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Plateliai (Lithuania)

Sleigh with masked people © Plateliai

The borough of Plateliai, first mentioned in the 15th century, also includes Žemaitija national park, brimming with aspects of Lithuania’s heritage – traditions, old architecture, local culinary, handicrafts, and the customs of that region. The Žemaitija national park is the land of the ethnic group Samogitians. The region borders the lake that gives the area its name – the deepest and largest in Žemaitija.

Natural heritage

Travelling around Plateliai lake gives the visitor a chance to admire the hilly landscape. After a small climb, you can soon reach the Survey Grounds, providing a view of the lake and its islands, peninsulas and dark woods of Plokstine. The Žemaitija national park looks after the area, conserving its ancient woodlands, farmsteads and lake systems. It also encourages traditional farming methods and environmentally sensitive tourism.

There are themed paths for tourists to enjoy including the 4.1 km Šeire nature path along which plants, mushrooms and animals peculiar to this land can be seen, and the 3.2 km Plokštine path which takes the visitor around land previously used as a military base where nature and human traces interweave. Mikytai archaeological path is also a feature where an ancient sacred place – the hill of Alka – holds a mythological stone marked with the devil’s footprint and a well of prayers. The Paplatele path takes the visitor to examples of folk art in the form of wooden sculptures and there is also a special path designed specifically for children.

In the most southern part of the borough is the manor house, in the grounds of which can be found the ash tree with the thickest trunk in Lithuania – called the witch’s ash. But this ancient tree is not alone, the whole area is blessed with natural monuments in the form of elms and lime trees over 180 years old.

For those interested in archeology, Sarnele and the mound of Sarnele, also called Svedkalnis, is the site of archeological importance dating back to the first millennium. This place enjoyed by Lithuanian poet Vytautas Macernis is an ancient sacred place.

Cultural highlights

Burning effigy during the Feast of Saint John © Plateliai

The borough of Plateliai is valued for its ancient farmsteads and the Samogitian folk architecture found in villages and old fashioned homesteads scattered throughout the national park.

Alongside the domestic architecture of ancient farms and homesteads are the churches. Those of the borough of Plateliai and Berzoras village are among the oldest wooden churches in Lithuania and house valuable, sacred artefacts. The little basilica church of Žemaiciu Kalvarija is one of the more famous ones.

The Plateliai visitor centre organises excursions, which need to be booked in advance, to natural and cultural heritage sites on foot, bike, boat or by car and bus. There is a medieval feel to this borough, with its network of 9th-13th century byways. The museum of the poet Vytautas Macernis is definitely worth a visit, as is the well preserved village of Berzoras, situated on the northern side of the lake which shares its name, not far from the borough of Plateliai. It is made up of old fashioned streets, traditional landscape, wooden churches and one of the oldest graveyards in Lithuania.

Plateliai also holds many other interesting cultural attractions including a museum dedicated to the writer Žemaite, the Regina and Justinas Jonušai museum of folk art and ethnography, Leonardas Cerniauskas art gallery – creative workshop, shrovetide masks which are displayed at the barn of the Manor, and archeological findings from Šventorkalnis and Pilies island which include tools and household artefacts.

Festivals

Shrovetide, elsewhere known as Shrove Tuesday Carnival or simply Carnival, is the main festival of the year, held in February or March, which brings together historical resources, local traditions, customs, handicrafts and culinary heritage. In earlier times the villages became what were known locally as “theatres of the disguised” and the masks used during the Shrovetide festivities represent the rich cultural heritage to which the area can lay claim.

The Regatta – a traditional festival of yachtsmen – attracts large numbers of boating enthusiasts and the sight of the lake full of yachts makes for one of the highlights of August. Other festivals include the feast of St John or mid-summer night’s day, the great church festival of Žemaiciu Kalvarija, and the swimming marathon which even includes duels on the water on a log!

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Last update: 01/07/2011 | Top