Kaunas (1463)


1463.It's an early spring morning. The waters of the Nemunas River flowedsilently through springtime Kaunas. From the quay, we could hear thecries of birds looking for prey. The townspeople were just waking upfrom a deep sleep, opening their shutters and letting the rising suninto their homes. The large family of the merchant Dulke startedtheir daily morning. What will this spring morning bring to Kaunasand what surprises will the citizens of the city experience?

Chapter I

In the early hoursof the morning, the new bell of Vytautas Church rang. Dulkė'swife calmly gets out of bed and lazily moves the curtain. Voices canalready be heard below. Someone is shouting loudly from the quay.Time to get ready. The children are still asleep and there is nothingfor breakfast. After dressing and picking up a basket and some silvercoins, she descends the heavy stone stairs, trying to take each stepas quietly as possible.

Wrapped in a warm, woolen scarf,she shuffles through the door. It's cold. The smells of the river andthe sounds of the city bring her back from her dreams and make herthink about the upcoming breakfast for her family. My gaze lingers onthe leather glove. He throws the glove into the basket and heads downthe hill towards the river.

You need to hurry if you wantto get fresh fish and delicacies for your family. Walking through thesilent and stony morning street, Dulkienė meets a fisherman,
whois still looking for a catch.

- Good morning, Madam! -murmurs the fisherman.
- Good morning to you too, - replies thelady, - how are you finding this morning?
- It's hard at themoment, but I could interest you to buy yesterday's goodies! -enthusiastically leads her to his stall, just off the street.

Achild passes by while talking to a fisherman. He trips overDulkienė's basket and the same glove she had found earlier fallsout.
- Sorry! I was in a hurry, - says the child, frightened.
-Be more careful, my boy! - says the lady irritatingly.
The gloveitself catches the child's eye. He notices that there is somethingbrightly shining, glittering and even sparkling inside of it.
-Is this your glove? - the boy is interested.
- No, I found itlost this morning. Looking for an owner.
- I think I know theowner - give it to me, I'll give it back!

In fact, thechild wanted to explore the inside of the glove, not actually knowingthe owner. He immediately grabbed that intriguing glove from the ladyand ran for the nearest corner to hide and look inside of it. He wasso eager to see what secrets might be hiding there. Peering inside,the child saw a gilded piece of parchment glittering. Eagerlyunwrapping it, the boy saw a beautifully written message.

"Thelady and her entire entourage will arrive in 2 days. Don't let anyonesee the book."
The child was interested, but also feltfear.
- What book is this? What's inside it and why is it soimportant? Maybe I should take it to the Mayor?
The little thiefdidn't realize what a burden he had placed on his shoulders.

Chapter II

After findingfood, treats and other useful items, Dulkienė turns towards home.She quietly steps through the door and looks around the kitchen. Thenhe rushes off to cook a delicious meal for his family. The pleasantsmell of the food wakes up children who have been deeply asleep intheir beds. There was a noise coming from the bedroom. When sherealized that the children were awake, she was delighted that theywould help her with the preparations.

When she opens thedoor, she sees... pawnshops! Children were knocking and throwingpillows.

- Well well, morning... New day, new troubles.And why did you hit her so hard? And you, why do you continue topunch him?? Children, stop it! You should better get to the table,breakfast is waiting for you all.

The children nodded andnodded, and then came to eat. Dulkė,a merchant who had barely woken up, came to the table. Everyone sataround the table to eat and chat, to start the morning off nicely.Dulkė watched her familyand rejoiced. With children growing up, there will be help in hisoffice.

And the child, who had taken the glove and stillhadn't the slightest idea what he had found, was asking people aroundhim, hoping to find out whose glove with such a big secret belongedto whom: maybe the fisherman knew someone, maybe the craftsmen, maybeother people who might have some idea who the glove might belongto.

Eventually, it ended up next to the Town Hall, wherethe city's most important people keep an eye on the city. Where theburgomaster sits high up and sees his townspeople swarming throughthe city streets. Deciding that the burgomaster would probably be inthe largest building, the child crept towards the door. At the door,he saw a young and tall guard in a dark leather coat. No longerhaving the strength, but driven by his infinite curiosity, he decidedto dare to ask. But the guard, looking angrily at the child, said:

-Ah, you little tramp, what did you need here?
- I think I havesomething. . . important," the boy said, catching his breath.

