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Žemaitija

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The A11 road in May: from Plungė towards the coast.

Žemaitija (Samogitia in English) is a region in Lithuania.

Cities[edit]

  • Telšiai — unofficial capital of Samogitia and one of the largest towns in the region.
  • Kretinga
  • Mažeikiai
  • Palanga — coastal resort town, region's only window to the sea
  • Plungė
  • Šiauliai — a city which always was at the periphery of Samogitian and Aukštaitian regions, however throughout history it administratively belonged to the Duchy of Samogitia, hence it usually is associated with Samogitia. The fourth biggest city in the country and one of the four cities that are not assigned to any ethnographic region
  • Žemaičių Kalvarija — famous pilgrimage site, most visitors come in the beginning of July to visit the large church festival

Other destinations[edit]

Samogitia Tourism Information Centre in Telšiai central square.
One of many old wayside shrines. Paežerės Rūdaičiai village, Samogitia National Park.

Understand[edit]

Žemaitija, literally "lowlands", is a western ethnographic region of Lithuania which roughly coincides with the geographical and historical entities known in written sources as Schamaiten (German) or Samogitia (Latin). Its traditional bounds are marked by the Nevėžis river on the east, Šiauliai city on the north-east, the Latvian border on the north, the Baltic Sea on the west, and the elusive former border with the Teutonic Knights in the south, which at present time also marks a northern boundary of Lithuania Minor region.

Geographicaly the name refers to the lowlands stretching along both sides of Nevėžis river, which divides western and eastern Lithuania. The major portion of Žemaitija actually constitutes the Western Upland, it may seem rather confusing at first glance, however one should have in mind that this name comes from the landscape visual appearance and not from scientific reasonings.

Historically the territory of Žemaitija was inhabited by Curonians on the west (along the Baltic Sea coast), Semigalians on the NE and "Lowlanders" on the SE, i.e. roughly between Nevėžis and Jūra rivers. Starting since the 13th century Žemaitija became squeezed between the Teutonic Order on the south and the Livonian Order on the north, while the west was closed by the Baltic sea and only the east was bounded with the "Highland" which by that time became a unified Lithuanian state. German orders were constant threat, so naturally the Samogitian rulers sought an alliance with the eastern neighbour. Alliance was battle tested a number of times, at the same time Lithuania used to sell and regain Samogitia at any occasion, having no actual ownership rights to it. In fact, Samogitia always was ruled by local Dukes who didn't have even the slightest idea to actually surrender to someone. There were many peace treaties with German orders, there were many fights, victories and defeats. However, Samogitians stood strong. The inner strength and peace of mind even today is visible in the national character of the Samogitian, actually Samogitians are significantly distinct from the ordinary Lithuanians.

In the beginning of 15th century Teutonic Order was defeated, in 1422 the 200 years of neverending war finally ended in the signing the Treaty of Melno. Samogitia became the autonomic Duchy within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. There are certain differences and specifics about Duchy of Samogitia: although German Order was defeated, politically it still was considered a threat. Therefore Duchy of Samogitia had a much larger and differently shaped territory than the ethnographic region itself: it constituted a buffer zone between the former territories of Teutonic Order, namely German Prussia in the south and Livonia in the north, stretching far south up to present Vilkaviškis in Suvalkija and along the all northern border almost up to Daugavpils in the north east. The Duchy of Samogitia had a social and political structure different from the rest of Lithuania and served as a separate entity securing Lithuania Proper from possible danger of territorial losses. As it often happens, the actual danger approached from the opposite side.

Administratively the modern Samogitia is not a separate unit. A virtual border in some cases coincides with the administrative boundaries of either districts or elderates, however there are villages and hamlets where a homestead on the one side of the street belong to Samogitian and the next door homestead on the other side of the same street belong to Aukshtaitian, and both fiercely demonstrate and defend their identity.

The capital of Žemaitija is considered Telšiai, although historically the main centre of the region always been Medininkai, currently known as Varniai, which was a continuous target of crusader raiders. In 1417 a Samogitian diocese was founded in Varniai, it marks the beginning of Christianization of Samogitia. Other important historical centres of Samogitia were Kražiai, Raseiniai, Šiauliai and Tverai, while modern important centres are Mažeikiai, Plungė, Raseiniai, Šiauliai and Tauragė.

