Florence of Arabia
Klaipeda is the main port of Lithuania and the gateway to the Curonian Spit. There is a bit of an Old Town left post WWII which has been gentrified and we spent a couple of pleasant evenings sitting and eating on its pavement cafes and restaurants with Tracy indulging in the local speciality of smoked fish. There are a couple of renovated half-timbered buildings including the Drama Theatre where in 1939 that crazy German; Adolf Hitler, announced from the balcony the incorporation of Memel into Germany. Nonce.
Being a seaport, Klaipeda is a lot grittier than the overly twee Vilnius and in our opinion all the better for it. Not being overwhelmed with tourists also helps to make it feel all right. But something the two towns share is the lack of ability of people to work within the catering trade. Soft drinks never come with ice, White wine is always served at the temperature of a blast-furnace and getting what you ordered is just a wish.
There are two ways to get to the Curonian Spit if you have a motorhome:
Take the Ferry @ €40, pay the road toll @ €15 and stay at a campsite @ €35 per night. Or.
Go as a foot passenger @ €0.80 with your bike. We took the second option and stayed in a guarded car park next to the Ferry terminal at €10 per night.
There is not a lot to say about the drive between the capital and the coast. We took advantage of the free to use motorway and completed the journey in about four hours with a stop. The scenery is reminiscent of Norfolk with slightly rolling hills populated with large arable farms.
Peeking at the Ruskies.
The Curonian Spit is about 100 miles long and is divided equally between Lithuania and Russia’s Kaliningrad Region. It hosts some of Europe’s most precious sand dunes and supports a whole menagerie of elk, deer and avian wildlife. There are three main settlements on the Lithuanian side of the spit; Smiltyne, Juodkrante and Nida which are all linked together by tarmacked road and cycle path.
Our original plan was to bike to the half-way point of Juodkrante, have a picnic and get the ferry back to Klaipeda. This involved a ride of about 22Km and with the sun sporting a bright and shiny hat we set off on the 10:00 ferry.
The cycle path starts at the ferry port and takes you over to the sea side of the spit which is flanked with ‘newly made’ white dunes. The cycling path is excellent and is well signposted and with a few stops to take in the sights we arrived a little hot and a little sweaty for some refreshments in Juodkrante. Tracy had a coffee and I had a hobbit sized coke with no ice for far too much money.
It was now our plan started to unravel. On speaking to the tourist information we were told that yes indeed there was a two o’clock ferry, but not for another 15 days. Secondly, Judokrante is the most insect infested place on earth. Communication is by mmmming and head shaking. If you open your mouth in this town then you are eating a three course gourmet mosquito lunch for one. The only good news was the bus from Nida, 33km away to the south would carry our bikes back to the running ferry for €3 a pop. This we decided to do.
Just south of ‘Fly Town’ there is a massive colony of herons and cormorants nesting with the cormorants taking the tops of the trees with the herons on the side branches. It is really a site to behold with as many as 3,000 nests of cormorants and about 1,000 of grey herons. Unfortunately, the poop of the cormorants is particularly acid and it is killing the forest and so now the authorities are freezing their eggs to preserve the ancient woodlands. As a bit of info there were only 12 nests there in 1980 and by 2000 there were 5,000. The camera cannot capture what an awesome site this is.
The cycle way gets even better as you head south as weaves between coast and magnificent woodlands and we spotted some new birds including the beautiful Black Woodpecker.
The Cycle Path
The Coast. Here we saw a Marsh Harrier
We did manage to get a lost a couple of time and so instead of completing the 53Km distance with one crossing of the high ‘grey dunes’ in the centre as laid out on the route plan we cycled 58Km and crossed the high dunes 7 times before reaching Nida.
Nida is a holiday town with many restaurants, bars and tat shops. We did have a beer before our final task of the day; to climb to the top of The Parnidis Dune.
From the top of the dune you get the full panorama of coastline, forests and a view over this stunning place to Russia.
We had one last look around Nida before loading our bikes on board the bus and finishing our day with a warm beer back on the mainland. The Curonian Spit is beautiful and well worth a visit. However, the only way to see the place at its best is by bike. The road through the centre is dull and the campsite at Nida is not representative of the spit’s beauty. So stay on the mainland with your vehicle and go by bike and you will have a truly memorable day in a memorable place.
Love to All