyone surprised?) But while we were out of the capital, we decided to check out our surroundings, and that's when we stumbled upon the UFO and Stonehenge.
Listen, I didn't make the rules of exploration.
But there we were, firmly planted in front of the Lietuvos etnokosmologijos muziejus, otherwise known as the Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology. And that's when I saw the UFO. And then something like looked like a snow-covered Stonehenge. And large planets next to a sundial. And, um, some sort of pagan circle featuring wooden figures. (That, I'm used to!)
No, I didn't accidentally eat any Lithuanian forest mushrooms.
Photo by my strange, unique, lovely husband
Surrounded by currently frozen lakes, this extraterrestrial hotspot in Kulionys also houses the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory, but upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was - naturally - a large stone circle with extenuating smaller stones branching out of it. The area was covered in snow, but that didn't stop it from beckoning my curiosity. It rarely does, these days. My friend and I looked at each other as if to say, "Wanna go check it out?"
And off we went.
That's when I noticed the large planets around the perimeter of this Stonehenge-esque spot, and a thought bubbled up: "what the hell is ethnocosmology!?"
I'm all about anthropology and cosmology, but this was a new one for me. (Spoiler: I think the term was created in Lithuania. Someone correct me if I'm wrong!) As I looked at the site, though, I understood it to be a thought piece, of sorts, on humans' vast connection with the Cosmos, Lithuanians' specific approaches to nature and the Universe, and the multitude of ways we've all attempted to make a connection. (I may have watched a lot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos in my time...) While clearly manmade for the purposes of this observatory and museum site, I gained many insights just from standing in the center of these rune-carved stones. The first is: we're all more connected than we may appear - to each other and something much larger than our Earth. The second was a reminder that I'm truly living in a country that honors its roots with the Earth.
That leads us to the futuristic UFO structure.
On researching this site, I found out that you can go inside the structure and receive a tour of space and humans' relationship with the world beyond. (I did, however, discover that the tours are held in Lithuanian, so you may want to bring a handy Lithuanian friend for translation. Lure them with šakotis!) This building added an extra layer of otherworldliness to our strange, random encounter. Perhaps I'll lure a Lithuanian friend with my own šakotis and come back for a proper nighttime visit to the stars.
And that brings me to the wood carvings displayed in a pagan circle, all surrounding a shrine or altar of some kind. As I got closer to the wooden statues, my American brain began to piece together that each one stood for a Lithuanian month of the year, tying back into "ethnocosmology." My husband laughed as I did this, but I spoke each month out loud as I whizzed by. Why? It reminded me that I can pace myself here. I've got a whole calendar year to explore. I'm not in the rat race anymore.
Listen, I know I've got quite a few more months that look and feel like wintertime here. There's no way around that, as a Southern bird. I also know that January objectively isn't one of the best months to explore this country: it's still quite dark, bordering on gloomy, and my Vitamin D levels are struggling to keep up with my lemon balm tea.
But the promise of the Sun is here.
And as long as I continue to step onto fun new Lithuanian lily pads like this weekend's adventure to the stars, I have a feeling Januarys will be just fine.
Have you been to this museum before? Is it worth going inside? Has your language made up words before? ;) Let me know!
As per usual, feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive a bi-weekly email from me on whatever's on my heart that day! And as always, I'll see you next time here at Into the Forests I Go - iki pasimatymo - see you soon!