The cognitive walkway Žalgiriai
The Žalgiriai cognitive walkway was established in Žalgiriai wood which abounds with marshes, meadows, homesteads and occupies an area of 1231 ha. Of total area of Rupkalvių marsh (3410 ha) this wood is least of all influenced by the civilisation. There grow centuries old oaks that are not the characteristic trees of the marshes. Other main tree species are birches, black alders, white alders, pines, firs, aspens, ashes, willows and other deciduous trees.
The Žalgiriai wood represents the whole flora of the Nemunas delta regional park. Though a bit different is Kulynu forest where firs and pines prevail but on its outskirts the composition of flora is similar to that of Zalgiriu wood.
The cognitive walkway which is 1860 m long has been built in the reserve of the Žalgiriai village. The aim of the reserve is to conserve and expose the last remaining settlement of former “marsh people” and their way of household managing. The economic activities in the area including hewing of trees, land farming and recreational activities are regulated. It has been endeavoured to upkeep the structure and view of the village in the form as it was inherited from past times. On the walkway the visitors will acquaint themselves with the specific park plants, wood habitats, will be able to study the trails of the animals that live in the vicinity and learn about the most frequently encountered birds and fishes. And most important - they will get acquainted with life peculiarities of the marsh people - a remarkable phenomenon in Lithuania.
On the territory of the Nemunas delta regional park four colonies of marsh people were founded: within the bounds of Aukštumala marshes (former villages of Aukštumala, Vabalai, Naujieji Ruguliai, and a part of Šyšgiriai and Lapaliai villages), in the Žalgiriai - Rupkalviai marshes (former Žalgiriai and Juodkrantė villages), in the Medžioklė marshes (former Medžioklė marsh village), in Beržtai marshes (a part of homesteads of Paleičiai, Andruliai, Šilininkai villages).
These homesteads and villages were set up in the outskirts of large upper marshes in drained peat lots at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The biggest colony was Bismarck or Žalgiriai. The regular strips of drained land of 1 - 3 hectars were allocated to each household. The village was densely populated, the homes and the homesteads were orderly lined up in blocks of rectangular form along the straight roads.
The colonisation of the present Žalgiriai village began in 1835 when the inhabitants of the neighbourhood villages addressed the authorities to allow them to hire out some land for tillage. In 1849 after it was decided to rent the land (for 10 years long term) the renters began to build their huts. In 1861 these buildings were legitimated as solid structures.
After opening of Šilutė - Rusnė highway in 1872 the former single houses were connected to it by roads and streets and got names like Bismarckstrasse, Wiesenstrasse, Krummhaarstrasse. The lots along these roads were increased. So the nucleus of the village of Žalgiriai shaped which until 1944 was called Bismarck. But after 1923 the colony was named Žalgiriai (in English greenwoods).
As long ago as the 19th century the woods began to be populated. In the first place draining of the Rupkalviai marsh was begun. Open ditches were dug for water drainage. After the World War 2 it was thought up to turn the Žalgiriai wood and Rupkalviai marsh into meadows for hay making. But the ditches overgrew as they were left neglected. Thus the nature did not surrender.
The Žalgiriai wood has encircled the upper marsh of Rupkalviai. The western edge of the wood reaches the confluence of the rivers Leitė and Nemunas. In spring and sometimes in autumn the floods overflow the bigger part of the wood. Here prevail the low marsh soils but the places that have not been bogged turfed sodden gleyic and sodden gleyic soils are in great plenty. In some areas the low marsh flora grows on the upper marsh peat layer.
Actually all the wood corresponds to the NATURA 2000 territory. As per EU Habitat directive here are found such habitats as alluvial forests (91E0), marshy deciduous tree forests (9080), marsh forests (91D0), degraded upper marshes (7120).
Since in the Žalgiriai wood there are different biotopes (an upper marsh of Rupkalviai has remained in its central part, at the fringe of the marsh prevail birches but the remaining part is overgrown with black and white alders together with an admixture of pines, firs, and willows or with separate groves of these trees. There are lots with naturalised meadows that once had been cultivated by the local people).the diversity of flora is rather large. About 180 species of plants have been found in Žalgiriai wood.
According to the type of habitat the forests in Žalgiriai are black woods, green woods and bogside woods. The bigger part of the Žalgiriai wood is self reproducing that is the trees grow by themselves and are not planted. The trees are felled in winter when the soil is frozen. Therefore high stumps are seen at the felling area. Later on it will overgrow again. Often from one stump three or four saplings spring up.