(LT) Samogitia and Aukštaitija – understanding the region

Klaipėda County

Administrative centre – Klaipėda

Area – 5209 km² (8 % of the area of Lithuania)

Population – 378 843 (11.2 % of the population of Lithuania)

Density – 72.7 per. / km²

 Klaipėda city municipality

Administrative centre – Klaipėda

Area – 98 km² (1.9 % of the county’s area)

Population – 161 657 (Lithuanians 63%; Russians 28.2%; Poles 4.8%; Belarusians 0.5%; Other 3.5%) 

Klaipėda city municipality is situated within a geographically convenient area – near the Baltic Sea and Curonian (Kuršių) Lagoon. The territory of the municipality also includes part of the Curonian (Kuršių) Spit – Smiltynė and the Island of Kiaulės Nugara (Pig’s Hump). The city is crossed by the Danė River.

Klaipėda city is a county and municipal centre and ranks third in Lithuania in terms of its size. It is the only seaport in Lithuania and the port farthest to the north at the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea that does not freeze in winter.

The city (the castle of Memelburg) was first mentioned in 1252. It was the first city in Lithuania to obtain city (Lübeck) rights (in 1254). The name of Klaipėda (lot. Caloypede) was first mentioned in a letter of Vytautas the Great in 1411. In the 16th century, Klaipėda was developing particularly rapidly. The first craft shops, a merchant guild were established; shipbuilding and sea trade started. In the middle of the 18th century, Klaipėda became the largest region’s port exporting timber. By its old architecture, Klaipėda is close to Nordic counties; the extant buildings in the old town are of a vivid Fachwerk (timber-framed) style. Klaipėda joined Lithuania in 1923 and became a centre of the autonomous Klaipėda region. The port was being developed; the Trade (in 1934) and State Pedagogical (in 1935) institutes were established (both being closed in the years of Nazi power). At the end of World War II, as the Red Army was approaching, residents left the city; 60 % of buildings were destroyed. In Soviet times, as the city was being rebuilt, everything that was related to the old, especially German, culture was being destroyed.

The role of Klaipėda as the only Lithuanian seaport on the national scale is of particular importance. It is a symbol of Lithuania as a maritime country; therefore, urban development, architecture and planning first of all reflect its maritime character. Maritime industry (shipbuilding and repairs), maritime business (fishing, fish processing), sea transport (the seaport, terminals), centres for the preparation of marine professionals (agency service for ships) are being developed. Conditions and motivation are provided for educational, scientific and cultural activities, cooperation with national and foreign organizations.. In 1991, Klaipėda University started functioning. Moreover, there are a private university and 6 colleges functioning in the city.

Historical and cultural meaning is attributed to the ensemble of Klaipėda castle and bastion, Old Town (13th century), Theatre Palace (19th century), timber-framed and brick warehouses, Queen Louise Gymnasium, Neo-Gothic building of a post office, the ensemble of university buildings (beginning of the 20th century). The Lithuanian Sea Museum with a dolphinarium attracts many guests of the city and is probably the most often visited one in the country. The space of the city is open for art – there are a lot of monuments (the Arch – a monument to the united Lithuania, monuments to Herkus Mantas, Kristijonas Donelaitis, Anikė of Tarava, Martynas Mažvydas, etc.), as well as different sculptures both in the unique Sculpture Park and most unexpected locations in the city. The History Museum of Lithuania Minor with branches – blacksmiths’, castle museums and the above-mentioned Sculpture Park – alongside archaeological research, restoration, publishing, etc. actively engages in cultural and educational activities. In the Klaipėda Art Exhibition Hall, with the largest space meant for exhibitions in Western Lithuania, efforts are made to present the most up-to-date trends of Lithuanian, foreign, modern art, works of the new generation of professional artists. Not only Klaipėda, but the entire western Lithuania is famed by Klaipėda State Drama and Musical theatres, as well as Klaipėda Puppet Theatre, Christian and Children’s and Youth theatres. Each year, at the end of July, a Sea Fest, attracting a lot of visitors, takes place in the city; the annual Klaipėda Castle Jazz Festival also attracts considerable attention; the exclusive festival of Music of Changes (Permainų muzikos), which has already become traditional and by which the concert season of Klaipėda Concert Hall is usually started, also has its own specific audience; there are also many other cultural events taking place in the city.