-Here? Something important? - the guard laughed out loud, "Hesurely is joking, who's going to believe you?
He carefullyshowed the guard the glove and the letter. The guard saw what thechild was showing him, grunted and took the letter and read it. Forthe first time, he read the letter casually. The second one - withoutlaughing. For the third time very carefully.
- Where did you getthis letter?
- A woman lost a glove in the street. It had thisletter inside of it... - the child lies carefully.
- Whichwoman? What did it look like?
A second guard immediatelyappears. Slightly shorter than the first, older, with a stern faceand penetrating eyes and, apparently, a sword mark on his face.
-Arthur, what are you doing with that child? The burgomaster iscalling you.
But when he sees the glove, he is immediatelysurprised.
- You stupid,hide that thing, someone else will see it! - starts to get angry, -are you so blind that you can't see the coat of arms?
The boylistened to the men talk, trying to understand as much as he couldwith his childish mind.
- Take it to the burgomaster, and let'spray that no one has seen it.
- What about the child? - askedArthur
-I'll deal with him, go.

Chapter III

-Mom, pass the vegetables! - one exclaims.
- Mummy, do we stillhave something to eat? – lovingly looks other.
- I want more!- another one starts screaming.

Dulkienė was runningaround the family all morning: to give someone a second, to givesomething else, to sorry that they had to eat only what she hadprepared. It's a hard time for that woman, but now she has no timefor self-pity. There is still a lot of work to be done! Afterbreakfast, everyone will get down to business.

The boysjust finished eating and ran outside without even saying thank you.Daughter helped knead the bread dough and father was heading towardsthe Town Hall. Dulk
ėwas an old friend of the burgomaster and often went to see him, sothey know each other.

At the door of the Town Hall, ablindfolded guard led the boy along paths he did not know.
-Whereare you taking me? I didn't do anything wrong. . . - the boy didn'tunderstand.
-Shut up or you're going to get into a lot oftrouble," the guard retorted. Suddenly, the boy heard a dooropen next to him and he was pushed inside a room.

-Until everything is clear, you need to stay there.

Thedoor slammed shut, the footsteps receded. The child took off hisblindfold and saw where he was. Four walls with a single windowsurrounded him. There was a straw mattress in the corner and a smallwooden bench in the middle. The walls are stone, as are the floors.The door is heavy, wooden and has a large lock. The panic came anddid not leave the child's head. What will happen now? How will heescape? How long will they keep him here?

All sorts ofquestions were running through his mind. After a while, when thefright had subsided a little and it was possible to think again, theboy decided to take a good look around and try to think of a way toescape.

He saw a few stones and tried to knock on thedoor, but it wouldn't budge. He looked out the window. Being a littlethief, he liked to climb, and the room was not very high. If Imanaged to get out of the window, I could certainly sneak down.Without thinking, someone came and knocked on the door.

-Whatis it? - asked a strange young voice
-Help me, I've been lockedup even though I haven't done anything!

The boy's heartwas pounding and he couldn't believe that this stranger could savehim. But all hope is gone as quickly as it came.

-"Don'tgo, there's a child who interferes in the burgomeister'saffairs," said a voice belonging to the evil guard.
-Doesthe burgomaster know? - asked the stranger.
-Don't you have togo on duty? - replied the guard in exasperation.
The steps havereceded, as has the child's rescue.

Chapter IV

TheDulkėfamily has returned home after a difficult day. All the work has beendone and now we just have to wait for the celebration. It was cominginexorably fast. Everyone gathered for a deliciously fragrant dinner.It was a beautiful and peaceful evening. Dusty the Merchant wastelling the children bedtime stories about devils when someoneknocked on the door.

-Who could come at this late hour? -Dulkienė was surprised.
-The Prince has come to save us fromthe terrible devils! - cried the little one.
Father went andopened the door, but he did not expect to see the burgomeister'sguards. They entered the house and approached Dulkė.
-Pirklys Dulkė,you are under arrest for attempting to assassinate the burgomaster, -the soldier announced and ordered those behind him to arrest hisfather.
- How? Why? For what? What was my crime? - he asked,startled.
- No questions. Send him to a hiding place, - said themysterious guard, who grabbed Dust's hands and led him out of hishouse.

