The Curonian Spit (Kuršių Nerija) is a unique monument, light multisided strip of a land, uniqueness of which is comprised of relief created by the sea and wind, the highest spit in the whole Northern Europe, Lagoon marl prints, remains of former Lagoon‘s forest and soil brought by the wind and constant interesting eolic processes.
A considerable contribution for formation of the existent uniqueness was made by human, who after unmerciful extermination of the spit‘s forests personally started the works of forests‘ regeneration. The process of regeneration was long and hard; therefore, current natural and introduced vegetation, rare plants that are typical for this region only, their communities, and their growth locations request special care.
In the year 2000, the Curonian Spit was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes of Europe.
The Curonian Spit is a narrow sand peninsula of 98 km of length, which divides the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. In the South, Lithuanian part of the Spit borders with
Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation. The borderline marks the external borders of the European Union.
The administrative centre of the Curonian Spit, the town of Neringa (pop. 2.8 thousand), is Nida settlement; another bigger settlement is Juodkrantė; Pervalka and Preila remind us of colourful fishermen's villages. The beaches of Nida and Juodkrantė have met the requirements of the Blue Banner for several years already. Nida is the warmest part of Lithuania that enjoys the biggest number of sunny days in a year.
This is the biggest settlement and an administrative center of Neringa. Currently, Nida has approximately 1,550 of permanent residents living there. Nida was mentioned for the first time in the documents of Teutonic Orden in 1385 by the name of "Noyken" and "Noyden". According to historical sources, the old Nida village was situated on the northern coast of Grobstas Cape‘s gulf. The second Nida was located 2 km south of the present Nida. In 1730 migrating fishermen founded the third Nida beside Parnidis Gulf. Three former villages - Nida, Skruzdyne and Purvyne – currently comprise the Nida settlement. Nida is located 48 km away from Klaipeda and 4 km away from the border of Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation. Previously, mainly fishermen lived here; from the end of XIX century Nida started to be famous as a resort. Currently, this is a great place for rest. The settlement is spread on the seacost for about two kilometers from the south to the north. With its south end it reaches the Parnidis Gulf, and with its northern end it gradually disappears in the sands of the Cape of Bulvikis.
This is the third biggest settlement of Neringa town, which is located in the gulf between Preila and the Goat Cape. During 1836 - 1843 Preila was founded by the residents of sandbound Nagliai and Karvaiciai villages. The settlement stands in 39 km distance from Klaipeda, and in 10 km distance from Nida. It has approximately 200 local people permanently residing there. About 1.5 km north of Preila, so-called Karvaiciai Dune is looming. Under the sand of this dune, the settlement of Karvaiciai village is buried
The smallest settlement of Neringa surrounded by the dune ridge in the west. Approximately 40 people reside permanently here. It is considered that the name of this fishermen‘s village originated from the process of boats‘ carry. This settlement, same as Preila, was founded by the residents of sandbound Nagliai and Karvaiciai villages. There is Skirpstas Hill’s dune of 53 m height in southern part of Pervalka. Pervalka is located 34 km from Klaipeda and 15 km distance from Nida.
The second biggest settlement of Neringa located on the coast of the Curonian Lagoon between high parabolic dunes. When navigating in the Lagoon, this location looks quite dark; therefore, it is considered that the name of Juodkrante originated from two words: „black coast“. Prior to the World War II, Juodkrante was famous as a resort of European level. Currently, Juodkrante offers an excellent rest and comfort as well.
Several families are living in Alksnyne‘s steading. Formerly, a gulf of the Curonian Spit was in this place. While canalizing the watercourse for ships to navigate, this gulf was filled up with the gound excavated. In the end of XIX mentury, while planting the dunes, a dune supervisor‘s farmstead was constructed, which was given the name of Alksnynas. This settlement has Alksnyne‘s control post located, where local toll for entrance of the territory of the National Park of the Curonian Spit is, which is administered by the Municipality of Neringa, is collected.
