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THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

26 May 2017
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 A wonderful May visit to: 

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Text and photos: Aage Myhre
aage.myhre@VilNews.com

The long pier that stretches out into the Baltic Sea is the hallmark of Palanga. It is still relatively spacey now in May, but it will soon become the crowded promenade path for intense summer evenings when the sun sets over the Baltic Sea. It is a real breakwater, struggling against the never-ending waves rolling in towards the sandy coast of Lithuania where the more than fresh breeze often does it very best to blow the sand further inland, but with the high dunes behind the beaches effectively stopping it. It is early summer in Palanga, and I simply love the freshness of the sea water, the breeze and the air that now feels healthier than ever.

In Lithuanian language the pier is called a bridge, and I am thinking that for the long years of Soviet oppression, the Palanga pier may have been like a real bridge for the people of this country, a bridge of imagination on how it would be to walk over to the Swedish shore on the other side - to the freedom and prosperity that for so many years had to be no more than a dream for the Lithuanian people. 

Palanga town itself is calm and relatively quiet, perfectly well protected from the wind by the tall bowed pine trees that grow along the coast line. The leaves on the deciduous trees behind are still keeping their fantastic glowing red and yellow colours, even if many of them already have fallen to the ground, preparing to fertilise the soil for a new spring next year.

Spring in Palanga is for me even more attractive than the very summer when the huge crowds of tourists arrive here. Now I can see the beauty of the nature in a far more undisturbed way, and each breath of the wind seems now more soothing and healing.

As so many times earlier, I am thinking that Lithuania is the country than cannot be understood until one knows at least something about the enormous changes and upheavals that took place on the soil and shores here over century after century throughout the entire history of the country, or at least until the Soviet lid was closing, hiding the truth about Lithuania to the rest world.

Looking out to the Baltic waves I remember the legendary story about how the fleet of the Danish king Valdemar came to Palanga in 1161, becoming the first known conqueror of these shores. Later more Vikings coveted these lands, followed by 13th and 14th century crusaders, who to a high degree devastated the area and the settlements here. Only after the Grunwald battle in 1410, a peace contract was concluded, stopping the invasion of the Order to Lithuania. In accordance with the peace contract of Brest in 1435 Palanga became Lithuanian.

The following centuries saw a relatively flourishing Palanga where the inhabitants earned for their living by fishing and gathering of amber which was cast ashore from the sea, trading it with other towns of Baltic coast. Baltic Sea traders visiting Palanga exchanged their goods to amber, honey and furs, all going well until neighbouring port towns got jealous and convinced the Swedish fleet to destroy the Palanga and Sventoji ports.

In 1795, the Russian Empire annexed Lithuania, including Palanga, and then, in 1824, a strange business deal took place when a colonel in the Tsar's army, earl Mykolas Tiskevicius, simply bought the complete Palanga. The earl’s later contribution, however, to the development of the town is very apparent. He established the now famous Palanga Park, including an amazing palace; a new port was made, a brick factory was established, a church was built, and the resort with sanatoriums as we know it today was established.

After the First World War, when Lithuania became an independent state again, there was a disagreement with Latvia regarding the territory of Palanga and Sventoji, but the towns eventually became Lithuanian again.

Walking here, down the lively Basanavicius Street, I am also thinking of Jonas Sliupas, father of my friend Vytautas Sliupas.  From 1933 to 1940, Jonas Sliupas served as mayor of Palanga. He returned to this office briefly during the Nazi occupation of 1941, until ousted because of his protest against the destruction of Lithuanian and Jewish lives. How different must not the emotions of those days have been compared to today’s relaxed atmosphere in freedom.

After the storms of two wars, and a 20-year period of freedom in between, in 1944-45, Soviet army occupied Lithuania and Soviet authority was set in also in Palanga. The result was that private villas were nationalized, and instead of them state sanatoriums and relaxation houses were established. In 1952, when Palanga was qualified in Republic subordination, a new project layout of the resort was composed. The relaxation and treatment base of resort was adapted for working all year round, and Palanga became one of the most popular resorts and health centres on the Baltic coast.

In 1991 the Palanga resort opened a new page of history. Nationalized buildings and land were returned to their just owners, the relaxation houses and hotels became private, and people started building modern private villas, detached houses, hotels and restaurants. Every year since, Palanga has gained great popularity as a summer hot-spot.

I am here when the summer season has not yet started, but I am happy to see that there is an increasing popularity for Palanga also at this time of the year. In the hotel lobby I read that a well-known company with headquarter in Vilnius is having a seminar in the hotel’s conference room, on the pedestrian paths through the forests I see many on foot and bicycles, many are still enjoying the sunrays on the park benches after having fed the swans, and there is still teeming life and laughter in Basaniviaus Street every evening.

To visit Palanga, any time of the year, is a healthy and fun experience, truly worth a try!

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Palanga restaurants

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The fantastic Palanga beach 

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Fishing at the Palanga pier 

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The Palanga Park

This landscaped garden is one of the prettiest, best-preserved, and best-kept parks in Lithuania's coastal region. In 1987 Count Felix Tiskevicius founded this park around the palace built the same year. The park was designed by the famous French landscape architect and botanist Eduard Fransua Andr‚ (1840-1911), who spent three summers in Palanga with his son Ren Eduard Andr (1867-1942) supervising the park's construction. They were assisted by the Belgian gardener Buyssen de Coulon.

 

Andr'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 Birute - an ancient Lithuanian sacred place - that offers a glorious view of the sea. The natural foundation 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 skillfully 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, Karaliaucius 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. 24 of these are included in Lithuania's list of endangered species (1992 data).

 

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 Andr, as Florence Andr Kappelin, the head of the E. Andr association, confirmed during her visit to Palanga in 1996. 

 

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Category : Featured black / Travel Lithuania!



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