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In the south-eastern part of Lithuania, between the forests and the wetlands, the sandy hills and the hidden lakes, is Dzūkija. The locals here boast rich singing traditions, great care for their environment and all living things, and exceptional foraging skills. Visiting a Dzūkian village is...
a chance to go back a century in time, feel the power of the forest, and immerse yourself in the tranquil, slow life of nature.
Renowned for its treasure trove of ornate folk songs and authentic villages, Dzūkija is, first and foremost, the land of forest foraging. There is a popular saying in Lithuania: “If not for the mushrooms and the berries, the girls of Dzūkija would all be bare”. Indeed, perhaps not as important as it once was, foraging still plays a big part in the lives of Dzūkians. And the nature of the region has plenty to offer: thick forests full of nutritious mushrooms, sunny glades brimming with succulent berries, and lakes abundant in fish.
Even if you don’t wish to try your hand at foraging (legal and free for everybody!), there are plenty of opportunities to sample the local natural treats. Dzūkians are masters at preparing mushrooms, using them to make soups and stews, fill pastries and dumplings, and having them dried, cured, pickled, and marinated in preparation for winter. In Dzūkija, make sure to try a banda – a traditional savoury cake made from potatoes or buckwheat and baked on a cabbage leaf. Look for a place where they are served straight out of a wood-burning oven. If you like it, ask for a piece of buckwheat babka – a sweet cake flavoured with honey that goes perfectly with a cup of berry tea.