The former Jesuit College student dormitory and the preserved ruines of the college itself in Kražiai, coordinates 55°36'18.64"N, 22°41'20.43"E.
Hydro power plant on Virvytė river in Kapėnai village, constructed in 1910, reconstructed in 2005, coordinates 56.158276, 22.531799.

Talk[edit]

Samogitian dialect, especially its spoken form, is quite different from the Standard Lithuanian. If you have sufficient skills of speaking Lithuanian, you will be understood, but you won't understand a reply in Samogitian.

Foreign languages, as well as Standard Lithuanian, are spoken quite unwillingly, or at least the stranger can perceive it so. One should not forget that usually there is no significant necessity to speak any other language, except for the larger cities and their municipality officies where the Standard Lithuanian is a norm. Written English is common to some extent, just have in mind that the contacts or work via internet do not require to speak, so one should not expect from locals the fluency or skills of any spoken foreign language. If you come across someone who can speak to you in your language, you should treat that like a luck. Also add the fact that Samogitians are notoriously taciturn and calm people, so the simple nod may be an act equal to signing a contract. At the same time your exaggerated politeness or enthusiasm may be simply understood as imposterness with all following consequences. It is very practical to constantly remember that you are far from home and the abroad is different, Samogitia is a living proof of this.

Get in[edit]

By plane - served by Palanga air port.

By boat - go to Klaipėda sea port first, then get an eastbound land transport.

By car - Samogitia is served by three European highways:

By bus - any major town in the eastern and southern Lithuania is served by at least some buses that ride to one or another town in Samogitia. Have in mind that intercity public transport is designed to serve the routes between the cities and settlements but not between the territories, therefore you must know your concrete destination point regardless what region it is in.

By train - only one railway line is served by passenger train - it connects Vilnius to Klaipėda via Šiauliai.

Get around[edit]

Most convenient transport is a car.

Buses, both suburban and intercity, are available and run regularly to and from all district centres (major town). Accessibility to villages vary, depends on concrete location.

The railway line almost duplicates the A11 highway and connects Šiauliai in the east to Kretinga in the west near the coast, then the railway turns south up to Klaipėda. The railway stretches south to Šilutė and further to Pagėgiai (both in Lithuania Minor region), then crosses the border to Kaliningrad Oblast. This section, from Klaipėda up to the border, currently is used for the freight trains only. Same applies to another railway line that stretches from Šiauliai to SW up to Pagėgiai.

The land is mostly hilly, still suitable for bicycling. One of the best ways to get around the region is to travel by car with the bicycles attached to it: you can get to the chosen area by car quite quickly, and then explore it riding the bike. This allows you to see the places that are inaccessible by car in the shortest possible time. Some well known places, like tops of hill-forts and some restricted areas, are accessible only by foot. If you travel by car with bikes, all three modes of getting around are in your disposition.

Canoeing in Samogitian rivers allow you to see the nature and landscapes that can't be acquainted in other ways: although you sometimes can see and recognize the presence of the river in vicinity of the road, access to it often is complicated. Certain rivers qualifies as nice, this should serve as a hint of recommendation to go canoeing there.