Adeadly silence descended. The children stared in silence, not quiteunderstanding what had happened, while Mrs Dulkienė, completelyfrozen, lost her wits, wondered why and where her husband could hadbeen taken to the hiding place. After urgently urging the children togo to bed, she got to work herself. After locking the door, she wentup to the second floor of the Thunder House and sat at her husband'sdesk. She took a quill and a piece of parchment and started to writea letter, an appeal to the Lord Mayor. Dulkė,transported out of the city through unseen roads and places, ponderedwhat he had done and who he had done it to. The guards were also nottalkative and did not want to explain anything.
- Do we stillhave a long way to go?" asked Dulkė.
Therewas no reply.

It was a long journey. Morning was breakingand the outline of a large mansion appeared in the distance. MrDulkė,accompanied by his guards, enters a huge menorah, decorated withbeast skins and heavy oak furniture. From behind the door there aresounds and noises. The door opens and a table laden with the mostdelicious dishes stands in the middle of the menorah, with servantsrunning around to their masters, listening and fulfilling theirwishes.
- Why didn't I know anything about this place? And whywas I brought here? - thought Dulkėthe merchant.
Lost in his own thoughts, still trying tounderstand why he had been brought here, he didn't realizewhen someone quietly crept up behind him.

Chapter V

Thecity once again bids farewell to a sleepy night and welcomes thedawning morning. The Nemunas greets the Neris at its confluence witha torrential flow, and together they carry new knowledge into thewide world. The bell rings lazily in the tower, as if awakened by thewind, and loudly announces the beginning of another day. SpringtimeKaunas beckons its citizens to open the shutters wider, let in themischievous wind, and enjoy the bird songs.

Thebig news is spreading by word of mouth. The city is getting ready fora big celebration. The Town Hall is the venue for the Great WritingWorks. Monks who can write letters in Latin being selected, preparingfor the great letter-writing exercise. The burgomaster gives ordersto his subordinates and merchants wait their turn to let them getinside by the burgomaster.

He calls all his subordinatestogether in a large menorah. Sitting around the table, everyone isdiscussing who to write letters to and who to invite to the bigKaunas feast.

Itis also a great opportunity to introduce and showcase the city, toattract more visitors, which means more opportunities for the city togrow and thrive. Long ago, merchants asked the burgomaster to inviteguests from North Germany, the Netherlands and Poland, because theirgoods were good and we lacked them.

The Dulkė family hasoffered to host one or few more guests. They are determined to tellguests about their native and important Kaunas! But they don't knowhow it will happen, because the most important member of the familyhas disappeared. .
As darkness in the sky appears and Dulkė ispreparing dinner, Dulkė opens the door and enters the house.
-You are back!!! Oh dear, how we miss you! I knew you had beentransported by a mistake! And how good it is that you are alive andwell.
When the children heard that their beloved dad hadreturned, they ran to hug him tightly, strongly.
- Did theprince save you? - one child asked.
- Where were you taken andhow did you get out of there? -the other asked.
But, with anunusual nod of his head, Dulkė did not say a word.
-Everything’s OK?
- Mhm, - he nodded.
- You must have lostboth your energy and your strength, I've almost finished dinner.Don't worry, go take a shower and we'll eat delicious food just likebefore.

As she said, so he did. The whole family sat downto eat and rest, as tomorrow they have to get ready for the upcomingfeast.
The family woke up in the morning to dark skies,uncharacteristic of spring, and cold, gusty winds and rain thatdisrupted their plans. But their determination and willingness tocontribute to the celebration did not waver.

