Kretinga: at the crossroads of history
Kretinga is one of Lithuania’s oldest seaside localities, with a rich and distinctive history created by both well-known figures and the ordinary inhabitants of the area. The Kretinga district is unique for its sacral and architectural heritage, ethnic cultural traditions, peculiar nature and its monuments. The area is also well-known for its famous people.
Jan Karol Chodkiewicz, the founder of Kretinga, foresaw a special destiny for the town. According to the nobleman’s plans, Kretinga had to become a centre of attraction for merchants and trade. However, this role was taken over by Klaipėda. Nevertheless, Kretinga’s role did not become smaller or less significant. Everyone with his roots in Kretinga takes pride in the Tyszkiewicz Palace, the cemetery, which is a resting place for noble figures, a historically important church, its green and clean parks, ponds and the Akmena river as well as its people, making the town well-known.
There are also some things to see when travelling outside the town limits. Every eldership, town and village in the area has a story to tell. Local communities have their own festivities, which are worth visiting and staying for a little longer.
Kretinga district’s territory was once a part of the Curonian land, therefore it is full of mounds. We recommend that you climb them – you will be enchanted by the surrounding scenery and feel the spirit of the ancient times.
If you speak to older people, they will tell you very interesting stories, legends and myths. Who knows – maybe the tales have a bit of reality in them?
Lithuania starts from Skuodas
One of Lithuania’s smallest administrative territories, the Skuodas district, is located in the north-western part of the country, on the borderline with Latvia. The area occupies 911 sq. km. The Skuodas district is a quiet outset of Lithuania, uncontaminated by industry. It is the gate to a deep part of the country. The land of Skuodas is freshened by rivers and creeks: the Šventoji, Bartuva and its influxes, the Luoba and Apšė. The southern border of the area is reached by the catchment of Minija, and the Notė creek flows there. There are also three lakes, the largest of which is the Kalčiai, plus ponds. The Bartuva ichthyology preservation area is also there. The Skuodas district is a part of the Salantai regional park and Žemaitija national park.
The Skuodas district is an old Curonian land, well-known for its history, mounds, boulders and blind leads. The well-known Apuolė mound is the pride of the area. Apuolė is a settlement within the present territory of Lithuania, which was the earliest one mentioned in written sources, back in 853 AD. Each year the location welcomes an old soldiership and crafts festival with old soldiership tournaments and shows by archaic folklore collectives.
Mosėdis, often referred to as “the stones’ capital”, which is also located in the area, is one of the most beautiful, neat and visited towns of Samogitia. Mosėdis is best known for the Vaclovas Intas National Stone Museum. Its visitors are also attracted by Vaclovas Intas’s homestead, which was the starting location for the museum.
Those fond of travelling are invited to pay a visit to Lithuania’s biggest boulder, comfortably seated in Puokė village, not far from Barstyčiai, and to also touch the fifth largest stone in the country, the legendary Šilalė boulder and see the surrounding altar stones, which are the remains of a heathen shrine. Just next to it, one will find a cognitive path around a truly unique place, full of boulders and juniper bushes, the so-called Šaukliai tundra. The serenity and natural scenery of the area can also be observed from the 5 meters high Barstytaliai swamp watchtower. The area of the swamp is 35 ha, making it one of the biggest swamps in the Žemaitija national park.
The Skuodas district is also well-known for the prominent persons born in the area: historian Simonas Daukantas, botanist Jurgis Pabrėža, composers Jonas Švedas and Bronius Jonušas, painter Adomas Galdikas and others. An exhibition barn is set up in the farmstead where Simonas Daukantas was born.
When travelling from Skuodas towards Mažeikiai, one simply must visit the private Farmers’ museum, full of historical exhibits: old equipment, devices, machinery, tools, furniture and household utensils. The hospitable owners will guide and show you the museum exhibits and metallic decorations, perfectly in tune with the natural stone. The hosts might even show you the family’s stud farm.
When travelling along the same route, another place worth visiting is Izidorius Navidanskas’s botany park, which is one of the first parks of such kind in the country, with an area of 48 ha. The park is home to 34 species of local trees and bushes and 95 foreign plants of different species and forms. One can take a rest surrounded by the splendid landscape.
It can be plainly stated that since its oldest days, the Kretinga district has been involved in some of the most interesting historical events because it was a crossroad for them. So when travelling through the area, one should not be in a hurry, because it is worth making stops, taking a look around, reading the information provided on the stands and speaking to the locals – you are most certain to learn about some real historical and spiritual treasures.
The Plungė district
Plungė district is located in the country’s north-west, in Telšiai region, which accommodates the larger part of Samogitian ethnographical area. The district is divided into eleven elderships: Plungė, Alsėdžiai, Babrungas, Kuliai, Nausodis, Paukštakiai, Plateliai, Stalgėnai, Šateikiai, Žemaičių Kalvarija and Žlibinai. Rather rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage is preserved in the Plungė district: one can still hear the original Samogitian dialect and learn very interesting history of the locality, find traces of manor culture, see the old graveyard and feel a landscape, not destroyed by urbanization. Folk art traditions are especially live there, the area is well known for its creative and laborious people.
The town of Plungė takes pride in the nobleman Michal Oginski’s manor ensemble and the surrounding mysterious park, startling the whole Lithuania even in the present times. The ensemble consists of a neo-renaissance style palace, neo-gothic stables, two pavilions, orangery, park gates and a house for guard, outhouses and pheasant breeder’s house, washhouse and the wooden house for the nobleman’s counsellor.
Like no other, Plungė district is well known for its literary and sacral arts heritage. The spirit of Žemaitė, Vytautas Mačernis, Sofija Kymantaitė – Čiurlionienė, Šatrijos Ragana and other classics of Lithuanian literature still lives here and nurtures creative ambitions of today’s young writers. Plungė district is also exceptional with its unique wooden baroque churches of Alsėdžiai, Gintališkė, Gegrėnai, Beržoras and Plateliai. Plungė district is the only one in the country with two Calvary locations: in Žemaičiu Kalvarija and in Beržoras. The wake feast day in Žemaičių Kalvarija, attracting those seeking spiritual revival, has become a second Jerusalem for believers.
The well-known town of Plateliai is also located in Plungė district. Plateliai is one of the most beautiful towns of Samogitia, with the most interesting past. People can admire beautiful scenery and always find some entertainment and relaxation there. The surroundings of Plateliai are second to none as regards wood carvers: Stanislovas Riauba created wooden sculptures, Regina and Justinas Jonušas, Kazys Striaupa, Vytas Jaugėla, Gediminas and Leonardas Černiauskas, Antanas Vaškys and Rimantas Laima are also well-known wood carvers. The residents of Plungė continue the old culture traditions and create artistic manifestations. Meaningful historical, sacral, artistic and literary projects are going on there throughout the year.