The oldest tree in Europe (supposly)

Country: Lithuania

Region: Stelmužė Manor park

Places: Zarasai – forests – lakes – oldest oak – roads – car

Time: 18th of March

In a sentence: Astonishing lithuanian nature

“Stelmuzes azuolas” is my destination for this day. It means “Stelmuze oak” and “Stelmuze” is the name of the oak.

I’m in Lithuania for a week and this is my first properly weekend, what can I do? Of course, the answer is hiking, I don’t know nobody and I’m completely alone, just go for a long walk is the best choice. I told my mentor, tutor, and some colleagues my idea for the weekend, everybody told me the same “are you serious? You’re mad, don’t do this”. A good start to make yourself known, right? Okay, I’ll explain why everybody told me this… This is a map of my hike, 27km to do in a day, for someone is too much, for others is normal, but I think that everything is relative (Einstein was a wise man).

Anyway, I’m a bit stubborn and I want to do this even if everybody tells me the contrary.

So, let’s start!


From my house I crossed all town, discovered a lot of tiny single houses made of wood, there are a very few buildings and most of the people live in these kinds of house. I checked the path on my phone, it’s very simple, one road for 12km, I have no idea of what kind of road is, I didn’t check and I didn’t care. Just outside the town, the road became muletrack with a beautiful landscape. I saw an airport tower, that’s a good point to orienteering, just in case. Yes, there is an “amateur airport” for little airplanes, not commercial. The start is really good, beautiful landscapes, I’m happy! How could be it not? The weather was perfect, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the only issue is the temperature: -10°C (yes, minus ten), fortunately, I was prepared with technical warm clothes, so it isn’t a big problem. After some kilometers, I understand that nobody passes through this “road”. I started to feel too warm and I took off a layer. Meanwhile, one car has appeared, from nothing, literally, there are too many little hills here (like 3-4 meters high) and you can’t see what’s behind. It was a police patrol. And I was completely alone taking off my clothes in the middle of nowhere. I thought that I don’t know a word in Lithuanian and this can be a problem because for sure they will ask me something. The scene was like this: the patrol approaches and slows down, it stopped, the two policemen look at me with suspicion, a lot of suspicions, and go away. So, forgot a bad day in the police station trying to explain who I am, the hiking restarted. After some kilometers, the muletrack entered in a forest and the first problems arrived. Ice. Ice everywhere. I already found some ice but only on the side of the track, now is everywhere. I just tried to not fall for the rest of two hours of hiking, and it wasn’t so simple. The ice has slowed me a lot, but I found some places that I will never forget, I think in these cases pictures are better than words.

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Beautiful, right?
At one point something really wonderful happened. I was walking and after a narrow curve, I stopped, amazed. In front of me, there was a little deer who, after a second, heard (or better smelled me) and he/she stopped and started to stare at me. After some seconds he/she ran away in the trees. It was a quite intense moment. Also, I discovered that deers don’t have good ears, because I was walking in a iced snow making a lot of noise, I thought I didn’t see any animals because of this. After I met an environmental engineer who told me that deers smell you, don’t hear you, that’s why happen a lot of deers accident with cars.
Later I saw a herd of deers in distance, you can see in the next picture, very far away 🙂

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Took the picture, they ran away fast, very fast!

Afterwards, I found some troubles. A little torrent with besides a very thin layer of ice. Around only more deep water, I needed to cross here. The problems were two, the first one, when I will cross the ice will break for sure and the second one will try to not fall on ice before and after the torrent and be careful when the ice will break. The high of the torrent is very low so I thought my waterproof trekking shoes was enough.
It wasn’t, obviously. I think you know what does it means to have the socks wet, I don’t know about you, but I hate it, especially if you know that you have to hike for other 20km, more or less. Anyway, I didn’t fall at the first torrent. Then I found another one, more deep and larger, d… .t! What the hell, the socks were already wet. This time I … mmmmmm … no, I didn’t fall, I slipped in a very elegant way 😉

And finally… Reach my destination!

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The tree is not so beautiful or big, yes it is big but I think there are more beautiful and big trees in the world. But if you think that in front of this Oak kings, since more than 2000 years ago, decided to make wars and the history of Europe was practically decided here. Did you know that Lithuania was the greatest European country in the 16th century? … Me neither!
Meanwhile, I was staring at the tree I was thinking about how many things it sees in two thousand years, how many pagan priests prayed before him, how many stories passed through it, how many people were staring at it exactly like me, unbelievable.

After the lunch-time with my pasta cooked the day before, it was time to return to my house. This time I chose another way, wanted to change landscapes. So I went on an asphalt narrow road through the Stelmuze town and then to Zarasai.

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I discovered that Lithuania isn’t very flat, I mean, it is, but these 4-5 meters hills are very annoying if you have to walk through it. So I passed the next 3 hours walking up and down to hills amazed by the surroundings. I saw a lot of nice little single houses spread all around, and a solitary fisherman.

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Later on, I involuntarily disturbed a herd of 6 deers while they are eating behind a house. They got scared and crossed the street in front of me running towards the forest.

The narrow road it was finished and I arrived in the main road, after a while a car has nailed unexpectedly and reversed until it reached me. They asked me “Zarasai?” pointing the direction, I said yes, thinking about asking for road information. But they said “C’mon, let’s go” opening the door. They were a really nice couple who speak a bit of English and we talked about everything, good new vibe!!

And so my first-time-in-life involuntarily hitchhiking was done, for 2km… 🙂


Always curious, keep exploring, Wo/a\nder

Francesco

 

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