- Palanga's Botanical Gardens
The town of Palanga, 29 km from Klaipeda, is located on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The sandy coast extends for over 10 km and is backed by a pine forest and dunes. Palanga is a beach resort known for its thermal and mineral baths. The first inhabitants settled on the present territory of Palanga as early as the3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. Palanga was first mentioned in 1161. The town functioned as Lithuania's main port from the 15th to 17th centuries. By the 19th century Palanga was already a popular resort town that attracted the Lithuanian, Polish, and Jewish intelligentsia and upper classes.
The Palanga Botanical Gardens, designed for Count Tiskevicius by the French architect Eduard Andre‚ and the Belgian gardener Buyssen de Coulon, boast over 300 plant species and are considered to be Lithuania's most beautiful and richest botanical gardens. Another attraction of the park is the Tiskevicius Manor House which now houses the Amber Museum. Amber, popularly known as Lithuanian gold, can still be found on the shores of the Baltic Sea. The Amber Museum has a unique collection that illustrates amber's 40-million year-old story.
Count Tiskevicius culturally enhanced the town by establishing a preparatory school, where a number of Samogitian youth and young people from other regions of Lithuania were educated. The inter-war president Antanas Smetona is one of the most famous pupils of the school.
The first Lithuanian theater performance took place in Palanga in 1899, when actors staged America in the Bathhouse by Keturakis.
Each year almost half a million visitors enjoy Palanga's whispering pine forests along the sea coast, the natural sand dunes, the invigorating cold sea, and the sanatoriums and resorts that operate year-round.
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 André‚ (1840-1911), who spent three summers in Palanga with his son René Eduard André (1867-1942) supervising the park's construction. They were assisted by the Belgian gardener Buyssen de Coulon.
André'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 André, as Florence André Kappelin, the head of the E. André 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 park is financed by the city of Palanga. The "Palanga Botanical Park" institution maintains the park and organizes events.
The Amber Museum is housed in the neo-renaissance palace built by Count Felix Tiskevicius 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 August 3, 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.
ADMINISTRATIVE BUILDING, ORANGERY, GREENHOUSE
The second floor of the administrative building houses the orangery. During high season flower and art exhibits (mostly ceramics) take place here. This building is located in the park's nursery area, in the south-east of the park next to the small terrace.
The rotunda (a band stage) was built in 1927. In Count Tiskevicius' times, orchestras from Palanga and elsewhere played here almost every night, attracting many guests. After the Second World War, attempts were made to revive this tradition, but the rotunda never achieved its earlier popularity and gradually fell into disuse. The rotunda was rebuilt in 1997.
After the construction of the park was finished, Count Tiskevicius' 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.
The park information center, a souvenir shop, and a flower shop selling plants raised in the Palanga nurseries are all located in this building. This guardhouse was built in Count Tiskevicius' time next to the main entrance to the park (there are 12 entrances in all).
This sculpture was created by the artist Konstancija Petrikaite-Tiuliene and erected in 1965. It stands on a stone at the foot of Birute's hill - the symbolic eternal resting place of Princess Birute. The sculpture bears the inscription "For you, Birute."
"Rebeka" ("Woman Carrying Water"), by the French sculptor Hubert Louis-Noel, originally stood in the Vilkenas palace park (Silute 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 Vilkenas park where the original used to be.
THE SMALL TERRACE
This terrace was originally Count Tiskevicius' garden: the south side was enclosed by glass and the north by a wall. The garden also used to be fenced it. The terrace's appearance has changed many times. Two old pedestals of sculptures remain as well as remnants of an old fountain. Since no photographs of the original garden have been found, it is difficult to recreate the terrace in its original form.
TO M. K. CIURLIONIS' TRIPTYCH 'SAGITTARIUS'
This monument, designed by the sculptor Steponas Sarapovas and the architect Algis Knyva, is in the north of the park, to the right of the main park entrance near Dariaus and Gireno street. The sculpture stands on the Jaunimo hill. This spot is an ancient Baltic burial mound where Jewish people were later buried.
"EGLE, 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. Egle stands near the main entrance and was created by the sculptor Robertas Antinis (the older) and the architect Alfredas Palauskas.
"JESUS GIVING A BLESSING"
This sculpture by Stasys Zirgulis stands across from the Tiskevicius palace, on the botanical garden's large terrace . It is a reproduction of an earlier statue that was probably brought to the park from Paris at the turn of the century. The original was destroyed after World War II by the Soviet rulers. The new statue was designed according to old photographs and was blessed by the bishop of Telsiai, Antanas Vaicius, on June 14, 1993.
MEMORIAL IN ETERNAL REMEMBRANCE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE KILLED IN WORLD WAR II
This memorial is located in the newer, southeast half of the park, near a path that follows the dunes in the direction of Klaipeda. 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.
This wooden statue by the local sculptor Julius Vertulis was erected in 1974. It is located next to Meiles aleja not far from "Vaidilutes" café and Birute's hill.
THE OAK OF THE PEOPLE'S LEADER
This oak was planted in honor of Antanas Smetona, president of Lithuania (1926-1939) and leader of the Tautininkai Party, known to many as the People's Leader.
In 1934 the Palanga branch of the Tautininkai planted an oak tree at the foot of Birute's hill in honor of Antanas Smetona. When the tree was planted, the organizers, including the mayor of Palanga, Jonas Sliupas, placed a letter addressed to future generations under the roots of the tree. The capsule with the letter has not been uprooted to this day and the oak of the People's Leader adds to the beauty of the park. Not far from this oak, the leaders of the Baltic states planted a birch tree in honor of Baltic friendship in 1936, but this tree no longer exists.
© Samogitian Cultural
Association Editorial Board, 1998.