Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Weekend in Klaipeda and Nida, Lithuania

Saturday, April 27, 2013
Last weekend I went to our seaside city of Klaipeda. If you are German, you might know it better as Memel. The place used to belong to several pagan tribes until the Teutonic Order arrived sometime in the Middle Ages. Later it became part of Prussia and remained under German influence for a long time. It was finally joined to Lithuania in 1923. The main reason I went there was to see the world-famous tall ship "Kruzenshtern" that was to throw an anchor in the port for a few days. This is the second largest tall ship (for educational purposes) in the world. It was born in 1926 in Germany and was called "Padua" at the time (giving names to ships is a science in its own right). After the WWII it came to belong to the Soviet Union and was renamed "Kruzenshtern" to pay dues to the first Russian explorer who sailed around the world. Now it belongs to Russia.

My first sighting of the tall ship.
Even though the press claimed it would be open to the public at 11.00, but it didn't happen until sometime past 12.00. The weather was rather cold and windy and it was rather embarrassing to hover around it and not to know when and if we are getting on board today.

I used the time to take photos.
Finally, they said yes and yours truly happened to be the first person to step on the deck. It was worth all the waiting, indeed!

An ancor.
A bell. 
At the wheel. One of the most popular photo spots in the city that weekend. 
The old town of the city can be covered in 3-4 hours. It's full of small quaint statues but make sure you are wearing sensible shoes because the cobblestones can be difficult.

Miraculous Mouse that makes your wishes come true, though being only 17 cm tall.  

Sunset in the Curonian Lagoon. 
I went to our resort Nida next day. The ferry crossing takes about 5 min. and it is matched to the bus timetable. Even though the day was rather cold and it was windy, I saw two roe deer and one fox, quite a safari if you ask me.  Nida is a charming resort town with great history and makes it worth  a day trip from Klaipeda or staying for a weekend.

Our Curionian spit is part of UNESCO World Hertitage. This place was important for the Teutonic Order that settled here after doing away with the pagan tribes (like the Curionians) because it was their road to Livonia, present day Latvia, where their fellow order of Livonia was established. After becoming part of Prussia (another name of a dead tribe, the Prussians), the place converts into the Protestant religion. A former post route, due to ambitions of the Prussian king, now has to serve transporting people and comes to be part of Paris-Berlin-Riga-St. Petersburg route. The former inns turn into stations with inn keepers receiving state salaries and extra money for horses and carriages. This route was very difficult, because one part of the carriage would go in the water but the other would go on the sand, and the horses would tire quickly. The wars of the XVIIIth century saw the forests cut to build ships, and this freed amazing amounts of dune sand that buried 14 villages. The reforestation was complete only in 1904.

The dunes.
Fish soup.

Traditional architecture. 
Old burial markers, put the the foot of the grave rather than the head.

This old burial tradition shows symbiosis of both pagan and Christian religions. They used to be put on people's graves at the foot. Male trees were used for men and female trees were used for women. Many markers bear "Ruhe sanft"", which in German means "Rest in peace". Today such grave markers are put for famous people.

Klaipeda and Nida are easily accessible from the capital city Vilnius by bus and train. I recommend the bus because it's by 2 hours faster. I stayed at Klaipeda hostel which is located right across the street from the bus station. There's a public transport stop nearby and bus Nr. 8 takes you to the city center. If you want to see only Nida and exclude Klaipeda, check out timetables for Vilnius- Nida buses. When in Klaipeda, make sure you go to "Viva la vita" bar in Amberton hotel for the views of the port at the sunset. Make sure you pack a warm sweater or a jacket with a hood because it's always chilly by the sea.

Have you been to either Klaipeda or Nida?

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