True Lithuania

Samogitia (Northwest Lithuania)

Samogitia (Lithuanian: Žemaitija, literally Low Land) is the traditional name for northwest Lithuania. The Samogitian dialect is more different from the standard Lithuanian language than other dialects.

In the 13th - 15th centuries Samogitia was sought by the Teutonic Order. More than once it had been conquered but eventually returned to Lithuania. Due to these disputes and the inaccessibility of its woods, it was the last area of Lithuania to Christianise, this taking place only in 1412. In Samogitia, even the nobility continued to speak Lithuanian language at the time its counterparts elsewhere opted for Polish. "Stubborn as a Samogitian" is still a popular proverb in Lithuania.

The town of Telšiai (Telše in Samogitian dialect) is known as the capital of Samogitia and they take it seriously: 2,5% of Telšiai people even reported "Samogitian" as their ethnicity in the census. It is worth a visit for its nice museum, cathedral, and wooden old town.

Palanga seaside resort is the most popular Samogitian tourist attraction. It is the biggest resort in Lithuania and offers a wide array of activities. Nearby Šventoji resort is its smaller and cheaper alternative (but only a little bit).

The extensive beaches of the Samogitian resorts are among the most crowded in Lithuania on hot summer weekends, but you may always find a more secluded spot away from the main resorts. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The city of Šiauliai is the largest one in Samogitia but with its old town obliterated in the World Wars it is of little interest except for some buildings, like the Renaissance cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and the Frenkelis villa. Nevertheless, with its many large shopping malls, Šiauliai is a good place for shopping and eating.

The most interesting location of Šiauliai region is outside the city itself: it is the Hill of Crosses where people put crosses for more than a century and there are hundreds of thousands of them visited by pilgrims and secular tourists alike.

Despite the late Christianization, most other rural Lithuanian prime Christian sites are also located in Samogitia: Šiluva Virgin Mary shrine, Tytuvėnai monastery. Former diocesan seats (Varniai and Kražiai) also have religious sites as their prime historic locations.

Samogitia excels in fine 19th century manors. Manor of dukes Oginskiai in Plungė is sometimes called "The Versailles of Samogitia" (this is an overstatement but the restored manor is beautiful indeed). The manor of the same family in Rietavas was unfortunately destroyed in early 20th century. Other buildings (church, warehouses) and a park remind the glory of Oginskiai in Rietavas. After all, it is in Rietavas where the first power plant in Lithuania was located and the first telephone line connected Rietavas and Plungė.

Oginskiai manor in Plungė. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Tiškevičiai family had the title of count rather than duke but their manors in Kretinga and Palanga are also worth a visit.

Outside of the main towns and cities, Samogitia has many villages famous for their wooden churches and a lake district, now a national park around Plateliai. Its natural beauty hides the Plokštinė Soviet missile base where nukes once waited for an order to obliterate the United Kingdom.

A wooden church in Beržoras village of Samogitian National Park. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The southernmost part of Samogitia includes the famous Panemunės Road beside Nemunas river. Here several nice castles stand - Raudonė, Panemunė as well as the Raudonvdaris manor.

Map of Samogitia. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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