Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Series

I can't believe it's been a year since I went on my grand adventure to the Baltic States with my favorite cousin. There he is at left, my hunky cousin Mike, dressed up in his racing gear. He's a well respected sprint car driver that suffered a pretty serious crash back in August. Ironic considering the fifth day of our trip one of his friends nearly died in a racing accident and is still in an institution getting treatment for his severe Traumatic Brain Injury. I thank my lucky stars that Mike was more fortunate than his friend.

In his last race of the season, my cousin crossed the finish line in first place and lost control of his steering. He hit the wall doing 100 miles per hour, and suffered a severe enough concussion that his vision is still impaired. The doctors expect it will be a few more months before the swelling in his brain reduces enough to restore the rest of his eyesight.

Anyway, thinking back on our trip I'd have to say my favorite parts were visiting Paris, and a little place in western Lithuania called the Curonian Spit. It's a narrow sand spit nestled between Klaipeda, Lithuania, and Kaliningrad, Russia. Baltic mythology claims a giantess named Naringa formed it by throwing sand out of her apron.

I've recently started my first paranormal series, and the books link the Curonian Spit and surrounding area with ancient legend and WWII history. I can't tell you how excited I am about the premise for this! Hope it turns out as well as it looks in my head :)

We were there in early October and the Baltic Sea was stormy and wild. Chunks of amber still regularly wash up on the beaches after storms.

The tiny resort town of Nida is nestled at the tip of the Spit, and it was absolutely gorgeous. It reminded me so much of the little village at Crescent Beach here at home that it made me even more homesick. Nida has the same feel to it; a summer seaside town with shops and restaurants, with breathtaking views from the sand dunes built up by the winds blowing off the Baltic. Each year the dunes lose approximately 10 meters of sand from the wind blowing it into the lagoon. Nida was where all the Soviet well-to-do spent their summers during the Communist era. Today it is the most expensive resort area in Lithuania.

Local legends and customs abound here, and they are evident in the traditional wooden flags still used in Nida today. Each color and image on the three-layered flags tells a story about the people they represent. For example, the black and white checkered square at the bottom symbolizes Nida, and the red and white symbolizes the Curonian Spit. Most traditional houses here are painted blue, brown and white, symbolic of the pagan tradition of the elements earth, water and air.

The entire area is magical. Mystical. When you have a chance to tour around, it's not hard to see why.

The cemeteries in this part of the world are in forests, due to pagan tradition. This particular cemetery has Curonian crosses from the 19th century. They were unpainted, weathered wood with different designs and shapes. "Male crosses were made from male trees such as oak, maple or birch. Female crosses were made from female trees such as pine, cherry and apple. The male cross would have a horse design on it because a man rode his horse in his next life. The female designs would be with birds because a woman would fly to the beyond. These crosses would be placed at the feet (not the head) of the burial site." (from my step mom's blog)

Pagan tradition is an essential part of the area's history and culture, and I've used it heavily in my new series. Folklore and legends of witchcraft abound, especially in what was our final stop in Nida last year.

The Hill of Witches stands on an ancient pagan ceremonial site, and is now covered with intricate wooden carvings depicting local folklore of magic, witches and devils. When you take the tour you begin in sunlight with the "good" figurines, and work your way up into the forested hill toward the shadows where the witches and devils play, waiting to lure unsuspecting mortals to their doom. This lit a fire under my muse that I haven't been able to extinguish, and so my paranormal series was born. I don't want to give away too much, but suffice it to say I'm using this site and the surrounding area for the books. There are so many amazing details and legends for me to intertwine with the plot threads and I can't wait to tell you more about it! Stay tuned :)


Nissie said...

Hey, Kaylea! Sounds like a wonderful trip. That was some really interesting stuff and amazing photos! I'm looking forward to the new series!!

I'm sorry about your cousins accident and I hope he's back at 100% soon. Very cute!! I wish I could have seen the eyes, though. ;)

Kaylea Cross said...