This is a territory of the protected National Park of the Curonian Spit, which is being administrated by the Municipality of Klaipėda City. One of the oldest settlement of the Curonian Spit. In 1837 the inns were relocated to the top of the dune. A privilege of ferry to the city also belonged to the inn‘s owner. From 1870, Smiltyne Dune was started to be planted. In 1900, by the efforts of "Smiltyne association", construction of a curehouse was completed. In 1936, Lithuanian Yachtsmen Union has founded the first yachting school in Smiltyne. From this point to the south direction the line of dune ridge, which was planted in the end of XIX century, starts and extends up to Juodkrantė.
Nature And Dunes
It is a sin to be in the Curonian Spit and not to visit its “travelling” sand and the "dead" dunes, not to see the great colony of the black herons and cormorants settled nearby Juodkrantė, or not to enjoy the wooden sculptures on the Hill of Witches in Juodkrantė. Without seeing all that, one can hardly realise how rich and marvellous the peninsular is. Washed by the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea, sometimes it creates an impression of a desert.
Valley Of Silence
In the beginning of the valley, there is a chapel column constructed in 1991, which was dedicated for restoration of Lithuanian independence. Parnidis exploratory track begins here.
The Dune of Parnidis
The Dune of Parnidis is a favorite place of the holidaymakers’ visits. The dune is half planted and half drifted. On the southwest slope of the Dune of Parnidis a memorial cross for the sculptor R.Daugintis is standing, and on the top of the dune in spring of 1995, while celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Restoration of Independence, the Solar Clock – calendar was constructed. From the Dune of Parnidis you can enjoy the variety of the spit’s landscape. In the direction to the south, a range of XVIII century human-provoked “migrating dunes” greets by blinding one with light and shadows, in the direction of the north there is a 19th century human-planted green carpet of hill-pines of the Great Duneridge.
The Valley Of Death
This valley is situated between the Dune of Parnidis and the Dune of Gliders. During 1870 – 1872, there was a camp of the French war captives established. Due to poor imprisonment conditions, exhaustion, and diseases a lot of the captives had died. They were buried at the camp cemetery set right here; that is why the valley has such a name.
The Hill Of Urbas
Nida is surrounded by two high dunes overgrown by pines. One of those dunes is the Hill of Urbas. The name of the hill takes its roots in the word „urbas“ (pit, hole), since the top of this dune was rich in pits. An old Nida lighhouse shines on the Hill of Urbas. Currently, the hill has a viewing point equipped on it. This is an excellent place for traditional events. Summer nights movie sessions are organized on the Hill of Urbas. A traditional Jonines (the Feast of St.John) walking is going down from here.
The Hill Of Witches (Formerly Of Jonas And Ieva)
From the ancient times, Joninės (the Feast of St.John) were celebrated on the Hill of Witches, formerly called the Hill of Jonas and Ieva. Nowadays, waking down the hill’s path, you can see a unique exposition in the open air. 71 sculptures from oak were gouged out by Lithuanian folklore artists – wood carvers who converged to Juodkrantė during the summers of 1979 – 1981. The theme of the old hill sculptures is the world where witches, demons, and the characters of Lithuanian fairy tails and Neringa legends exist. In the summer of 1988 the sculptors complemented the ensamble with 12 more sculptures, mostly of playful character: swings, small hills, chairs. During the period of 1999 - 2002 at the time of "Hill of Witches" symposium new sculptutures originated in the exposition, and the old ones were restored.
Settlement Of Herons And Cormorants Beside Juodkrante
Having just departing Juodkrante towards Nida, but not mounting up to the steep Hill of Ram yet, another hill is aspiring among the old woods – the Hill of Herons, which received its name from the settlement of grey herons and grand cormorants that settled nearby. This is one of the biggest settlement of these birds in the whole Europe. According to the data of 2000, the settlement amounted to 582 couples of grey herons and 1,361 couples of grand cormorants.
It is unlikely to answer the question, when the herons settled in the neighbourhood of Juodkrante. In the middle of XIX mentury, they were a common element of everyday life. It can be said with a confidence that these leggy birds had lived in XVII century or even much earlier.
Cormorants had appeared in Juodkrante in 1803. They settled beside the herons and started to occupy their nests. Gradually, the herons were driven out to the edges. They began to migrate to the south of Juodkrante. In 10 years, two separate settlements of herons and cormorants emerged on the southern and northern border of Juodkrante.