 

Neringa municipality

 

Administrative centre – Nida

Area – 90 km² (1.7 % of the county’s area)

Population – 3849 (Nida – 1178)

 

 

Neringa municipality is located on the Curonian (Kuršių) Spit – a narrow peninsula, separating the Curonian (Kuršių) Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. It is the longest (about 50 km) and the most western town of Lithuania.

Neringa town was formed in 1961 by connecting five settlements – Alksnynė, Juodkrantė, Nida, Pervalka and Preila. The entire town is located within the Curonian (Kuršių) Spit National Park, which is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  

The centre of the municipality – Nida – was first mentioned in 1385. According to historical sources, the old village of Nida was located on the northern coast of the Grobštas Cape gulf. The second Nida was located about 2 km to the south from the present one. At the beginning of the 18th century, Nida, as well as other villages, was buried under the sand. In 1730, fishermen founded the third Nida near the Parnidis Gulf. The three former villages – Nida, Skruzdynė and Purvynė – currently form the single settlement of Nida. Previously, these places were mostly inhabited by fishermen, while from the end of the 19th century Nida has become a well-known resort. Currently, it is a great place for recreation.

Neringa is a unique combination of nature and human activity, with distinctive homestead architecture and interesting house decoration, characteristic exceptionally to the littoral. The structures of folk architecture are currently under restoration and adaptation to modern needs. It is a territory perfect for recreation and tourism, where the service sector is the best-developed one. There are also fishermen’s communities.

After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, intensive activities have been undertaken in Neringa in the sphere of cultural tourism. Most events organised in the town have become traditional: the Summer Season Opening Festival, international folklore festival The Sun Rises on the Lagoon (Tek sauluže ant maračių), Fishermen’s Festival, International Thomas Mann Festival, a festival of opera and symphonic music Musical August at the Coast (Muzikinis rugpjūtis pajūryje), chamber music festival Curonian (Kuršių) Spit, etc. There is the Thomas Mann Cultural Centre, founded in the famous writer’s summerhouse, which engages in various cultural activities. The International Thomas Mann Festival, organised by the cultural centre, is one of the most significant summertime cultural events in Neringa.

 

Kretinga district municipality

 

Administrative centre – Kretinga

Area – 989 km² (19 % of the county’s area)

Population – 45 835 (Kteringa – 21 175)

 

Kretinga district municipality is situated in Klaipėda county, to the north from Klaipėda district municipality. At the north-western border of the district flows Šventoji, at the eastern one – one of the most beautiful rivers in Žemaitija region – Minija. Because of its relatively clean water and sandy and pebbly riverbed, a larger part of the river (30 km) is protected as an ichthyologic reserve – in order to protect the population of the Salmonidae.

There are two towns (Kretinga and Salantai) and two townships (Darbėnai and Kartena) in the municipality. The centre of the municipality – Kretinga – is an old Lithuanian seaside settlement. In 1253, Kretinga Castle, belonging to the Curonians (kuršiai), was for the first time mentioned in the chronicle of the Livonian Order. In 1609, count Jonas Chodkevičius signed a privilege establishing that a town should be founded near Kretinga village, which should be granted Magdeburg rights. After World War I, up to the year 1950, Kretinga was a county centre.

Small and medium businesses prevail in Kretinga town and district. The largest share of all enterprises is comprised of those engaging in retail trade and provision of services to the population. Enterprises registered in rural wards of Kretinga district mostly engage in trade, wood and stone processing, provision of agricultural and forestry, as well as accommodation and catering services, food production. The municipality is also characterised by well-developed manufacture of furniture, flax processing, compound feedingstuff production, fish processing.

The territory of the district municipality is convenient for its inhabitants, attractive to investors, and hospitable to guests. The landscape is particularly favourable for developing tourism. When travelling motorways, one may see an attractive panoramic view to behold; there are many scenic viewpoints, picturesque river valleys. The most valuable natural wealth – boulders, peppering the entire basin of Akmena River. Minija River is rather intensively used for water tourism purposes – canoe routes, several bicycle routes. There are beaches equipped near Akmena River, attracting many residents of Kretinga city, as well as a water route with quays Kretingos malūnas–Kretingos dvaras–Vienkiemis (Kretinga mill–Kretinga manor–Hamlet).

