Stories about amber, Latvia's precious stone

Stories about amber, Latvia's precious stone
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014 . Gustavs Terzens and Marta Selecka, hosts of TV series " Dzintara pusē"
20-06-2013 A+ A-
Many Latvians might think of the amber as some jewelry pieces such as beads or brooches our grannies used to put on. Some might recognize amber souvenirs, those can be bought in Old Riga gift shops. Still, Latvia has an ancient and quite an exciting relation to this jewel. A new TV series called "Dzintara pusē" ("On the side of the amber") will be broadcasted in 2014 dedicated to history of ancient roots of amber. Marta Selecka and Gustavs terzens will host series presenting a film production company "Vides filmu studija" ("VFS Films"). Together they have proven themselves as a great team producing TV series "Te!" ("Here!") and "Ziemeļu puse" ("Northern side").

From Roman Empire to nowadays

Still, it is not known if the title of series will be "Dzintara pusē". It is going to be a surprise, say both hosts. "In this case, Vita Timermane-Moora should join the conversation, she is a curator of "The Amber Vein". Obviously they thought of us as the most suitable team for this job. Though, we have not done all yet, so the project is still ongoing this year," adds Selecka.


When asked about their work, Terzens speaks in a philosophical mood saying that humans have more than one artery in their bodies supporting them with blood. "Of course, the main idea is to travel to countries of the ancient Amber Road. But I think we should not hold to geography so much.

If we look at the timing, The Amber Road existed in Roman Empire, before that and in Middle Ages. Though, it is the same region where this jewel comes from with the route starting in Latvia.

There are branches from France, Russia, then the route goes through Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Italy. Then a brunch moves to Egypt, another one to Arabia going along to India." Currently they and the director of series are working on a scenario in order to present the idea of amber as precisely as possible.


"It won't be easy. As Valdis Celmins, the awarded director, once said, we should not focuse on a small pieces of amber in museums. We'd better go abroad, travel around and look at this phenomenon from a culture exchange perspective. Those merchants who brought amber to other foreign countries, they were the oldest clique in the world who never had to work. But, still, they have created such cultural whirlwind. Besides, someone had to dig amber out from the ground, make something from it and creat this Amber Road, as well. The first one exchanged with the second, then the second exchanged with the third. Nowadays, the last one has no connection with the first part of this chain. So it's exciting to find out how the chain was developed. I don't know, maybe someone in Italy still thinks that amber was found in Czech Republic not knowing the real Latvian routes of amber."

Travelling back and forth

Terzens and Selecka joyfully tells about a research trip to Austria where they had found "amber man" who had dedicated all his life to amber. "He was "a man within amber", we might say. A documentary of him has been produced. We took some contacts from him, because it seemed so exciting, to find out how he made his collection getting even to India in his way.


India will also be the closing step for "Dzintara pusē" series. Still, Central Europe, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and many other countries are included into their long trip. It is also planned to visit Poland, Lithuania, Upper Germany and Kaliningrad by the end of this summer. "The amber in those countries is factory built getting loads of jewel. Uldis Cakuls, the producer, and Kaspars Goba, film director, shot everything in Kaliningrad. They used a documentary approach even trying to find illegal amber producers. It might be really something as we do not get filming permits for Russia quite often. Of course, we did what we had to do to make series, but still, it was..frightening," remembers Terzens while smiling ironically and continues his story about the upcoming TV show. He notes that it should be put into right direction because of the fact that the show will introduce the programme of The European Capital of Culture.

"It's a big responsibility, to make this first show in a way it presents Latvia as a very unique country, to be able to gain attention from the rest of the world."

How could Latvia get recognition in the world? Both Terzens and Selecka name Mark Rothko, for instance. Also Wagner created his best works while living in Riga. "I often like to attach different achievements when speaking of Latvia. But now, it's really on time and place. "Rīga 2014" foundation did excellent work. They emphasized the exact cultural context of amber in order to show its uniqueness as much as possible," says Selecka and Terzens.

Have they found something new about the amber for themselves? They laugh and say it's hard to even say where to start. "We have all the way in front of us. We might find out things about amber in Russia and Lithuania, things we did not know before. Of course, there are stories about the healing effect of amber, also something about amber elixir..personally, I think the diverse use of amber still has so many forms. Inga Ļaššenko, she is a professor in RTU, went on a trip with us once. The innovative amber thread is an idea of hers. So she figured out that it might be used to put stiches on blood-vessels or to use amber for medical treatment such as eliminating male boldness or improving skin health. So, there are resources still undiscovered," sums up Selecka adding that she and Terzens used to think of amber as granny's beads. Of course, during the show they have found out that Angele Merkele, for instance, has her own amber brooch. But in France, there is a woman working in diplomacy who owns a special collection of amber pieces kept in a specific case. In Zurich Museum, they discovered a vessel for blood transfusing made from a melted amber.

Terzens once found in the internet that in Austria there used to be alchemists who boiled amber into red wine in order to sell it as pure ruby ..."

Both hosts of series conclude that nowadays, it would not be possible to make some amber just by putting pine resin into salty water. They also think amber should be considered as a jewel because of the consistence and long formation period. "When hosting the show, I realized amber is so warm! It's our jewel, and the amber might warm up our show, too," says Selecka, but Terzens adds that their goal is to work as good as possible rather than just showing off. They wanted to show what lies underneath their feet, says Terzens.

It does not mean they need to take shovels to dig some amber, no. It's the whole team who worked together by showing that amber is something much larger than just a local market near Gūtmaņala (Gutman's Cave), in Sigulda.


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