Chapter VI

Morningalso arrived in the room where the boy was. Looking at the darknessand the bars, the child realized there was little hope of escape. Theecho of the metal armor echoes, it is getting closer. The door openswith a heavy creak and an unseen man stands on the threshold:
-Kid, you were ordered to get out of here. I don't know how ithappened, why you ended up here. Forget what you've seen, it's timeto leave.
- Are you sure? Are you lying? - the child stumbled.
-No, I'm helping you, - whispers the unknown guard.
- Thank you,sir! - whispers the boy.
Whenhe had the chance, the boy dove in without turning back. When hefound the exit, he was surprised at how easily he had escaped withoutanyone noticing him.
- How good to see the light again! Now weneed to find somewhere to hide…,-thought the child.
He followed the paths, through houses andyards, until he hid under the roof of a house, but he didn't know whoit was.Andthe whole Dulkėfamilywas getting ready to go shopping for supplies and tools. It was a bitunusual that the children were not fighting, but getting ready to goout, even the bad weather did not scare them:
- I love theweather! So interesting and mysterious,-exclaimed the girl.
- Not so much for me tho, I like the sunmore. I'd rather stay at home.
- Let's go kids! - urgedDad.

Dulkienė pushed the door open, took a step andalmost stepped on someone curled up in the doorway.Whenshe looked closer, she saw a child squatting underfoot: barefoot,completely frozen and stiff, curled up in his shawl, looking at themfearfully.

- Are you okay? Can't find your parents, yourhome? - Dulkienėasked.
- Really good, they just got me out of the dungeons, theyput me in there because of a letter.
- But I saw you somewhere.Was it you who bumped into me the other day by the river!
-Sorry again, madam - sighs the child.
- What is forgiven,stays inthe past. And how did you find me?
- I don't know, I ran , I ranand…Iended up here.
- And where is your home, and your parents? -Dulkienėis concerned.
- I haven't had one for a long time. I don'tremember what happened. I don't remember where I was either.
Dulkienėturns to her husband. The two whisper and finally agree onsomething:
- Would you like to stay with us? We can't leave youso lost and alone.
-You can! I've lived like this for many years, but if I don't disturbyou, I'd like to stay with you! - the boy decides.

And soa new resident has arrived in the House of Dulkiai. The childrenwarmly welcomed the boy. Now it will be even more fun to frolic andplay pranks.

Chapter VII

Theburgomaster was holding a piece of gilded parchment. tried to puzzleout all kinds of ideas and to solve that confusing riddle. Who isthis lady that promised to come? What is this secret book that isbeing written about? There were more questions than answers. Theburgomaster decided to act.

Once upon a time in a manortalked about it with Dulke, a merchant who was an old and good friendof his. Secrethad to meet, as they both belonged to the HanseaticMerchants Guild. Not all Kaunas merchants liked the new merchants'union, so they often had to meet in distant mansions, far away fromKaunas. And the burgomaster would often ask the merchant Dulke foradvice. After all, he considered him as an intelligent andenlightened man.

After much deliberation, he decided togo again to meet secretly with the merchant Dulkė and to think againabout what that mysterious piece of gilded parchment could mean. Theburgomaster looked round the room, glanced at the armchair anddecided to sit down to rest.

And the enlarged Dulkėfamily headed to the city in search of all sorts of supplies:crockery for arriving guests, foodstuffs, and fancy utensils for afeast in the town square. Meanwhile, it was there that theburgomaster himself summoned the townspeople to hear him speak. Aftergiving a beautiful and lively speech on the eve of Kaunas' birthday,he assigned to each citizen the tasks and duties that await themduring these few days. The burgomaster also lists who will need towelcome which guest into their home.

Thefamily of Merchant Dulce was given a merchant from Lübeck. The guestis asked to be welcomed, fed tasty and nutritious food, and to listento his wishes. The family was curious about what kind of guest wouldvisit them. The dusty children questioned both parents and gave themno peace.

-Has this merchant traveled to many countries? Is his ship nicelooking? - one asked the other in a chatter.
- He must havecaught the biggest pike in history! - another child considered.
Idon't know, but he will visit us. We can ask ourselves, - motherreplied.

Chapter VIII

Aftera long and somewhat exhausting shopping trip, the family returnedhome in large baskets. The mysterious visitor was already waiting atthe door. Contrary to the family's expectations, he was a young,strong and cheerful merchant from Lübeck.

