A pearl of the Baltics, an adornment of the seacoast, the native land of Neringa‘s fairy tales – these are the words repeated ferquently by the people who were affected by the charm of the Curonian Spit. Our spit changes its facing annually. It always has an original beauty: in spring and summer, blushing the leaves of the sand plains‘ forests in autumn, or spreading a friable snow cover in winter. The most typical and impressive element of the spit‘s nature is the dunes. However, the value of uniqueness of the Curonian Spit hides not in separate components of its nature, but in unrepeatable combination, coexistence and interaction of those components. The Curonian Spit is the reachest humans‘ and nature‘s laboratory of natural research of interaction of ecological coast processes, and an original museum of life nature. Only here you can observe and integrally investigate ecological processes of the coast and their particularities. The dunes of the Curonian Spit is an excellent laboratory for analysis of not only formation and dynamics of the dunes, but also of spontaneous grassing of the dunes, and formation and development of new plant communities of the dunes.
According to: V.Gudelis “Lithuanian gulfs and coast”
The Curonian Spit is a narrow peninsula with sand dunes, separating the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. This territory was formerly called Kopos, Randavos, Pajūriai, and in Žemaitija it was mostly known as Užmaris. This is a fragile nature, which requests a considerable and constant attention.
The northern and largest part of the Curonian Spit belongs to the Republic of Lithuania (the northern part is Klaipėda town (0.8 thousand ha), and the rest (about 25.6 thousand ha) is Neringa Municipality). The other part, which includes Pilkopa (Morskaya), Rasytė (Ribachi), Šarkuva (Lesnaya) and some other smaller settlements, belongs to the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation. In the south (near Zelenogradsk) the Curonian Spit joins the Sembà peninsula.
• The area of Curonian Spit - 180 km2,
• The length of Curonian Spit length - 98 km, Lithuanian part - 52 km.
• Beach width - 10-50 m.
• The widest point is at the Bulvikis horn (4 km northeast of Nida) - 3.8 km.
• The narrowest place is at Šarkuva settlement, in the area of Königsberg - 380 m.
• Forests cover 6852 ha (70% of land).
In 1961 the settlements of the Lithuanian part of the Curonian Spit - Alksnynė, Juodkrantė, Pervalka, Preila, and Nida - were connected to the city of Neringa. Currently, about 2.6 thousand residents live in Neringa.
Blazon of Neringa
Blazon shield of Neringa town is divided into 6 black and silver (white) sections. Rectangular sections symbolize Nida‘s, triangulars symbolize Preila‘s, rhombus symbolizes Nida‘s Purvynės, silver section symbolizes Karvaičiai and other sandbound villages‘, the cross symbolizes Juodkrantė‘s, and rectangular symbolizes Pervalka village‘s historical weathervanes of fishermen‘s traditional boats (kurėnas boat). Blue-colored pedestal of the blazon shield reads silver letter „N“, which symbolizes Neringa town. The town‘s blazon was created in 1967 - 1968 by the artist Arūnas Tarabilda. It portrayed the weathervanes of the kurėnas boat of the Curonian Spit fishermen villages. These weathervanes were introduced in the middle of the 19th century by Rusnė Lagoon Fishery Inspectorate.
Kuršių nerija (Curonian Spit) National Park
Curonian Spit - 97 km strip of land between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon, which was formed more than 5000 years ago by sea waves and currents, sand and wind. For centuries the struggle between the sea, sand, wind and forest was very changeable, severely barring the people who lived there, but precisely the confrontation between the sand and vegetation that had been torn, eventually formed the present Curonian Spit. In 1991 The Curonian Spit National Park was founded here. The exceptional landscape of the Curonian Spit is the sloping sand dunes. The flora of the Curonian Spit National Park consists of about 900 species of plants (of which 31 is recorded in the Lithuanian Red Data Book), there are about 40 species of mammals and even about 300 species of birds (the White-Baltic Sea Migratory Path passes through the Curonian Spit). It is a permanent habitat for woodpeckers, thrushes, skylarks, flycatchers. Undoubtedly, the most impressive bird species are gray herons, sea eagles and great cormorants.
