Monday, February 24, 2014

Paradise in Punsk

This story is from the little town of Punsk. We were riding all day having a philosophical discussion.  The view that seemed to take precedence was that life is a predestined string of events which we have no control over them; therefore, we could then trust anyone as they were put in front of us since. The other view was that we make choices and some of those choices work in our favor and some do not; as long as we believe and trust in our choices, all would be good choices.  Again, we were faced with having to find a place to stay the night. Being along the Polish - Lithuanian border, we had a lot to pick from. I was hoping to find a nice lake side campsite so I could wash up and cook dinner, a nearby water source is great to have; in fact when water is present its a paradise. Kryszek wanted to have a television so he could watch soccer championships. The other guys just wanted to rest. 
We came to the little town of Punsk.  
In the Puńsk region first inhabitants’s signs were dated from 10000 BC. There lived the Yotvingians in the firsts part of the Middle Ages. A castle hill in Jegliniec (9 km from Puńsk to the north) is their inheritance.The Yotvingians had lived there till the 13th century, when finally they were invaded by the Order of Teutonic Knights. For long time the land was overgrown with forests which were started to colonize by Lithuanians, Poles and Russians in the 15th century. Only Lithuanians and Polish people stayed there till these days.In the historical documents Puńsk is mentioned in 1559. The forester Stanisław Zaliwski established there a village. In 1606 Puńsk is called a town. Thet period is very important in Punsk history because it was developing very quickly. There were a school and hospital. Unfortunately, the plague killed lots of the inhabitants and later after the division of Poland, the town belonged to Prussia, and later to Russia. 
The economy got worse and that was the reason that in the 18th century civic rights were lost. Later there were opened a school, various associations, a small bookshop. A lot of Jews lived there. Nowadays you can see their old buildings and cemetery. German Evangelics also lived here. Their cemeteries remained in Puńsk and Poluńce village.Sejwy is mentioned in the same year as Puńsk in 1559. In Sejwy a mansion established by the village’s headman. Next the mansion there is a lake called “Seivis”. According to the storiesof old people, on the island of the lake there used to be a castle. On the lake’s ground (from Vitakiemis-country side) there is a big stone (about 2 metres height) which top is seen on the shore. Nearby Sejwy there is a lake called “Bokšis”.Smolany belongs to Puńsk community. It is mentioned in 1642 as a small mansion, from the 18th century as a village. The name of the village comes from “smaliokai” which means the producers of  tar (pitch). Habermanas was a lord of this land, he bought it and wanted to enlarge it to the town. He tried to stablish the cloth manufacture. He built a church and monastery. But the civic rights weren’t got. Other Puńsk countries were establishing in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is worth to mention such countries: Jegliniec (“Eglinė”) and its Yotvingian castle hill; Krejwiany where is the monument of illegal books distributor P. Matuklevičius; Trakiszki where the old train station was built by tzar; Giełujsze in which forest there is a badger’s hill. On its top there was a chapel. It is thought that in the old times there were the pagan places where the sacred fire was burning and the gods were honored.

We stopped in the center of town and took out our maps as was the routine. I argued with Kryszek that we could choose any site and it would be the best and he said we could just as well trust anyone who points us the way and it would be the best site.
Just then, a man came staggering out of the local pub. He saw us and made a huge effort to walk toward us. When he got close, he got very close to me and started to ask what we were doing, who were we, where were we going... his breath could have been cut with a knife. Needless to say, I called to the guys to step in so I could breathe. We told him that we were looking for a nice place to put our tent for the night. And, he said he had just the right place, a paradise in fact. He asked if we could wait while he got his bicycle so that he could show us the way. Ironically, Kryszek protested and said that drunk has no clue what we are talking about, or what we need to do, its getting dark. I said, let us follow your view on life and go with this man, he says he has a paradise for us. The man came back with a broken down bicycle and attempted to ride it. He went 5 fit and fell over. He got up and went farther but the chain came off the bike. He fixed it and got back on. He turned to us and said come on. So we went. We rode around the village and he told us all about himself that he was a big shot in government ministry and owned a lot of land in this area. He could even speak a little English. He kept falling down or having to fix the bicycle chain and it seemed that we would just keep circling the town until he spotted a path into the woods and we went after him. It crooked around between trees and bushes, luckily they were raspberry bushes so in the moments of his picking himself up from the ground, we enjoyed a handful or two of berries. It was starting to get dark and still no paradise. We looked at each other and thought maybe on his next crash to the ground we would turn around and disappear. But, we kept going. Suddenly, the woods opened up and there before us was a lovely meadow with a big new built house and behind that a large clear blue lake with a covered picnic area nearby. There was even a small vendor with beer and pop to offer us and he had a tv. Needless to say, we found our paradise for the night. The next morning the man was nowhere to be found.

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