Weathervane Exposition along the bay of Nida

Vėtrungių ekspozicija Nidos krantinėje
Weathervane Exposition along the Quay of Nida |

Nidos krantinė

The first outdoor exposition-museum of copies of weatherwanes of the old kurėnai in the country was started to be created in Neringa in 2003. At the moment, one can see 82 weatherwanes along the bank of the lagoon in Nida, which belong to the Curonian Spit History Museum. In the 19th c., 133 villages existed along the Curonian Lagoon and in order to control them, the then inspector Wilhelm Ernst Beerbohm created modest rectangle-shaped signs with geometrical drawings in two different colours. Black and white colours were for the western bank (the Curonian Spit’s villages and Klaipėda), yellow and blue - the southern shore (Semba, the present-day Russia and the Kaliningrad Oblast), while red and white - for the eastern shore of the continent (Kintai, Ventė, the village of Mingė, etc.). Every village had to fish in only its own fishing area. The sign was painted on a tinplate which fishers had to fasten on a mast when raising it. Those fishers who spent a lot of time in the lagoon started to decorate those tinplates by eventually shaping them into real pieces of art, typical for the area of the Curonian Lagoon. In this way, the weatherwane of kurėnas became a hard-to-decipher symbolic code where a fisher’s dreams and daily life was expressed. Later, weatherwanes were cut out of 10-millimetre-wide alder, ash tree, linden or aspen boards. Such boards were retted by fishers in leaky boats in order to soften the wood. They carved the weatherwanes by knives and burnt holes in them with metal strings, as fishers had fireplaces in their kurėnai where they cooked food. Having finished carving them, they perfected their weatherwanes by a piece of broken glass. The classical, ornate Huge Weatherwane consists of two parts: the frontal, windward part frequently depicted symbols of the elements, i.e. the moon, the sun (circles and stars), arrows and feathers (the symbols of wind and the wind element). At the top of the windward part, a house was often depicted, while initials of a ship’s owner were a symbol of cosiness, fulfilment, wealth and property. The top of the weatherwane, the highest part of it, frequently had religious symbols. It was believed that they could protect the fisher and his loved ones from misfortunes in the lagoon and on the shore. The cross was often placed at the top of the weatherwane, which was a symbol of Christian religion and the man, while a circle symbolised the woman and the wife. Also, an animal, a plant (e.g. a clove represented happiness and success), a castle, a ship and other things were depicted. The leeward part of the weatherwane was separated into three, four or more parts, depending on how much the fisher wanted to tell about himself. This part of the weatherwane distinguished itself with ornateness and a lot of carving. Here, various symbols could be shown (home, churches, people, animals, various tools and items, even different words, elements of architecture, a moose as a symbol of forests and grandiosity, etc.) as well as everything that the fisher left on the shore and dreamed of. The symbols behind the weatherwane’s axle hinted about the fisher’s family. A cross in a circle meant that the fisher was married, while various stripes and lines - the number of children. There are opinions that the number of holes drilled showed how many helpers and employees the fisher had. A dense row of lower boards meant success, while houses, churches and mills represented faith. Levers and boats-horses symbolised wealth, family and harmony.