Lithuanian Seaside Cognitive Cycling Routes, Part 1: Palanga-Šventoji-Būtingė
Many holidaymakers like to ride their own or rented bicycles on the cycling paths along the sea during the warm season. If you also like this type of leisure activity, we suggest taking a ride to view seaside objects which are worth seeing. We would like to offer you several different routes in the surroundings of Palanga and the Curonian Spit. The first is a bike tour of about 30 km to the north of Palanga.
The First Stop – Naglis Hill
Your tour begins at the Palanga Sea Pier and leads to the north, towards Šventoji. First, stop at Naglis Hill. It is believed that this hill was mentioned in 1425 historic documents as a place in the north of Palanga where the Teutonic Knights wanted to build their castle. However, until 1926, when it was planted with trees, Naglis Hill was a moving sand dune on which nothing could be built. In the 15th – 16th centuries, there was an alka – a sanctuary of the ancient Balts – and a settlement of Curonian fishermen located near the hill. Legend says that a mourning widow built the sand hill in honour of the brave warrior Naglis and a stream trickling at the foot of the hill originated with her tears.
When you climb down Naglis Hill, continue your tour. When you left Palanga behind, you will enter the calm Ošupis path. Its surroundings are particularly important for wintering and migrating rare water birds. The path leads up to Šventoji, where you can take a break for lunch.
After getting some rest and perhaps a snack, continue your tour by the sea – when you pass through the town and crossing the Šventoji River by the spectacular “monkey bridge”, cycle a little more to the north, and you will reach the Samogitian sanctuary Žemaičių Alka. Although this original sanctuary of the Balts was much closer to Palanga, it was decided to settle the the location of reconstructed alka between towns of Šventoji and Būtingė. In Žemaičių Alka you will be able to admire both the landscape and pillars symbolizing the gods of the ancient Balts carved by Lithuanian artists. They were created according to the original two-meter-high wooden pole with a carved mask of a goddess bearing an owl’s features discovered by Rimutė Rimantienė’s archaeological expeditions. Žemaičių Alka, restored in 1998, is a paleo-astronomy observatory, where the dates of calendar holidays can be calculated by the shadows of the pillars when the sun sets in the sea.
The sanctuary is also used today, and pagan rituals are held there. One of the most beautiful moments of this ritual is the sacrifice of amber to the Baltic gods. A handful of amber dust is thrown into the fire; when doing so, the person throwing the dust must think of their most secret desires or wish for something good. The dust flashes with a bright flame, thus transferring the desires and wishes of the sacrificer to the gods of the ancient Balts.
The last stop – Būtingė Evangelical Lutheran Church
When you say goodbye to the Samogitian sanctuary, wave to the sea and your route will continue to the east, towards the centre of Būtingė. We invite you to visit the Evangelical Lutheran Church here. There are 25 Lutheran parishes in Lithuania, and this parish is the fourth oldest – it was founded around the 1560s. True, then it was founded in Šventoji, and the first church stood at the outfall of the Šventoji River until it was washed into the sea. In the 18th century this house of prayer was transferred to Būtingė. The present church is already the fifth house of prayer in this parish, built in 1824 and having survived until these days.
Back to Palanga
You can choose your way back to Palanga of three routes: Liepaja highway, the Forest Path or the same road. If you are interested in history, culture and religion, the way back should not be boring – though there are not many objects of interest on that route, they should inspire reflections about the complicated history and cultural variety of our seaside. And when you have relaxed after this ride, come back – we will have prepared another cycling route for you – to the southern part of Palanga.