Near the Polish border, not far from Kaliningrad on the left bank of the Nemunas, in an area covered by plains and the valleys of the Šešupė, Rausvė and Širvinta Rivers, where high hills cluster and green forests loom in Vištytis Regional Park, the Sudovians – a Baltic people – have resided since ancient times. Historical sources mention this fact very early on – 800 years before the name of Lithuania was first mentioned in 1009. Once a land sapped by the Teutonic Knights, it is now an extremely interesting region rich in cultural events that gave Lithuania the country’s literary language.
Sudovians are often made fun of for being frugal, but they deny it themselves. They would even be insulted to be called stingy. Living on broad plains and fertile lands, the Sudovians cherish nature’s riches, just as they do the literary Lithuanian language. The halls of the rich, ornate manors that have survived here preserve the history and legends of Sudovia. On long winter nights, Sudovians still construct impressive hanging straw gardens, carve wood, make elaborate paper cuts, and weave sashes, but they also work on contemporary art projects that are making a name for this region worldwide.
Sudovians have always had bountiful tables. Even if they are called stingy, if they have a guest, they will always pull out the white tablecloth and load the table with goodies. First they treat you to home-made skilandis. Made according to an ancient recipe that is handed down from generation to generation, this matured sausage is cold-smoked and tastes best with black bread fresh from the oven. Even potatoes can become a source of inspiration for Sudovians, who love to make didžkukuliai – dumplings from grated potatoes and stuffed with curd cheese, ground meat or mushrooms. To make the kids happy, they might also boil up some šaltanosiai (“cold noses”), which are little dumplings with blueberry filling, or švilpikai (“whistlers”), which are small potato dumplings, and serve them with butter and cream sauce. During the potato harvest, Sudovians can’t imagine a table without kugelis, a grated potato casserole, or vėdarai, which is pig intestine stuffed with grated potatoes. “Unexpected” is putting it mildly, right? But experiencing the taste and then telling everyone about your courage is worth it.
First – visit the manors of Sudovia. There are more of them in this region than in the other regions of Lithuania. Restored and revived, they are now important and interesting centres of culture and art that are filled with surprising discoveries and unique architecture and host concerts, tastings, and educational programme. Pieces worthy of London and New York await lovers of contemporary art in the Sudovian capital of Marijampolė. They are made by artists who attend MaLonNy (Marijampolė – London – New York): The Migration of Ideas, an art symposium that is held every year.