Curonian Spit is in the UNESCO List
By the end of 2000, the Curonian Spit territory was included in UNESCO World Heritage list as a cultural landscape object. This recognition is the best evaluation of cultural inheritance, nature protection, and infrastructure improvement works being done on the territory of the Curonian Spit. Now, the Curonian Spit compares in terms of its value to such national parks on the UNESCO list as Iguazu National Park (Argentina), Kakadu (Australia), Kaziranga (India), Tongariro (New Zealand), and so forth.
Blue Flag Beaches
Neringa‘s Municipality was the first one in Lithuania to start participating in the Blue Flag program, and already in 2002 Nida‘s beach was awarded with the Blue Flag. In 2004, Juodkrante‘s beach was awarded with the Blue Flag as well.
Clean water of bathing-places, qualified lifeguards and medical personnel working on the beaches, the beaches are cleaned and ordered on the daily basis, restrooms and special tracks that are adjusted for disabled people, fountains of drinking water – these are the main features of the Blue Flag. You will find all of this on the Blue Flag beaches of Neringa‘s Municipality!
The Prie-History of the Region
The origin of the Curonian Spit (neria curoniensis) name is linked to the Curonians – a tribe of Western Balts, who lived at the nowadays Latvian seaside, with their settlements spreading as far as to the south, reaching Klaipeda neighborhood. As early as in the Stone Age, human beings found there a land that was suitable for living (4,000 BC). Approximately, at that time, Semba peninsula let amber layer loose under the plough. Thus, since those times, the wonderful mineral became a vital aspect of the Curonian Spit inhabitants’ household and decoration.
From XIII Century to the Post-War Times
A more specific image of the Curonian Spit’s development can be formed only from XVIII century, when the Germanic Order conquered this territory and started to record events related to the adaptation of the Spit – strategically significant territory – in historical sources. For that reason, the Germanic Order built several castles at the Curonian Spit, of which the most important was the Rasyte castle (Rossitten, currently Rybachy settlement), mentioned for the first time in 1372. It stood there till the end of XV century. By that time, the Curonian Spit was a focal intermediate traffic link between Marienburg (currently Malbork) and Riga. Hostelries were founded there to secure the traffic function, which thus conditioned establishment of settlements. The following names of places were mentioned during the times of the Curonian Spit subjection to the Germanic Order till the beginning of XVI century – Sarkuva (Sarkau), Kuncai (Kunzen), Rasyte (Rossitten), Pilkopa (Pillkopen), Nida (Nidden), Karvaiciai (Karwaiten), Nagliai (Negeln), Juodkrante (Schwarzort), and Smiltyne (Sandkrug).
The beginning of XVI century was the time of the significant changes: the state of the Order fell into decay, in place of which the secular Duchy of Prussia emerged with the Curonian Spit as its integral part. The Reformation brought respect for the vernacular language, i.e. from those times to the middle of XX mentury, Lithuanian language was heard in the churches. A firmly established Lutheranism and harsh subsistence shaped spiritual world of the Curonian Spit inhabitants, their moral principles in assessing truth, hard work, and order. Besides, at the intersection of XV and XVI centuries, the Curonians, who spoke Latvian and distinctly represented an ethnic originality of the Spit up till the World War II, settled at the Curonian Spit. Those fishermen had been cutting the waters of the Curonian Lagoon on thekurenas – sailing boats of especial construction, the masts of which were adorned with weathercocks. Woesome existence lead the Curonians to master hunting crows and consume them as food, as well as determined the ascetic habitation and dress code of the Curonians.
Nida as a summer resort fancied by famous people
By the end of XIX century, German expressionists (Max Pechstein, Lovis Corinth, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Mollenhauer and others) started to place Nida on the map by spending their summers there. They had established Nida Artists’ Colony with its “quarters” in the “Hermann Blode” hotel, which was one of the oldest Nida hotels and was built in 1867. During the semicentenary heyday of the artists’ community, “Hermann Blode” Hotel was visited not only by many great artists, but also by litterateurs Hermann Sudermann, Ernst Wiechert, Agnes Miegel, Fritz Kudnig, psychotherapist Sigmund Freud, and others. A Nobel prize winner, writer Thomas Mann was one of the respectable hotel’s guests, who had visited Nida for the first time in August 24, 1929 and had spent several memorable days in the “Hermann Blode” Hotel. Fascinated by the Curonian Spit landscape and Nida fishermen’s village aura, he decided to build a summerhouse in Nida, where he spent three summers (1930 – 1932) and wrote part of the trilogy “Joseph and His Brothers”.
