Long ago, Lake Plateliai did not exist. There were dry land and endless hayfields instead of water, until one summer, a small black piglet came seemingly out of nowhere and started uprooting all the fields in a surprisingly consistent manner as if it was marking the borders! The piglet worked hard for three weeks until it dug around the entire hollow, and then, having reached the starting point, it just disappeared. At that moment, a huge black storm cloud emerged above the fields of hay threatening to send pelting rain down at any instance. As soon as the peasants collected their hay, lightning stroke and a torrent of rain fell down. Amazed by the downpour, alocal women said in Samogitian, “Kāp platē lėij! Kāp platē lėij!” (“What heavy rainfall!”). As soon as she uttered those words, the entire storm cloud dropped down from the heavens and straight onto the valley. This is how Lake Plateliai came to be, named by a Samogitian woman after the heavy rainfall (“platē lėij” sounds very similar to “Plateliai”).
This an old story... Many things have changed since those times but Lake Plateliai has proudly remained the largest and the deepest lake of Samogitia. The lake has 7 islands, one of which is called the Castle Island. According to a legend, there is a cursed treasure in the dungeons underneath the island that is guarded by the evil spirits. One way or another, there was indeed a castle on the Castle Island in the 15th century. It belonged to the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The first Plateliai Manor was constructed on Šventorkalnis Peninsular which used to be connected with the Castle Island by a 280-meter long wooden bridge. The remains of the bridge have withstood the tests of time, even though the castle fell into ruin after losing its defensive function in the 16th century.
Plateliai were first mentioned in historical sources in the 15th century. At that time, Plateliai Manor, the village and the church were situated on Šventorkalnis Peninsular. Later on, at the end of the 17th century, the village was transferred to its present location. At the end of the 18th century, Plateliai Manor belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania until almost 150 years later it was acquired by the French Counts Choiseul-Gouffier and remained under their rule till 1940. Sophie de Choiseul-Gouffier of the Tyzenhaus family, the first female writer in Lithuania who wrote in French, resided in Plateliai Manor in the 19th century. This was the same countess who was famous for having personally known Napoleon, Emperor of France, and Alexander the First, Emperor of Russia.
The Plateliai Manor House along with the buildings remaining from the 19th and the 20th centuries (stackyard, servant’s quarters, stables, granary, cellar) and a park constitute a cultural heritage complex protected by the State. The wooden manor house burnt down during the Second World War but several of the buildings were renovated and adapted to public needs. The former stables are now home to the Mardi Grass exhibitions, the granary has become the exhibition hall for the Samogitian National Park exhibition, the arts and crafts center is established in the cellar and the culture house has found its place in the stackyard.
The thickest ash tree in Lithuania, measuring 7.2 meters in girth, is growing in the Plateliai Manor Park. This natural heritage object is often called the Witch’s Ash and is surrounded by many legends. One of them narrates about a devil who squeezed four ash trees and held them together until the four trunks became one. Another legend tells about a woman who bound three trees together with her scarf. As if the trees had been cursed ang no bird ever landed on them. The trees grew into one but the mark of the scarf knot has remained to this day. The third story is about a witch that stole a loaf of bread from a little girl. The witch jumped into the tree to hide from the morning sun and the crying roosters, and the loaf of bread has remained stuck in the trunk of the ash until today. Ever since, the locals have been calling the tree the Witch’s Ash.
At the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) project in 2008, the European Commission granted Plateliai the title of the Lithuanian Destination of Excellence Fostering and Promoting Intangible Heritage.