“TheCeļotājs” –
Priekule Town Sights in Courland
History of Priekule, Latvia
Priekule is first mentioned as a fortified manor in 1483 but only began to grow as a town after 1871 when the Liepaja - Vilnius railway was built through Priekule. It was granted town rights in 1928 by the Latvian government.
Liepāja – Priekule Railway
The Liepāja – Priekule Railway is a 40 kilometers “25 miles” long, 1,524 mm “5 foot” gauge railway was built in the 19th century to connect Liepāja and Kaišiadorys. Currently, the railway line is closed for traffic.
Like in many other places in Latvia, there is evidence from several centuries in the heritage of our region, and it reveals events from old times. There are still many stories alive about the Couronian castle mounds, sacrifice, offering and sacred places, which describe the richness of our nation’s spirit and its unbreakable endurance before foreign forces.
Permanent traces in the Priekule region have been left from the times of barons. The well known baron family names in our region are Korff, Nolde, Rope, Rummel, and Schroeder who as feudal lieges here have obtained wide areas of land and managed them for several centuries. Barons have been quite wealthy, from the manor times to nowadays manor castles have still remained, and today in Priekule, Purmsāti, Kalēti, Virga the regional schools are situated, but in Aizvīķi, a retirement community.
Priekule and Virga parishes have also been made famous during the Great Northern War when our land was entered by the Swedish king Charles the Xll soldiers, who stayed for a few winter months in their winter dwellings and whose plan was to conquer almost half of Europe. The old history events, the Swedish times, have made us closer with a few of the Swedish municipalities. We have entered with them into some collaboration contracts, creating several common projects and tourism trails.
The wars of the 20th century have left a lot of evidence on the physically and psychologically devastating consequences which were caused by the First as well as the Second World War. The political repressions in 1941 and 1949 when many of the local people were forced to get on the road to Siberia were very hard; no one was to be spared – not the young, nor the old ones.
During the Second World War Priekule suffered ruthlessly. The lives of countless thousands of soldiers ended in the battle fields of our region. These are the most horrible history pages of the 20th century, which we remember and commemorate still today. In Priekule region the largest warrior’s cemetery in the Baltic States is situated where about 23 thousand soldiers were buried.
Ikars of Priekule in the Emblem of the Region
Up to today the legend about the Priekule manor blacksmith Johannson is still alive who in the 17th century became famous by that he created wings for himself and tried to fly from the tower of Priekule church. And the legend says that he succeeded – he completed two circles around the church tower and came down around 2 km from Priekule.
Ikars of Priekule proved that a man can fly like a bird, and the people of Priekule still believe this legend. Striving  upwards to reach stars, to reach dreams, to reach clarity, to reach the unreachable, longing for freedom, longing  for the inexperienced; the proof of power and insanity, this is how Ikars’ call sounds through centuries. It is historically clear that the first ones to get to know about the flight of the blacksmith of Priekule manor were the local people from Priekule, Gramzda, Purmsāti, Kalēti, Virga, Bunka, Krote which are now parishes of the region.  Up to nowadays three legends about Ikars are still alive, which means that still today we commemorate and remember this extraordinary flight in honor of which the Ikars festival is being held.
The legend about Ikars of Priekule has become the symbol of identity of the region. The image of Ikars is in the newly designed emblem of the region, which was approved very recently, on November, 2010.
The First Legend
In the year 1670, the blacksmith of Priekule castle decided to fly in the air for the first time and reach the Skoda village, for which baron von Korff promised to pay him 500 golden ducats.
On the day of the flight, in Priekule, people who had heard the story about the daring flight gathered from the nearby region. Also Grobiņa duke estate manager came with his horsemen, and he promised to put the owner of such bold ideas – the blacksmith – behind the bars. The blacksmith, protected by baron von Korff, attached big linen wings to himself and on his chest a small box which held the wings together. The blacksmith took off, flew three times around the castle, but when he wanted to fly towards Skoda, wind blew him towards Kalēti and he came down nearby the Kņuipene manor. The flyer got taken captive and was taken to Grobiņa, where he was to be judged as a companion of the devil and finally burnt on the fire. Only later did the people of the region start to value the courage and daring of the blacksmith to know how to take off, to fly free as a bird and to believe in your own dream...
The Second Legend
The blacksmith had started his flight with self made visually durable wings from the ball on the Priekule church tower which he himself had attached. Watched by the surprised looks of the crowd he fearlessly had taken off and flown almost two versts to Kņuipene manor, where he came down and broke his leg or both legs "two versions"! For the people of Priekule surroundings Ikars had been a real hero.
The Third Legend
Priekule baron von Korff had protected the blacksmith of the manor. After the flight he announced the blacksmith to be under the protection of the King of Poland, and in autumn, accompanied by a strong escort he took the blacksmith to Vilnius. But on the borders of Lithuania the escort was attacked by riders of Grobiņa captain, the companions of the blacksmith were scattered and the blacksmith himself was taken to Grobiņa, accused in misbelief, judged and burnt on fire.These legends characterize the calm life of Priekule where every now and then a daring person appears who manages to turn the usual into unusual to such an extent that even a long time after the local surroundings have a lot to talk about the amazing events of the past.
Revised: 04/14/2013 – 10:37:46