Geographical and Political Situation After 1923
In 1923, for the first time in 700 years, the Curonian Spit was intersected by the state border: a section from Nida to Smiltyne became a part of autonomic Klaipeda region of the Republic of Lithuania. It did not yield significant changes in the life of the Curonian Spit inhabitants, although, some of them became German citizens and others – Lithuanian citizens. Resort business kept on flourishing in Nida, attracting up to 10 thousand holidaymakers per season. In 1939, that part of the Curonian Spit, which belonged to Lithuania, along with the Klaipeda region, were annexed to Germany again. However, that event and even the commencing World War II did not unhinge the accustomed resort life too much. However, the summer of 1944 became fateful for the Curonian Spit: With battle line drawing closer, all of the local inhabitants had to leave for the depth of Germany, and majority of them did not come back. Suddenly, the age-old cultural tradition of the Curonian Spit, in which German, Curonian, and Lithuanian languages and heritages were intertwined, had ruptured. After 700 years, the wheel of history had ended up drawing one trajectory and started to roll a completely different track, enriching new experience with historical memory.
From the Postwar Times to Nowadays
In the summer of 1944, with the front line drawing closer, majority of inhabitants fled to Germany. Till the beginning of 1945, practically all of the local residents, most of whom came from Central Russia, had left, and civilians started to inhabit the Curonian Spit,. The Curonian Spit of the postwar times represented ill communication with the mainland, bad roads or absence of the latter, wasted and ravished the land. For newcomers, the Curonian Spit was an alien land for a long time. Nida, Preila, and Juodkrante’s neighbourhoods functioned prior to the foundation of the town. On November 15, 1961, the LSSR Supreme Council issued a decree “Regarding Nida, Preila, and Juodkrante’s Summerhouses Liquidation and Neringa Town Foundation, Subordinate to the Republic”. The concerns of the first town head were to provide Neringa with electricity, telephone communication lines, as well as to reconstruct the road Nida - Smiltyne. At that same time, the foundation for the development of Neringa as a resort was laid. Special attention was paid to the border regime and establishment of a life-saving station.
In 1966, the status of a unique landscape reservation came into effect, which practically equals the status of the national park.
In 1970, a secondary school started to function.
In 1973, a music school was built.
In 1972, a canteen and a trading center was built in Juodkrante. A gym and a wing of the Nida secondary school was built.
In 1976, State Forest Park was established.
In 1979, Neringa town complex children-youth sports school SSD “Zalgiris” was opened in Nida. Even prior to the establishment of the sports school, Nida yachtsmen were well-known in Lithuania and former USSR.
In 1988, the churches of Nida and Juodkrante were returned to Evangelical-Lutheran parishes.
In September 1988, “Sajudis” was formed in Neringa.
In 1991, the National Park of the Curonian Spit was established, according to the LR Supreme Council resolution. In July, yachting final competition among Lithuanians of the World took place in Neringa.
In 2001, the biggest infrastructure object in Lithuania was yielded – Juodkrante quay.
Legend about Neringa
On the western coast of Lithuania, where the sun plunges into the waves of the Baltic Sea, where the Nemunas spills its waters into the Curonian lagoon, on a tall hill once stood the mighty castle of Ventė. An amazing giant daughter was born to its rulers, and they named her Neringa. She grew, and grew so quickly, that at nine months of age, she was as tall as an adult, and her flaxen plaits reached the ground. She was beautiful, good, and courageous. She always willingly helped everyone. When the foaming sea threatened to overturn a fishing beat, she boldly waded through the waves, and carried the boat to safety on shore. Tales of Neringa’s beauty, her good heart and fine mind, spread far and wide.
One day a great storm arose from the west. The sea carried sand onto the shore, piling up large hills, and the strong winds tore them down. The waters of Nemunas and the sea threatened to overtake the land. Ventė, which guarded the mouth of the Nemunas, was in deadly peril. Neringa, thinking quickly, immediately began to build an embankment around castle. She filled her apron with sand from the sea bottom, and carried it towards the land near Ventė, then emptied it. Again and again, despite the raging wind, Neringa carried the sand, and built a long rampart, saving the castle.
As she carried the last apron full of sand, the ties on the apron broke, and veritable hill of sand fell into the waters near shore. In that place, the lagoon is shallow, not more than one meter deep.
And that is how the Neringa peninsula (“Curonian spit”) was made.