Kelmė land is a small area in the western part of Lithuania, in the middle of Samogitia. The great road goes from St. Petersburg–Tallinn–Riga–Šiauliai–Kelmė–Tauragė–Tilžė–Karaliaučius (Kaliningradas) to Poland and Germany.
The town was founded on the left bank of the Kražantė River. About 9000 people live here at the moment. Local dwellers relate the Kelmė name to “Kelmynės” (the stubby place), because in the old days impenetrable forests murmured here.
Later on, these forests were cut down by Samogitians, who settled down in the shelter of picturesque rivulets. In written historical documents, Kelmė was mentioned in 1416 for the first time.
The first church was built in 1416. At the beginning of XV century Kelly was granted the privileged right to organize markets and fairs. The historical part of this land is a matter of interest.
More than 400 archaeological, historical, architectural and cultural monuments may be found here. Kelly land is famous for prominent people, original customs, art handicraft, other trade, splendid folk songs and legends.
During centuries the destiny of this land was shared with other districts of Lithuania.
This land was destroyed and ravaged by crusaders and Sweden regiments. People of this land struggled against tsar’s oppression. Monuments dedicated to 1831 and 1863 years rebellions and knolls of graveyards give evidence of these events.
A.Mackevičius, one of the most prominent leaders of 1863 rebellion, was born here. A large number of monuments and memorable places remind of the struggle of this land people for independence.
Amongst them are graves of volunteers and partisans, crosses and roadside poles with a statuette of a saint erected not so long ago to memorize exiles.This land is notable by its beautiful nature and pure air, since there are no industrial giants. There are many places, which may fascinate your eye.
53 large and small lakes and ponds are stretched here. The largest of them are Gauštvinis and Gludas lakes, beautiful Bridvaišis lake with its islands, and transparent like a tear Gilius lake.
Besides, the scenery is adorned by hills and knolls, swift rivers and rivulets. In the eastern environs, the Dubysa river flows, this fascinates your eyes by beautiful valleys. The Kražantė river, the tributary of the Dubysa, winds through the middle of Kelmė land from the west to the east.
The glorified in songs Venta River flows in the northern-western environs. There are the following nature reserves: the Tytuvėnai pinewood landscape reserve, the Užpelkis botanical and zoological reserve, the Medžiokalnis botanical reserve, the Pakėvis and Papušinis cranberry meadows, and other reserves.
Thus, everybody longing for rest and tranquility may pick up power out of nature: go roaming by paths, gather berries, go mushrooming, fishing, boating on the surface of silver lakes.31,1 thousand people live in Kelmė district. 98% are Lithuanians. The following nationalities: Russians, Byelorussians, the Polish, Germans, Jews and some other nationalities.
Most of dwellers are Catholics. 14 Catholics churches, one Orthodox Church, two churches of old believers are available.In the middle of XVII century the estate palace and gates were built, which are the architectural monument. The palace was built in early baroque style, but it also has features of the Renaissance.
There is a large number of museums in this district: in Kelmė, Užventis, Ušnėnai, Kražiai. The cultural and economic centre of this land is Kelmė. But Tytuvėnai, Užventis, Kražiai, Šaukėnai are also interesting and dear to the heart of every Lithuanian.
The brick gates of square form with the four-slope stepped baroque roof looks interesting. In former times the library was on the second floor of the palace (about 5,000 books, manuscripts, collections of numismatics). The estate palace and gates were restored in 1988. The museum of Kelmė land was founded in premises of this palace.
Every year on the last Saturday of May Žemaičiai from Venta, Dubysa, and Kražantė come to the traditional folk art festival held in Kelmė. You may see how motley pattern fabric is weaved, earthenware pots are painted, decorations are forged and trees are forced to speak at these festivals.
You also may try to do all these things on your own. Singers, dancers, musicians gather together here, art photograph exhibitions and other displays are opened. Music admirers may listen to the mixed chorus, folk ensembles “Taduja”, “Knituva”.
Every year in the middle of July admirers of ethnic culture from all districts of Lithuania come to Kelmė. Courses of folk handicraft and ethnic music are organized here. Students are taught not only to sing, play different old musical instruments, dance, but also to play Kankles (the old Lithuanian musical instrument), weave motley sashes, weave from straw and thin withes, carve wood, proficiently sew and cut out clothes patterns.
Students are also acquainted with customs and traditions of Žemaičiai; Kelmė is also famous for its Small Theatre, which won the sympathy of spectators not only in Lithuania, but in foreign countries, as well.