The Cape Of Bulvikis
This is the widest point of the Curonian Spit peninsula, which amounts to 3.8 km. It is considered that the name of the Cape and the gulf beside it originated from the Curonian surname Bulvikis.
The Hill Of Vecekrug
The green “carpet” of hill-pines spaned over the hills by a human reveals the Karvaciai reservation landscape of the Old Inn Hill, which is between Preila and Nida, with all its beauty. People say that an inn was standing in its base. This dune is situated 1.5 km towards the south of Preila, facing the Cape of Preila. This is the highest planted dune of the Curonian Spit, which opens up the prospect of the Curonian Spit broadening beside the Cape of Bulvikis, forest of the slopes, coast dunes’ sand plains roughness, and outlines of the Lagoon’s coasts. The dune itself is no less impressive, which stringed the green “robe” with diagonals of white sand stripes. The Hill looks especially proudly, when looking at it from the northern side. The height of the Hill of Vecekrug is about 67.2 m. The easiest way to reach it is by driving the bicycle track.
Nida's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Nida’s church was sanctified on October 10, 1888. Having the old building of the church rotted away, the contemporary Lutheran priest Gustav Echternach worked on construction of this church. Beautiful Gothic style red-bricked building of Nida’s Evangelical Lutheran Church survived despite of all devastations of the Postwar period.
Catholic Church In Nida
This settlement of the Curonian Spit had never had a Catholic church before. The believers of Nida, having a brotherly permission of the Lutherans, had been praying in the church given back to them and strenuously sought for construction of new church. Leaders of Franciskan Order appealed to the municipalities’ council concerning construction of spiritual and cultural center. The search of a place for the church held off for a long time. Finally, on May 4, 2000 Telsiai bishop A. Vaicius sanctified the Catholic church and foundations of the community’s house. Official ceremony of the church opening took place on June 14, 2003.
The church with a cany roof designed by Nidiskiai architects Ricardas Kristapavicius and Algimantas Zavisa became a pronounced accent of new architecture. White pinnacle of the church with the cross is visible from all sides of Nida.
The main buildings of the fishermen’s farmsteads are a dwelling house and a stable. Area of a farmstead was not strictly limited. The buildings were usually turned with one corner to the Lagoon. Exterior of fishermen’s houses is also distinctive. The houses are timbered and constructed from lying square balks. The walls are upholstered by vertical boards from the outside, the boards’ threads are covered with vertical strips. The houses are painted in brown or bluish color. Previous form of roofs is broken hip-roofs with chimney-breasts covered with canes. Chimney-breasts are vents functioning as a chimney, which are on upper triangles of a hip-roof from two sides of a house. Old fishermen’s homsteads had no chimneys; however, supposedly, this was beneficial, since the nets and other fishing implements, which were kept in lofts, got firmed, when surrounded by smoke, which accessed the loft while heating the stove.
Ornamentation of ancient houses
A special attention is attracted by ornamentation of ancient houses. Decorative elements most often were centered on houses’ attics. The main decorative elements of fishermen’s farmsteads were transits of roof ends, also called “geivelis” by the fishermen, and decorated windboards. Motives of the transits are immensely various, non-repeating, and vividly demonstrating ingenuity of folklore masters and their artistic style.
Windboards, as a constructive element of a house, supports the borders of the roof ends and decorates them, when they are turned with an end to the street. Geometric and plant silhouettes were used for the windboards. Sharp buds of various forms were liked very much.
In pre-Christian faith the transits had a protective meaning. Nowadays, houses were decorated for satisfaction of aesthetic and social needs: To have a more pretty life and not to get behind the neighbours “on the other side of the fence”. Besides that, nice farmsteads helped attracting more visitors. The farmsteads decorated with blue and white colors attract the atention of bypassers from a distance.
Due to unique landscape and comfort conditions of recreation created in the 19th century and its popularity, the Curonian Spit was associated with the French Riviera. The resort began to be formed during 1860 - 1865. In Juodkrante, a block of villas formed between the pier and cemetery. Two big hotels and a lot of private villas and guesthouses were here.