Apart the transport, one of the ways of getting around is the right choice of the place to set your base, from where you can do the short or long trips any direction. Manors and country tourism homesteads or mini resorts are located away from the urbanized areas and agricultural lands, surrounded by beautiful landscapes; their hosts are ready to supply you with anything, just you must to name your wishes. It is rather passive but productive and pleasant way of getting around the region.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Energetic Labyrinths (Energetiniai labirintai), Likšai village, Plungė district (NE of Plateliai lake, reachable by the Rd No 2302, turn SW at 56.058133, 21.925286), +370 611 34900 (). Daily 09:00-20:00. Set within the territory of Samogitian National Park in a homestead that was founded in 1804. Private initiative of the owners: labyrinths aim to help the person in his/her search for inner self, finding the answers to some questions and solving some problems, finding the inner peace and fulfilling dreams. Expect meditative experience. Currently there are 5 labyrinths which have different goals, different geometric shape and different length; there are also 3 other structures. Adult €2.7, children, schoolkids, students and seniors €1.5. (56.055876,21.918865)
  • Historical objects
Wooden church in Eigirdžiai, Telšiai district. Coordinates 56°0'34.99"N, 22°22'24.13"E.
A complex of two 12-15 centuries hill-forts in Molavėnai, Raseiniai district, between Šiauliai and Tauragė. Served as part of the first defensive line against German crusaders.
  • Museum of Eight-wheeled Vehicle (Aštuonračio muziejus), Vyšnių St 22, Nemakščiai village, Lt-60383 Raseiniai district (~25km W of Raseiniai by the A1 motorway viaduct at 55.424072, 22.764263 , turn north and ride ~780m), +370 687 49215 (). By prior arrangement. A private museum devoted to the local nobleman Pšemislovas Neveravičius, who lived there in c. the end of 19th century and invented the first self-propelled eight-wheeled vehicle in the world. Among the exhibits there is a reconstructed self-propelled eight-wheeled vehicle itself, various antique stuff like furniture, gramophones, radios, dairy processing equipment, household items. There is a modest collection of "vintage" cars, such like GAZ 51, Volga 21 and Moskvitch which was used by the Soviet militia. (55.426661,22.7697)
  • Renavas Manor Estate (Renavo dvaro sodyba), Dvaro St, Renavas village, Seda elderate, LT-89403 Mažeikiai district (N of region by the Rd 207 between Seda and Židikai; W of the road), +370 443 43668 (). W-Su 10:00-18:00. One of the most interesting and best preserved manor ensembles in the region. Manor estate known since 16th century, owned by Rönne family since 18th century. In the beginning of 19th century the manor became famous because of its garden and 18 ha English-style park, created by Count Antanas Rönne. In 1880 the entire ensemble has been substantially transformed: the new modest manor house of Neo Renaissance style was constructed on a high bank of Varduva rivulet, and a 6 ha landscape style park was established on the other side of the rivulet. Estate was restored in 1980-1990. Currently the palace houses a permanent exhibition of representational interiors with the furniture, pictures, etc. The 2nd floor is devoted to altered exhibitions of art, pottery, folk art, hunting trophies. Various concerts and conferences are held in the Mirror Hall and the terrace. An interesting fact of local history: two brothers of noble Narutowicz family, Gabriel and Stanisław, spent their early childhood in Renavas manor estate, since 1866. Gabriel became the 1st President of the Republic of Poland in 1922, and Stanisław joined the Council of Lithuania in 1917 and was one of twenty signatories of the Act of Independence of Lithuania. Tickets: adult €1.80, school kids, students (with ID) €1, disabled persons free of charge. Photography in the palace halls and exhibitions €30, hall rental for the entertainment events €60/h. (56.22769,22.056842)
