History
 
PALANGA
 
Prepared by “Encyclopedia Lituanica”. II. Boston, 1972. P. 159-163
Palanga. Photos by Danute Mukiene, 2002, 2003 
PALANGA, the largest and most famous Lithuanian seaside resort on the Baltic shore, 25 km north of Klaipeda. Prior to World War I, Palanga used to attract 4,000-5,000 guests per season; during Lithuania's independence their number rose to a maximum of 15,000; after World War II, the total of vacationers jumped to 100,000, but most of them now come from Soviet Russia. The regular Inhabitants of the town numbered 2,039 in 1923, 4,600 in 1939, 5,685 in 1959, and 10,800 in 1972. The town occupies a territory of 2,970 ha, divided into two parts by the Raze creek (17 km). The summer villas, sanatoria, and a large park are located in the southern section, while most of the town's offices and plants are situated in the northern section. The main enterprise is the amber works, which employs about 100 workers and consumes 8,000 kg of amber annually for art items and other products. At the end of the 19th century some 500 workers used to process approximately 20,000 kg of amber annually.
Palanga has become a well-known seaside resort because of several significant advantages. The broad and spacious bar of clean sand with a long chain of undulating dunes is ideal for sunbathing. The temperature is higher than the annual average in Lithuania, the clouds are fewer, and the sun's radiation is greater. The amounts of ozone and iodine, in the air are relatively high. Mineral water for drinking and for curative baths is obtained from an artesian well. The town is surrounded by pine-forests and stands between two hills associated with many legends. According to one of them, Birute, the wife of Prince Kestutis, was a priestess who guarded the sacred fire burning on an altar at Palanga. It is said that after the death of Kestutis (1382) she returned to her native place and was buried on the hill that was consequently named after her. The legend has become very popular among Lithuanians and lends a distinct romantic aura to Palanga.
The first steps in developing Palanga as a resort were taken by the counts Tyszkiewicz (Tiskevicius), when one branch of their family acquired the Palanga estate in 1824 and transformed it into their residence. The creation of the park (70 ha), according to a design of the French architect Andre, took about one half of a century. More than 150 kinds of trees and shrubs were planted. A two-story Renaissance palace and a chapel were built in the park in 1897. A large statue of Christ with open arms, created by the famous Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen, was erected in front of the palace. Eventually the park became one of the most beautiful in Lithuania. A replica of the Lourdes grotto was built on the slope of the Birute hill. Part of the estate's land was laid out as a resort area; a spa hotel and several villas were built, electric power was supplied, an artesian well (229 m deep) was drilled, plans for water supply and sewerage were completed. All this activity was interrupted by World War I and the German occupation. After the war, the development of the resort was taken over by the Lithuanian government, which granted Palanga the rights of municipality. Dr. Jonas Sliupas, who was appointed the first mayor, made a considerable contribution to the growth of the resort. Palanga became a summer vacation site for the President of the Republic, many high officials, writers, artists, and people engaged in public affairs. During the season the schedule of events was filled with congresses, youth conventions, sports festivals, and concerts. After World War II the resort was expanded by incorporating four nearby villages; the northern limits of the town now reach the Sventoji river. The old streets and public squares have been enlarged and newly planted, new streets were laid out, many new houses and several larger villas were built, the artesian well was deepened to 599 m . An airport for a connection with Vilnius was built. The park was transformed into a botanical garden, while the palace was given over to the Artists' Association and now houses an amber museum. Danish and Swedish raids along the eastern Baltic shore is contained in 9th-llth century sources (see Apuole). Palanga is mentioned for the first time in an agreement (1253) between the Bishop of Courland and the Teutonic Order of Livonia to partition certain territories adjacent to the Baltic coastline. Although all these regions were sparsely inhabited in the 13th century, the Baltic shore near Palanga became an important wedge, separating Prussia from Livonia and preventing the merger of the two branches of the Teutonic Order entrenched in the two lands. The German knights tried both war and negotiations to seize the Palanga seashore, for them a vital link in communication by land, but failed. Palanga remained under Lithuanian rule henceforward, except for several years at the beginning of the 15th century, when Vytautas the Great temporarily consigned western Lithuania (Samogitia) to the Teutonic Order for diplomatic reasons. A royal estate was established in Palanga, and in 1511 its administration was entrusted to the Kesgalla family of magnates, the elders of Samogitia. The estate and the township of the same name were later administered by other Lithuanian noblemen. Following Lithuania's annexation by Russia (1795), the estate was given to General Zubov, from whom it was taken over in 1801 by General Nesolovsky. In 1824 the estate was acquired by Count Michael Tyszklewicz, whose relatives remained in Palanga until the first Soviet occupation in 1940.
In the 16th century Palanga became an important Lithuanian harbor, used by Dutch, Swedish and English vessels. King Sigismund Vasa in 1589 granted an English trade company a permit to enlarge the harbor. In 1679, King John Sobieski allowed the establishment of an English trade representation, with the condition that a second port be built at the mouth of the Sventoji river. Although neither port had a closed bay or a good river mouth, they played a significant role in Lithuania's economic life. During the 16th-17th centuries trade was conducted with Konigsberg, Danzig, Liepaja, Riga, and other Baltic ports. The list of imports was headed by manufactures, haberdashery, salt, iron, arms, and the so-called colonial goods; exports consisted mainly of timber, flaxseed, honey, hides, cattle. The Lithuanian ports competed with Liepaja and Riga, through which large quantities of flax and grain were exported from Lithuania. At the request of Riga's merchants, the Swedes destroyed both Lithuanian ports in 1701, at the time of the Great Northern War. Some one-and-a-half centuries later, the Tyszkiewicz family made an attempt to revive the Palanga harbor. They built an oak bridge into the sea for the mooring of ships and acquired a small boat of their own that sailed the Palanga-Liepaja route. The port was gradually covered with sand, and since 1892 the bridge has been serving as a promenade area for vacationers.
In 1819 Palanga was taken out of the county of Telsiai and assigned to the province of Courland. Situated at the very Russian-German border, the town made its living from the border trade, especially during the winter months when transport by sea became impeded, and from the amber industry. When the Russian administration forbade the printing of Lithuanian books and newspapers in Latin characters (1864), Palanga became an important point for the smuggling of Lithuanian publications from Lithuania Minor. Rev. Marcijonas Jurgaitis (in 1883-89) and physician Liudas Vaineikis (in 1896-1900) played the leading roles in this action of cultural contraband. They organized an extensive network of smuggling and dissemination of the clandestine press. Vaineikis and about 25 other persons were punished by deportation to Siberia in 1901. A public Lithuanian gathering in 1899 featured the comedy Amerika pirtyje (America in the Bath); while in other parts of Lithuania such theatrical events were forbidden, there was a little more cultural freedom in Courland. Many well-known Lithuanian public figures attended the Palanga secondary school, established in 1886. During the early days of independent Lithuania, the Latvians had occupied Palanga as a township belonging to the province of Courland. In 1921, after a boundary between the two Baltic states was negotiated, Palanga was attached to Lithuania.
 
Bibl.: J. Basanavicius, Is Palangos istorijos, Vilnius, 1922.
I. Koncius and V. Ruokis, Palangos krastas, Kaunas, 1925.
L. Kauleikis, •Palanga, Vilnius. 1957.

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