Water and Whales in Birštonas, a Spa Town in Lithuania

Birštonas, a pretty spa town in Lithuania, nestles in a loop of the River Nemunas. It is a town within a park of trees, grass and flowers, the Nemunas Loop Regional Park, and owes its prosperity to the mineral waters that flow beneath it. It guards these precious waters through the belief that they are protected by a mythical whale. When the curative properties of the waters were discovered Lithuania was part of Tsarist Russia and was granted permission to establish a resort at Birštonas. During the First World War this resort was destroyed but its fortunes were revived in 1924 when the Red Cross became interested in the area and established the first mud baths (still operational as the Tulpės sanatorium). Around the same time a concrete statue of a whale was placed on the spot where the Vytautas spring (the most important) was discovered. In 1959 when the Kaunas hydroelectric power plant was build downstream the water level in the River Nemunas was raised and the whale was submerged. It was thought it would be unlucky to attempt to retrieve this whale and a new one, created by the artist A. Kazdailis was placed in front of the mud baths. In 1995 it was decided a while should be part of the coat of arms of Birštonas. This whale is a splendid creature – a gold fish with silver teeth and a fountain springing out of its head.
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Valery Collins


British Guild of Travel Writers





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