Hi Nissie. It was a great trip, but very hard for me to be away from my little ones for that long. This year I stayed put while the rest of my family did another couple of months through the Balkans.

Mike's a real looker, and BTW his eyes are dark, dark brown. :)

Nissie said...

Kaylea,that would be hard. Mine are not little at all anymore, but it would still be hard to not see them for a long time. You can look forward to the day they can go with you!

Thanks for the eyes info! Don't tell anyone, but he's on my "Yummy List" now lol! ;)

Zosia said...

That's terrible about your cousin and his friend. What a frustrating injury to recover from!

The new series sounds so interesting. That part of the world is fascinating; I'm heading back over there in a few months (having a family from around there). It's impossible not to love Paris too!

Kaylea Cross said...

Nissie, I don't blame you--he's really yummy, even if I am biased :) And he's a great guy, too.

Zosia, where are you off to? Don't say Paris, otherwise I'll be really jealous. Have you ever been to the Baltics? The capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is actually one of my favorite cities now. Tons of history, great food and everyone speaks English. Really neat place to visit.

Zosia said...

Not Paris this time unfortunately!

I LOVE Tallinn, and I am going back there for a few days. It's like a fairytale city! The last time I was there though it was just after the Russians rioted in 2007, and all the windows in the middle of the city were smashed and boarded up. Because of all the English tourists it's a really easy place to stay in, but depressing because everyone's so good-looking!

I'm going to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as to Saint Petersburg and then to Ukraine (my Goodreads avatar has a Ukrainian flag on it, so that should tell you something about my background!).

Nissie said...

Sorry to take up your space, Kaylea, but, Zosia, can I go with you? LOL! That sounds fabulous!

Kaylea Cross said...

Zosia, OMG! I'm so jealous that you're going back there! Tallinn is purely magical. So much history and culture, and the city was kept so nicely when I was there. I'm sure you'll have a good experience this time.

If you get down the coast of Lithuania, make SURE you stop at Klaipeda and take the ferry across to the Curonian Spit. Nida is as far south as you can go before hitting Kaliningrad. Be sure to take a day and see the town, and stop by the Hill of Witches. It's well worth the stop, and that way you'll understand my new series that much better (hint hint) :)

Zosia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zosia said...

(Okay, something really went wrong with my comment!)

Sure Nissie.
You're small, I'm sure you'll fit in my suitcase!

Thanks for the information Kaylea. I haven't really planned anything for the Baltics yet - we've been so busy tracking down villages and things in Ukraine (we're kind of going on a 'find our family's villages and homes from before the Nazis took them' trip).

It's amazing what has survived in that part of the world. I know a lot of people from the former Soviet Union, and all the traditional culture of the countries – culture we take for granted – they’ve never even heard of. Our friends from the Ukrainian embassy here in Canberra, Australia have been learning about Ukrainian culture from us because the Russians banned it. So these pagan cultures in the Baltics are fascinating, and the fact they survived is fantastic.

It would be nice to do a pre-series research trip! You know, seeing as I don't think I'll be doing a Cover of Darkness or No Turning Back research trip in the near future.

Kaylea Cross said...

What a cool trip, Zosia! My dad and his wife continued on through Belarus, Poland and the Ukraine after I completed the Baltic leg of the journey. They said the Ukraine was one of the poorest countries they've ever been to, but they adopted a school and have since provided it with computers and lots of upgrades like lighting fixtures (rather than just a bare bulb per classroom), secure doors, actual washrooms for the students and staff (instead of the outhouses they had before), desks, books, etc. Pretty worthwhile venture!

Best of luck finding your family roots there. Hard to believe the things people have suffered there over the past century. I feel very fortunate to be Canadian!

Nissie said...

Y'all are making me jealous!lol

Kaylea, I really admire what your dad and his wife did for that school! They sound like wonderful people!

I think you and Zosia have had the most interesting lives of anyone I've ever heard of!

I am small, Zosia and I can be very quiet,too! :) Thanks for letting me tag along lol!