The region boasts historical and cultural monuments, which are really worth visiting: Įpiltis and Kurmaičiai historical, Grūšlaukė landscape reserves, Auksūdis, Dauginčiai, Ėgliškės, Imbarė, Įpiltis and other castle mounds, mythical stones, stone-paved roads. Roadside and field crosses Pakelių shrines form an interesting landscape and contribute to the couleur locale of Žemaitija region. The old part of Kretinga town is a monument of urban development. The homestead-museum of the Orvydai in Gargždelė attracts particular attention. It is a private museum of sacral and mystical art under the open sky, founded by a talented folk artist, sculptor Kazimieras Vilius Orvidas, who, together with his sons, was for many years, especially in the period of land-reclamation, bringing stones and pieces of wood of unusual shape from Salantai and environs thereof to his homestead and creating monuments and various sculptures. Kretinga Franciscan abbey community and its helpers (Kretinga Franciscan Youth Council) purposefully advocate Kretinga as a special spiritual tourism centre on an international scale. Active recreational and educational activities are undertaken by Kretinga museum – centre of the region’s cultural life. By the number of visitors, this museum ranks first in Lithuania for many years; it also outpaces other Lithuanian museums in terms of the number of conferences, expeditions, exhibitions, and other events organised.

The greatest potential for attracting visitors is shown by the international festival of chamber plays Kaukutis, Shrove Tuesday (Užgavėnės), St Anthony (Šv. Antanas) Feast – Kretinga town festival, Manor Festival (Dvaro festivalis).

Molėtai district municipality

Administrative centre – Molėtai

Area – 1367 km² (19 % of the county’s area)

Population – 23 187 (Molėtai – 6850)

 

Molėtai district municipality is located in the southern part of Utena county, in Molėtai and Bijutiškis moraine massifs of the Aukštaičiai Upland. Part of the territory falls within the Asveja and Labanoras regional parks. The terrain is characterised by abundant hills, valleys and dips. There are many lakes and streams, falling within the basins of the Šventoji and Žeimena rivers. There is one town – Molėtai, and five townships – Alanta, Balninkai, Dubingiai, Giedraičiai, Joniškis.

The administrative centre of the district municipality – Molėtai. The name of Molėtai was for the first time mentioned in 1387 in a document, by which Jogaila made the settlement over to the bishops of Vilnius, who governed Molėtai until the end of the 18th century. It was only in the 19th century that Molėtai started growing; it was a time when the settlement was populated by craftspeople and merchants, markets were started to organise. In 1907, Molėtai was devastated by fire. In 1915–1917, it was a county, since 1950 – a district centre. Molėtai was built in a picturesque place, surrounded by lakes, on the banks of the Siesartis River. Educational, social and service, as well as construction sectors are developed. Due to an increasing flow of holidaymakers and tourists, businesspeople take an increasing interest in the town.

Molėtai district attracts tourists and holidaymakers with its lovely landscape, unpolluted nature. It is annually visited by about 150 thousand holidaymakers. There are more than 40 rest establishments, located in the most beautiful places, rural tourism services are provided, water tourism routes are arranged. There are plenty of so-called second homes.

Visitors may familiarise themselves with the history, customs of, places that are worth visiting in the region in the Molėtai Region Museum. Among objects worth visiting are the Suginčiai, Alanta and other castle mounds, the church of St Laurence in Videniškiai and of the Assumption in Inturkė, a former Dubingiai pub, the monument to Lithuanian soldiers killed in the 1920 fights against the Zeligowski’s army in Giedraičiai. There is an astronomical observatory and the Ethno-Cosmology Museum on the Kaldiniai Hill in Kulionys and the Fishery Museum in Mindūnai.

The region is characterised by an active cultural life: there is a biennial folk music and dance festival Ežerų sietuva, an annual children’s popular choirs festival Vaikystės aitvarai, children’s theatre festival Kaukas.

Based on the English version of the website: http://regionai.stat.gov.lt/

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