Dapšiai mythological stone in Ruzgai village, coordinates 56.345143, 22.185893.
  • Mythological sites and objects
  • Natural sites
  • Lakes and reservoirs - there are several swimable water bodies with the small cozy beaches:
Balsiai Reservoir in Jūra river (Balsių tvenkinys) - access from Balsiai hamlet south of Didlaukis at 55.362023, 22.14501 ;
Draudenis - small lake in SW of the region, access from the Rd 199 NW of Draudeniai at 55.311601, 21.988198;
Lūkstas - large lake in Varniai Regional Park, access from N at 55.725347, 22.339461;
Mastis - access from all N shore in Telšiai, and from W at 55.967522, 22.252146 ;
Nelinda (Paežeriai) - small lake SE of Kuršėnai, access by the Rd 4006 from W in Dirvonėnai village at 55.962597, 22.793684 ;
Plateliai - large lake in Samogitian National Park, access from W at 56.047636, 21.83241, from E at 56.038823, 21.883271, from NE at 56.046828, 21.883419 .
Dubysa river valley.
Geniai Outcrop by Jūra river in Pagramantis Regional Park, coordinates 55°21'4.17"N, 22°10'25.35"E.
  • Rivers - several main rivers with the public points of access to the water and some objects of interest, the order is downstream:
Akmena - a tributary of Jūra, river the least affected by anthropogenic factors, especially its lower reaches. Bridge at the edge of Pagramantis Regional Park on the Rd 4504, east of Šilalė, lets you caught a glimpse of it without effort - leave your car by the info shield at 55.490501, 22.294463. Next - Indija hill fort and the observation site on the W bank at 55.446745, 22.23239 ("indija" means a "land depth" as the place is at the bottom of Akmena valley amphitheater); site for wild camping at 55.423516, 22.239101, slightly further a rapid called Great Shoal, one of the most picturesque sections (55.423018, 22.239901); Andriejaičiai Oak at 55.417323, 22.23895 (away from river, accessible from the Rd 164); observation site on W bank at 55.40748, 22.23465, and the site to take a break on E bank at 55.405974, 22.248029 (a tiny path across the field takes to the river); a camp site Lakštingalų slėnis (Nightingale Valley) at 55.390956, 22.23359 and the observation site at 55.388573, 22.238186; Pagramantis Outcrop at 55.373079, 22.23227 and a site for wild camping on the opposite bank at 55.37267, 22.231287 ;
Dubysa - usual beginning of canoe route, S of Rd 157 from Maironiai hamlet at 55.590807, 23.075509 ; next points are located in Dubysa Regional Park and provide the access to the most beautiful areas of Dubysa valley: private camp site in Zikeliškai water mill at 55.543787, 23.070043 , private camp site with facilities in Lyduvėnai at 55.505834, 23.088525 , public camp site without facilities S of Lyduvėnai at 55.503095, 23.088588 , 2 camp sites W of Katauskiai: at 55.474576, 23.148025 and 55.472869, 23.156013 , in Bralinskiai hamlet at 55.429958, 23.224319 , SW of Kaulakiai at 55.410254, 23.243457 and 55.401771, 23.243995 (with the Padubysis cognitive path nearby), SW of Betygala at 55.352641, 23.354741 (and a mythological Saint John's spring nearby), NW of Ariogala at 55.30039, 23.431388 ;
Jūra - access to the swimable points: S of Pagramantis at 55.350572, 22.221 and 55.349876, 22.249597 , and by Matiškiai hill fort at 55.325677, 22.239432 . The area is in picturesque Pagramantis Regional Park, and the river itself has a very dark colour due to a peaty soil of the river bed - this causes a very clean, almost antiseptic quality of the water;
Minija - observation site by the Dyburiai strict nature reserve at 55.939891, 21.597045, Dauginčiai village and the complex of the objects of interest at 55.951713, 21.550292 , access point and a site to take a break SE of Raguviškai at 55.857355, 21.38677 near the bridge;
