Where to visit
Traces of the past
The nobility palaces in Palanga, Kretinga and Plungė and the Gutshaus of the Scheu family in Šilutė (Heydekrug) are used as museums whilst most of small residences are neglected and decaying. Just one of them (Vilkėnas) is used for hospitality business.They are valuable cultural heritage monuments witnessing the long-foregone culture of South Baltic landed gentry. Since none of the manor houses belong to the heirs of the former landlord families anymore, and have not been acquired by new private owners, they all have changed their identity. Macikai manor (Gut Matzicken), the birthplace of Hermann Sudermann (1857–1928), a German author, was converted into a POW camp (STALAG 1C) in 1939, after the annexation of the Klaipeda Region by Nazi Germany, which stayed till the Soviet occupation in 1945, and then it served as a Soviet concentration camp for German POWs and political prisoners (GULAG-3) till 1955. Besides Lene Grigoleit, there are many other family connections of the manors in Lithuania Minor with Germany and of the manors in Samogitia with Poland. Hermann Sudermann was born in Macikai (Gut Matzicken). Heinrich Theodor von Schön (1773–1856), Prussian statesman, governor of the Province of Prussia (West and East Prussia), who assisted in the liberal reforms during the Napoleonic Wars, was born in Šereiklaukis manor (Schreitlaugken). The Plater family, the owners of Vilkėnas manor are related to Emilia Plater (1806–1831), hero of the 1830-31 Uprising against the Russian Empire in Poland and Lithuania. Duke Michał Kleofas Ogiński (1765–1833), popular Romanticist composer, was the owner of Rietavas manor. The lords of manors in Lithuania Minor spoke German whilst the majority of the lords of manors in Samogitia spoke Polish. Almost none of them spoke Lithuanian. The exception were few philanthropists (e.g. Hugo Scheu) and, particularly, impoverished landed gentry, lords of small Samogitian manors who played the pivotal role in preserving the Lithuanian language and facilitating the Lithuanian National Revival in the 19th century. The lords of manors in Lithuania Minor were exclusively Protestants whilst the lords of manors in Samogitia were exclusively Catholic. Rietavas manor was an important centre of innovations in late 1800s. In 1882, the first telephone grid in Lithuania was established there and on 17 April 1892 in Easter, the first electric street lights were turned on in Rietavas manor, park and church (earlier than in Vilnius, Kaunas or Klaipeda cities). Having withstood centuries, fights and wars, the times of glory and misery, the most beautiful Lithuania’s buildings tell us the stories and legends, and reveal events without which there would be no us, no Lithuania. The grand dukes of Lithuania built their palaces, castles and manors already in the 13th century. The earliest remaining residence of the sovereign is Trakai Castle, constructed in the period from the second half of the 14th century to the beginning of the 15th century. There are several residential Renaissance and Baroque style manors and a bigger number of Classicist manor homesteads. We succeeded in retaining the majority of buildings from the 19th century – the structures of that time were known for free architectural style improvisations.