It is hard to imagine Palanga without the Baltic Sea. The Sea is our past, present and future. Since the New Stone Age (IV – II c B. C.), the sea has influenced mental and material culture, trading relations of the peoples living here.
A lot of Lithuanian legends are related to the sea. From generation to generation, by the cradle, mothers would narrate their children about the love of the sea goddess Jūratė for the fisherman Kastytis, about the enchanted prince of the sea Žilvinas and Eglė, a fisherman’s daughter, about the giants Naglis and Neringa or priestess Birutė, the wife of Grand Duke Kęstutis.
The origin of the name of Palanga is related to the sea. People say that in ancient times fishermen lived here on the Baltic seashore, and built their huts so close to the water that during storms sea waves rolled over the window-sills meaning “palangė” in Lithuanian. Linguists claim, though, that the name of Palanga is derived from such archaic Baltic words as: palvė, palios, pala, palas (meaning low, marshy area) or from rivers’ names, such as: Palanga, Palangis, Alanga, Langa.
Not only traders from the overseas did land to the seashore or Palanga, but conquerors as well. For the first time Palanga was mentioned in historical documents in 1161 as the landing place of the Danish King Valdemar I and his army.
In the chronicles of German Order Palanga was first mentioned only in 1253.
In the run of history there were more conquerors. The Vikings or Normandy coveted these lands, then in XII – XIV c.c. the Crusaders devastated the area more than once. Only after Grunvald’s battle (in 1410), the Peace Treaty of Meln was concluded in 1422. This stopped the invasion of the Order to Lithuania and in accordance with terms of the Brest Peace Treaty (on 12.31.1435) Lithuania regained Palanga.
In XII – XVIII c.c. the inhabitants of the town earned their living by fishing, gathering amber, which was cast ashore by the sea, trading with other towns of the Baltic coast. Traders often visited Palanga and exchanged their goods for amber, honey and furs.
In the records of the XVII c. it was mentioned that Palanga and Šventoji started competing with Riga, Liepaja and other ports (of Hanseatic League) and the goods were sold at lower prices there. They say, that at request of the port owners of Riga and Liepaja, the Swedish fleet destroyed Palanga and Šventoji ports.
After the third allotment of Žečpospolita in 1795 Lithuania was annexed to the Russian Czarist Empire. Palanga got assigned to the province of Vilnius (renamed to Kaunas in 1843). In 1819 Palanga town was assigned to the province of Courland. In 1824 Count Mykolas Tiškevičius, a colonel of the Czar’s army bought Palanga town and some adjoining lands. The contribution of the nobles Tiškevičiai to the development of the town is apparent: the park was established, the new palace was built, the seaport was restored, the enterprise producing bricks was build, the resort with sanatoriums was established and the new church was erected.
After the suppression of the 1863 uprising against the czarist regimen the Lithuanians were forbidden to print in Latin letters (1864 – 1904). But one of the routes, when books printed in Latin letters in Eastern Prussia were smuggled to Lithuania by book spreaders (knygnešiai), went via Palanga. This helped the Lithuanians teach their children to read and write in their mother tongue.
During the years of press ban the first Lithuanian play “Amerika pirtyje” (“America in the Baths”) was performed (in 1899) in Palanga.
After the First World War Lithuania became an independent state (16 02 1918). Lithuania and Latvia had the same disagreement regarding the territory of Palanga and Šventoji.
Storms of the history like unpredictable waves of the sea surged over the Baltic seacoast – the Soviet occupation in 1940 and the German occupation in 1941. After the war turmoil, at the end of January in 1945 the Soviet army occupied Lithuania and the Soviet authority set in. In Palanga private villas were nationalized, instead of them sanatoriums and holiday homes were established.
In 1952 Palanga was granted republican subordination and the project of the layout of the town as a resort was accepted.
The basic lines of treatment and relaxation were adapted and the town, which had preserved the old XIX c. resort traditions, started functioning all year round and became one of the most popular on the Baltic coast.
In 1991 Palanga resort opened a new page of history. Nationalized buildings and plots of land started to be given back to the rightful owners. Holiday homes and hotels became private. New modern individual villas were erected. Holidaymakers and guests of the town expected more and better service with every day.
People rush to the Baltic coast as usual to marvel at the sunset or to say “So long!” to the sea.