April 17, 2011

The Scent of Lithuania - Lietuvos Kvapas

Lithuania is a tiny country on the coast of the Baltic Sea, at about the same latitude as Sweden, with about 3 million people and a unique ancient language related to ancient Sanskrit.  Some of its landscape contains the last vestiges of the old fairy-tale woods of Europe; its primal forest, with native plants and animals no longer found anywhere else on the continent. A million years or so ago, a vast evergreen forest was submerged by icy northern waters and became the Baltic Sea.  The tree sap was pressurized and crystallized and to this day continues to be thrown up on the beaches as amber.  A dark past of invasions, massacres, and occupations finally gave way by non-violent resistance to independence in 1991, and renewal as a culture began.

People there are rediscovering and celebrating their traditions and unique aesthetic predilections and tastes, and also busy creating new ones.  It's a very green thinking population.  It was originally a peasant culture that worshiped domesticated nature.  The beauty of a bunch of flowers or a carefully cultivated piece of land is revered as the evidence of a beneficial matrimony of humans with nature,  a combination of human energy and the almost spiritual power of nature.  In the summer people go into the woods as often as possible, sometimes to gather honey from the wild bees,  for wild plants and herbs to season food  and to go mushroom hunting after the rain.  And of course to the Baltic beach.  This refreshes and balances the stresses of modern life and its worries with the energy the people can gain simply from experiencing their landscapes.  The scent of the fresh open air is especially important in this regard.

As a way of reaching out to the rest of the world, a private initiative commissioned a fragrance to carry this unique ambiance as an olfactory ambassador at large and for Lithuanians who may be far away from home.  In consultation with and in production by Galimard, the input of the citizens and visitors, the creative direction of  Mindaugas Stongvilas, and product designers Giedrius Laurušas and Juozas Brundza, an ambient spray was created.  It's a collaborative work.  I find it fresh and subtle, with a herbaceous, mossy, sandalwood and cedar uplifting tonic feel to it that seems to disperse and disappear in the air like a flock of birds turning together, but then it actually does remain without becoming tiring or overpowering.  There is a very faint touch of wood smoke.  It  seems to create a zone of woodsy freshness and ozone in the interior air of my place.  It is used to spray into the air or if you want it to linger, onto soft furnishings such as linens, pillows, curtains, rugs, or other soft home decor elements.

The notes are listed as
Top: bergamot, notes of a wild flower bouquet, ginger, raspberry, notes of red berries, grapefruit;
Middle: lily of the valley, lilac, rose;
Basenotes: amber, tree moss, cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, and a tree smoke accord.

There are five national forests in this tiny country, and the woods are never very far away.


I like that this has already been distributed to diplomats and soldiers serving overseas, a little subtle reminder for them of some of the most pleasant aspects of a unique place.  It seems that candles and other scent diffusing carrier elements will be available soon.  I ordered online from the official site, for 28.67 Euros. Please visit the site for full information.  (This perfume was created on private initiative, and not by the government, who I suppose might find it falls a bit outside their budgetary aims and categories).   If you visit the country, you can buy it upon entry at the airport or at other cultural institutions like the tourist centers and museum shops.

Photos above taken from a travel journal of photojournalists/bicyclists traveling the world (Going Slowly), from part of their trip and adventures in Lithuania, with many more lovely photos of a beautiful meal, a walk through the woods, having a sauna and swimming in a pond, and gathering strawberries and honey with native friends at a cabin by the woods, while imagining a similar life transplanted to the countryside in the U.S; photo of Lietuvos Kvapas from the site which has much more information and a shopping link; photos of the Lithuanian coast and the capital city Vilnius Old Town  from the Baltic Travel Company. Photo of Lithuanian amber chips from EtsyLithuania, featuring crafts for sale directly from their makers.

6 comments:

mandy said...

Very very beautiful writing Lucy. So impassioned and, at the time, well-reasoned and restrained. I inhaled the scent (pun intended) Lithuania through your compact and vibrant images.
Mandy Aftel

Roxana said...

Lithuania is such a vibrant country with a culture deeply rooted in nature. I love everything about it that you have shared with me dear Lucy. Thanks so much for the journey, I can't wait to visit this lush land in person!

Lucy said...

Thanks Mandy, and Rox --

I want to go myself now too. Funny because I never did for the longest time, for many reasons, but now things seem really different there. Now they have the ability to remake themselves with the best parts of what they had before and appear to be growing and expanding the green motivations many of us share now.

chayaruchama said...

This is delightful!

I understand how your thinking has evolved, and thought of you today, when I put on Salomeja's amber nacklace after many years...

Lucy said...

Hi Ida,

Seems like lots of people's thinking has evolved, which is the only hope we have at this point. I also have my ambers, we all have some amber, it part of the kit...

Vaida said...

Really beautiful words. Enjoyed reading them so much...