Palanga (pop. 20.0 thousand) is the biggest and the most universal seaside resort of Lithuania. It is located 29 kilometres far from Klaipėda. The Lithuanian seacoast is famous for its beaches of beautiful white sand and dunes, which can be found nowhere else on the Baltic Sea coast. The sandy coast extends for over 10 km and is backed by a pine forest and dunes.
Originally a fishermen’s village, Palanga was first mentioned in written sources in the 12th century. The inhabitants were engaged not only in fishery, they also gathered amber which would reach the distant countries of Europe and Asia via the merchants’ routes.
In the 19th century, Palanga started developing into a health resort, which was a great merit of the dynasty of the Count Tiškevičius (Tyszkiewicz), who moved to the town at that time. A park was laid out, a new palace was built, a port was equipped, a natural therapy centre was launched, a new church was constructed, and the sea pier was built then. During the press prohibition period, the route of book spreaders was crossing Palanga. The first national play in Lithuania, “Amerika pirtyje” (America in the Bath) by A. Keturakis, was staged in this resort in 1899.
The resort boasts a large variety of pubs, cafes, restaurants, discotheques, bars, night clubs, and casinos. Those who enjoy active holiday are offered pedal boats, bicycles, horse-riding, tennis courts, pools, a complex of baths, etc. A number of trails are intended for cycling or hiking. The Palanga Regional Park, stretching somewhat southward in the direction of Klaipėda, attracts visitors by impressive scenes of wild and severe nature.
The resort is home to a very interesting museum of Antanas Mončys, the Lithuanian artist who created in Paris. Its small exposition shows expressive works of big artistic power. The Savickas' Gallery often hosts memorable exhibitions of modern artists. One can see the views of old Palanga in the Local Lore Museum of the town.
Palanga is the resort submerged in the shadows of trees, which is fascinating at any season of the year. During a colder period, it is an ideal place to hold conferences and seminars.
In summer time, Palanga becomes a capital of entertainment and cultural events. Then, it turns into a symbolical capital gathering people of different professions and age, including artists and the academic community. The town provides space for a summer residence of Lithuanian government and president. Among holidaymakers are also tourists coming from Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia. People flock here to have a rest, bathe in the Sun, sea and dunes, and entertain themselves.
Such holidaymakers can expect a universal-type resort, meeting all-type fancies. In early June, it organizes yearly an opening of summer season, numerous concerts, festivals, entertainment and cultural events. In mid-July it holds a traditional aviation festival. Since the year 1971, the park of Tiškevičius Palace has been a venue of "Night Serenada" concerts. In winter, it witnesses a mass bathing of "seals", perhaps the biggest one in the world, in the Baltic Sea. Moreover, all year round, Palanga hosts conferences and congresses.
Palanga's botanical gardens
This landscaped garden is one of the prettiest, best-preserved, and best-kept parks in Lithuania's coastal region. In 1987 Count Felix Tiškevičius founded this park around the palace built in the same year. The park was designed by the famous French landscape architect and botanist Eduard Fransua Andre‚ (1840-1911), who spent three summers in Palanga with his son Rene Eduard Andre (1867-1942) supervising the park's construction. They were assisted by the Belgian gardener Buyssen de Coulon.
Andre's talent and the natural and historical uniqueness of the park's setting successfully blended to create a piece of art.
The scenic park offers a variety of views and moods. The palace is set between a pond and the legendary hill of Birutė - an ancient Lithuanian sacred place - that offers a glorious view of the sea. The natural foundations of the park, both in earlier times and now, are relicts of ancient pine forests. Little paths and squares with beautiful flower arrangements are laid out skilfully among the trees.
The contrast of scenery is emphasized by the palace's regular shape: the north side opens onto a magnificent terrace and steps leading into the park. Flowers and a fountain complete the effect. The south side of the palace is surrounded by an oval rose garden that is connected to the palace's terraces by stairs.
Experts guess that the park's founders planted about 500 different kinds of trees and bushes. Trees were brought to Palanga from Berlin, Karaliaučius and other European botanical gardens. Today - as before - pine trees dominate the park. Firs and dark alders grow in the more humid areas. About 250 imported and 370 native plant species are represented.
The park has survived two world wars and a number of natural disasters. It has also been extended and restored. However, with the exception of a few details, the park has kept the atmosphere created by Andre, as Florence Andre Kappelin, the head of the E. Andre association, confirmed during her visit to Palanga in 1996.
Today the park covers an area of approximately 100 ha. Trees cover 60 ha, fields - 24.5 ha, flowers - 0.5 ha, flowing water - 1.16 ha. Beach and sand dunes stretch for 1.5 km. Paved and unpaved paths cover 18 km. There are 8 different buildings, 7 sculptures and a number of other architectural structures. The park has plumbing and a decorative lighting system.
The Amber Museum is housed in the neo-renaissance palace built by Count Felix Tiškevičius in 1897. The palace was designed by the German architect Franz Schwechten and was restored in 1957 according to plans by the architect Alfredas Brusokas. The Amber Museum was opened in August 3rd 1963 as a branch of the Lithuanian Museum of Fine Arts. Currently the museum includes 15 rooms with expositions that cover about 750 sq.m. The collection includes about 28 000 items. The palace is connected to a chapel that houses moving exhibitions.
The chapel on Birute's hill
Built in 1869 by the architect K. Majeris, the construction of this chapel was promoted by the Palanga parish priest K. Steponavicius. The current chapel replaced a cross and a wooden chapel in the honor of St. Jurgis. In even earlier pagan times our ancestors used the hill as an observatory. Since 1976 stained-glass windows, designed by the artist Liudas Pocius, decorate the chapel. The Lurdas lies at the foot of the hill.
After the construction of the park was finished, Count Tiškevičius' wife Antanina decided to build the Lurdas. All the stones used are unprocessed and are held together by cement. A statue of the Virgin Mary used to stand in a niche of the Lurdas. During the revival of the Lithuanian nation, Vilius Orvydas donated a stone sculpture of the Virgin Mary that stands in the Lurdas to this day.
This sculpture was created by the artist Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tiulienė and erected in 1965. It stands on a stone at the foot of Birutė's hill - the symbolic eternal resting place of Princess Birutė. The sculpture bears the inscription "For you, Birut.e"
"Rebeka" ("Woman Carrying Water"), by the French sculptor Hubert Louis-Noel, originally stood in the Vilkėnas palace park (Šilutė region). The sculpture found its new home around 1983 and was restored by the Pranas Gudynas restoration and conservation center. A copy still stands in the Vilkėnas park where the original place used to be.
The small terrace
This terrace was originally Count Tiškevičius' garden: the south side was enclosed by glass and the north by a wall. The garden also used to be fenced in times. The terrace's appearance has changed many at old fountain found; it is difficult to recreate the terrace in its original since no photographs of the original garden have remained.
"Eglė, queen of the serpents"
This is one of the most popular sights of the park and one of the prettiest and best-known sculptures in Lithuania. Eglė stands near the main entrance and was created by the sculptor Robertas Antinis (the older) and the architect Alfredas Palauskas.
Memorial in eternal remembrance of the Jewish people killed in world war II
The memorial is located in the newer, southeast half of the park, near a path that follows the dunes in the direction of Klaipėda. You will find the following inscription in Hebrew and Lithuanian on a large stone of pink granite: "Here in the dunes of the southern part of this forest Nazi executioners and their local helpers brutally murdered 105 Jews in 1941. May this be a holy memorial to the innocent victims." This memorial was erected around 1989 at the sight of mass executions.