- Goodafternoon, dear sirs, - he said in German.
- Hello, it's apleasure for us too! - Dulkė the merchant replied in German.
-Your house is very beautiful. I am delighted to be able to visit you,gentlemen, by the invitation of the Mayor.

Everyone cameto the house. Dulkienė rushed to prepare the table, put deliciousdishes on it, and seat the guests in the most honorable place. Thechildren listened and studied the guest's appearance without takingtheir eyes away. The man's outfit was luxurious and exclusive, and hespoke with his chin proudly raised and his arms waving wide.

-We have a large port in Lübeck. There, you'll find whatever yourheart desires or wants. I see a lot of similarities and here inKaunas I look for people selling Lithuanian goods.
- Howinteresting, - Dulkienė exclaimed, as she also spoke German.
-Would it be possible to visit you? - Dulkė’s older son wasinterested.
- After the party, I might be able to organize apicnic for you, why not! - agreed the merchant.

Thefamily and the guest had a pleasant evening. The night covered Kaunaswith its dark veil, and the shutters of the townspeople's houses wereopen. Fires were burning in the fireplaces, and talk was flowing. Thetown hall watchman walked through the streets of the town and loudlyannounced the time of night. City is asleep. At midnight, the greatmerchant sailing ship Hulk reaches the confluence of the Nemunas andNeris rivers. The boat calmly moored at the shore, dropped anchor andnobody got off. It was a new day and new adventures.

Chapter IX

TheTown Hall Square was already buzzing. Artisans and peasants weregoing back and forth offering their goods. Townspeople and visitorsalike were curious to see the goods on offer: honey, wax, furs,amber, vegetables, cereals, bacon, meat, mead and bread rolls. Therewas even livestock. It was possible to buy not only a goat, but alsoa whole bull. The wealthier townspeople looked out for merchantsselling silver, gold and faience. Friendly conversations betweentraders and buyers took place. The foreigners came to sell wine,beer, wool, gelumba and metals. Everyone could find what their heartdesires. In a corner of the Town Hall Square, a podium was filledwith people dressed up. The colourfulness of their clothes and theirloud conversations caught the eye of everybody. Hungry and thirsty,the townspeople went to the tavern to satisfy their hungrystomachs.

The great bell of Vytautas Church rang,announcing midday. The burgomeister's coachman came out to the centreof the square and invited everyone to a town feast.

Ashort while later, distinguished families, merchants and tradersgathered in families around the lavishly laden tables. Tables werebursting with the most delicious dishes, full of pints of beer andmead. There were many famous and good jokes buzzing everywhere.Languages merged, German and Lithuanian words mingled, happy andcheerful songs could be heard all around. But the burgomasterconstantly was looking anxiously by the direction of Nemunas river,as if waiting for something.

There was a commotion onboard the ship on the Nemunas. Flags with the Hanseatic coat of armsand Teutonic Knights' insignia flew against the white background ofthe three-masted ship. The sailing ship was enormous in size, made ofgood wood, with gold carvings on the sides. On the lower sail therewere three golden crowns on a red background. The sailing ship wasindeed impressive, and those standing on the shore were curious toexplore the unseen vessel. The staircase has landed. In front, a fewservants, carrying large wicker baskets and beautiful chests, climbeddown. A lady also appeared from behind.

Shewas apparently very noble. He held his head high and proud. The hatwas wide brimmed, the eyes curiously exploring the unfamiliar shore.She was dressed in a gown of rustling silk, with a fur coat of frost.A true queen, what could you say?Thelady and her entourage headed towards the Town Hall Square. When theburgomaster saw the entourage, his face lit up. The burgomaster asksfor silence from all the revelers. Locals look around curiously.Svita approaches the burgomaster. He bows low and kisses the lady'shand. A servant brings forward a beautifully carved chest. Afteropening the lid, he takes out a roll of parchment and hands it to thelady. The lady holds out the parchment to the burgomaster. Theburgomaster thanks them and, unrolling the parchment, reads aloud andclear that Kaunas is now admitted to the Hanseatic League ofMerchants. Merchant Dulkė, like everyone else who attended thefeast, was very happy and proud that Kaunas had become one of theHanseatic League cities. Dulkė, just as he saw in his dream, Kaunasbecame a prosperous, growing and truly European city.