Bursztyn. Bur-sztyn. I’ve always liked saying this word. It rolls roundly in my mouth. It rustles with the sound of waves polishing the solid blood of ancient pines. Jantar. Jan-tar. Sounds bright, shimmering with honey-hued reflections of the sun. Bernstein. Янтарь. Electron. ηλεκτρον. Whatever you call it (ok maybe with an exception of what the Romans used to call it – lyncurium – or lynx’s urine), amber is among the few of my favorite things.
I guess my sentiment comes from thinking of amber as something very familiar – and very Polish. When I was a kid, one of my favorite events of the year was an annual exhibition of minerals and precious stones in my home town Kielce. I would always be drawn to glowing orange and brown pebbles, rough or made into jewelry. Some translucent like drops of honey. Some almost milky-white with streaks of gold. I always gravitated to the stalls with amber and inspected each for insects frozen in time. Anybody who’s walked down Gdańsk’s Długi Targ or shopped in Kraków’s Sukiennice can relate.
For centuries, amber powered the economic bloodstream linking Europe and Asia. The Amber Road – an ancient trade route – led from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean. If I were more of a biker, I’d try EuroVelo 9 that roughly re-traces this path… For now I’ll just keep buying more amber pieces to fuel the modern Amber Road on the Baltic.