Venta river in winter.
Venta - access to the river in Kuršėnai at 56.005247, 22.927271 and 56.020232, 22.896108, two objects in Pagamė: Papartynė Jurassic Exposure at 56.124468, 22.85848 and the water mill built in 1867 nearby; four objects in Papilė: Augustaičiai water mill at 56.140112, 22.800604, Raudonskardis Outcrop at 56.14451, 22.814428, Papilė Jurassic Exposure at 56.147838, 22.806746 , Jurakalnis Ravine Jurassic Outcrop at 56.145527, 22.782361 ; access point W of Venta village at 56.197649, 22.668188 , Purviai geological outcrop at 56.204247, 22.639021 and a couple of geomorfological cirques along Venta banks; access to swimable spot at 56.226429, 22.612399 , two sites to take a break near Viekšnai village: at 56.23154, 22.535595 and 56.231724, 22.521099 , W of Mažeikiai at 56.309815, 22.261286 (also a dam and a restaurant on the bank).
  • Observation towers - there are several noteworthy observation towers in the region.
  • In Samogitia National Park:
Barstytaliai - 5m height at the edge of 35 ha bog (nature reserve), coordinates 56.148609, 21.862628 .
Jogaudai - in recreational area at the ​​defunct quarry by the pool, coordinates 55.999211, 21.944397 .
Siberija - 15m height on a top of Cidabras Hill near the 103 ha Siberija Telmological Reserve, coordinates 56.030478, 21.814432 .
  • In Salantai Regional Park:
Kalnalis - 15m height, at the NE edge of Kalnalis village ~60m east of the Rd 226, coordinates 56.017191, 21.541415 . Accessible from Kalnalis centre down the path that begins from the wooden Saint Lawrence Church (coordinates 56.015538, 21.54056 ) and stretches north parallel to the road for 300m.
  • In Tytuvėnai Regional Park:
Tytuvėnai - 15m height on a 22m height hill, 3.35km SE of Tytuvėnai town centre by Sedulos St, coordinates 55.589995, 23.24002.
  • In Varniai Regional Park:
Aukštagirės apžvalgos bokštas - 15m height, at the southern edge of the Regional Park, N of the A1 motorway in Šilalė district between Laukuva and Kaltanėnai, coordinates 55.612535, 22.32789 . Accessible from the Old Samogitian Highway No 197 by turning NE at Bilioniai and driving up to Aukštagirė Forest at 55.612027, 22.3265 , then turn east into the forest itself and go down the path for 120m.
  • In Venta Regional Park:
Venta and Virvytė confluence - 5m height, at the observation site by confluence of two beautiful rivers, east of Viekšniai village, south of both No 155 road and Venta river, coordinates 56.230461, 22.551054 . Accessible from the south: first, cross Venta river in Viekšniai village, then go east up to Virvytė river, there is a footbridge across Virvytė at 56.226689, 22.553287 , then turn north along the river.
Mosėdis church and a corner of the Stone Museum outdoor exposition, coordinates 56°09′56.57″N, 21°34′21.94″E.
  • Stone Museum (Akmenų muziejus), Office: Salantai St 2, Mosėdis, LT-98271 Skuodas district (NW corner of the region), Guide booking +370 440 76291 on workdays (, fax: +370 440 76352). Administration M-Th 08:00-17:00, F 08:00-16:00, lunch break 12:00-12:45. Expositions: summer season 1 May - 31 October 10:00-20:00 daily; winter season 1 Nov - 30 Apr 08:00-17:00 daily. It started as a hobby of local doctor Vaclovas Intas who arrived to Mosėdis in 1957. Some ten years later the collection of thousands of stones and pebbles became too large to keep it in the yard, it was decided to designate a territory along the Bartuva Rivulet valley and establish an outdoor museum-park there. On 26 Feb 1979 the National Museum of Rare Stones was established. In 2005 it was renamed after its founder and so remains till date: Vaclovas Intas National Stone Museum; it is run under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment. Coordinates of the outdoor exposition in the park 56.164152, 21.571538 . Adult €2.5, kid €1, preschool children free of charge. (56.165194,21.574212)

