Try to guess, how does Kretinga Manor Winter Garden rank among the largest private European greenhouses of the 19th century of Europe? Would you place it third? Fifth? Or maybe seventh? The correct answer is coming up after just a brief historical introduction.
The City of Kretinga was built by Jan Karol Chodkiewicz in the 17th century. Jan Karol Chodkiewicz was the Elder of Samogitia and the Military Commander of the Army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He was the one to surprise the entire Europe by crushing the army of the King of Sweden Charles IX in the Battle of Kirchholm in 1605.
Having purchased Kretinga Manor in 1875, Count Juozapas Tiškevičius (Józef Tyszkiewicz) turned it into the principal place of residence for his family and made the city famous across the entire Lithuania. Kretinga was the place where the first hydroelectric power plant and the first telephone line in Lithuania were built and a winter garden was planted, which eventually became the largest private greenhouse in Europe (which answers the above question about ranking). The young Countess Marija Tiškevičiūtė opened the first Lithuanian kindergarten in Kretinga in 1898 and Count Aleksandras Tiškevičius was the first Lithuanian nobleman to purchase a sportscar in France in 1908. The family collected artworks, hunting trophies, currency and other valuables, and even had a manor orchestra.
Although the Tiškevičius family lost a large part of the manor land during the land reform introduced in the interwar period, they did not back down. They still owned an oil production plant called Oelit, a sweets, honey and syrup production factory called Šatrija and several other light industry businesses. The last owner of Kretinga Manor retreated to Germany during the Second World War when the Soviet Army approached.
Presently, the entire Kretinga Manor along with all the buildings and the greenhouse belongs to Kretinga Museum which has gathered an impressive collection of over 70 thousand exhibits. The winter garden with around 5000 species of plants, including 580 exotic kinds, is mostly liked by the tourists. Some of the most interesting expositions include the Manor history and culture exhibition, archeological exhibition (displaying the jewelry, weaponry and household items of the Curonians and their ancestors), Sun Cycle ethnographic exhibition (Mardi Grass masks, Samogitian chests, bedspreads, towel hangers with carved ornaments, distaffs, etc.) and Kretinga local history exhibition. Over 120 thousand of people visit this popular Lithuanian museum every year.