Itineraries[edit]

Do[edit][add listing]

Festivals[edit]

  • Kilkim žaibu (Let's Arise As Lightning), Varniai, Telšiai district (2km W of Varniai town on the N shore of Lūkstas lake, the place is allotted for wild camping, scouting, outdoor recreation and various kinds of festivals), +370 612 72742 (). Weekend on the 2nd half of June. The annual open air festival of black metal and other contemporary extreme music united with archaic folklore and the accents of Baltic culture. The name reflects the spirit of this event and refers to the Baltic mythology. Access from the south: turn north from Kaunas-Klaipėda motorway A1 at 55.559508, 22.219997; from the north: turn south from Šiauliai-Palanga highway A11 at 56.005433, 22.276358. By train: you have to get to Telšiai first, then get a bus to Varniai. By bus from major cities: there may be buses that go via Varniai, though it may be more convenient to get to Telšiai first and then get a local transport to Varniai from there. One ticket €30, price rise a little about a month before the event. (55.727025,22.338524)
  • Naisių vasara (Naisiai Summer), Naisiai village, Šiauliai district (~18km NE of Šiauliai, truly at the edge of both Žemaitija and Aukštaitija regions), +370 611 33333. July, exact date is announced at the website and Facebook. Festival for families, adults and children, features various musical and theatrical events during the weekend. Some other events: jousting, medieval dance, fakir performances, Žemaitukas (historic pony breed from Samogitia) National Cup, workshops of medieval craftsmen and folk artists. Alcohol is not tolerated. Most of events, camp sites and parking are free of charge.
  • Summer Music Open Air Varniai, Telšiai district (2km W of Varniai town on the N shore of Lūkstas lake, the place is allotted for outdoor recreation and various events), Accommodation in camp cabins: +370 698 50292 (). Weekend on the second half of July, official opening on Sa 12:00. Electronic music festival. Some of leisure entertainments: poker tournaments, aromatherapy, massage and lectures, trap trail, kinect games, activities in “Good Time Area” and “Creativity Pockets”, water cycle race, beach soccer tournament, beach volleyball tournament. Ticket €14, tent €1.5, car parking within territory €3. (55.727025,22.338524)
  • Barn Theater Festival (Klojimo teatrų festivalis), Parkas St 2, Kurtuvėnai, LT-80223 Šiauliai district (Barn of Kurtuvėnai manor estate, Kurtuvėnai Regional Park, west of the A12 highway), (). Every two years on the last weekend of July; festival is superposed with Saint James feast. Traditional festival of amateur theatres featuring performances in all lithuanian dialects. Events due to the large number of participants often extend beyond Kurtuvėnai village to the neighbouring settlements. Performances and most of the other events are free of charge.  edit
  • Satta Festival Takes place at Šventoji resort or one of the few other resorts in close vicinity: sometimes Palanga, sometimes Pape (Beach of the Baltic sea), (). Weekend on about the middle of August. Annual electronic contemporary and old school dance music festival: rave, techno, drum and bass, funk, dub, DJs. Prohibited: filming/photography, any alcohol and drugs, glass containers. Ticket €30-55.
  • International Mikołaj Ogiński Festival (Tarptautinis Mykolo Oginskio festivalis), Parko St 1, LT-90117 Plungė, (, fax: +370 448 52492). Weekend on the end of August. Annual music festival that takes place in Count Ogiński Manor House, see the Plungė article for details. Free of charge.  edit
  • Harvest Festival (Derliaus šventė), J.Basanavičius St 12, LT-75136 Šilalė (Centre of Šilalė town, Southern Samogitia, south of the A1 motorway), (). Last weekend of September. The exact date may slightly vary, check the Naujienos (News) section at Šilalė Culture Centre website. Traditional fest of farmers and rural communities, features a rich fair of autumn harvest goodies. Various traditional country bands from Samogitia, Semigalia, Kaliningrad Oblast and even some more remote areas entertain everyone who comes to have a good time. The typical lithuanian farm-made and home-made food that is sold at the fair: white cheese, sour cream, butter, honey, rustic smoked bacon and sausages, homemade kvass, rustic pudding, rustic old-fashioned cakes and gingerbread, many sorts of other traditional lithuanian delicacies. Visiting the fair is free of charge.  edit

Other[edit]

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Hunting
Plateliai scuba diving centre near yacht club, coordinates: 56.047878, 21.832296 .
  • Sailing in Plateliai lake, address of yacht club Ežero St 40, Plateliai, Plungė district (in Plateliai National Park), +370 615 27350 (, fax: +370 448 49030). Accommodation in yacht club €20-45. (56.047533,21.832006)
  • Scuba diving in Plateliai lake and the Baltic sea, for both contact Oktopusas Diving Centre, HQ in Plateliai Ežero St 40, Plateliai, Plungė district (near the Plateliai Yacht Club building), +370 698 71108 (). If you know your international diving certificate number - it can be checked via internet at the spot, and the equipment will be rented to you without restrictions. Dives in the Baltic sea must be organized in advance: trips to sea are done by ships to several interesting places; usually 2 dives are planned. Requirements: passport, certificates (min Advanced OWD, 20 registered dives), personal buoy. Prices without equipment rent: one dive in Plateliai lake from simple by the shore to cognitive with an instructor €10-50; diving package including accommodation from €75. (56.047878,21.832296)
  • Trips by car
  • Žemaitija culinary tasting

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]




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