The Curonian Spit is a narrow peninsula with sand dunes that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. This area was formerly called Dunes, Randavas, Pajūris, Užmaris. The nature of the Curonian Spit is very fragile, requiring 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 the Curonian Spit – 180 km²;
- Length of the Curonian Spit – 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 Russian Federation Kaliningrad region – 380 m;
- Forests cover 6852 ha (70% of land).
In 1961 the settlements of the Lithuanian part of the Curonian Spit – Nida, Juodkrantė, Pervalka, Preila, and Alksnynė farmstead – were connected to the town of Neringa.
Currently, about 2.6 thousand residents live permanently in Neringa.
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 grey 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 white sand beaches are also internationally recognized. Since 2002 (primarily the beaches of Nida) the beaches of Neringa have been awarded the Blue Flag, this award recognizes that the beach meets high standards of environmental protection and service quality.
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!
Blazon of Neringa
The town’s blazon was created in 1967–1968 by the artist Arūnas Tarabilda. It portrays the historical weathervanes of the Curonian Spit fishermen’s traditional boats (kurėnas boat). These weathervanes were introduced in the middle of the 19th century by Rusnė Lagoon Fishery Inspectorate.
Blazon shield of Neringa town is divided into 6 black and silver (white) sections. Rectangular section symbolizes Nida village weathervanes, triangular section symbolizes Preila village weathervanes, rhombus symbolizes Nida Purvynė village weathervanes, silver section symbolizes Karvaičiai and other sand bound villages weathervanes, the cross symbolizes Juodkrantė village weathervanes, and rectangular section symbolizes Pervalka village. Blue-coloured pedestal of the blazon shield reads silver letter „N“, which symbolizes Neringa town.
Prehistory of the country
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 XIII 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”.
Resort business, which flourished in the Curonian Spit in the 20th century, became an economic alternative to traditional fishing. In addition, the growth of the resorts has led to architectural innovations: small, often brick villas, large hotels with respect for the local ethnic tradition have grown alongside the old fishermen's houses, which were decorated with rooftops and dominated by blue. („Curonian Yard “– „Kurischer Hof“, „Curonian Elk“ – „Kurischer Elch“)
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 1970, a secondary school started to function.
In 1973, a music school was built.
In 1976, State Forest Park was established.
In 1991, the National Park of the Curonian Spit was established, according to the LR Supreme Council resolution.
Origin of Neringa’s name
As the legend tells, long time ago when the Curonian Spit has not yet existed a girl was born and her parents named her Neringa. She grew up into a giant and used to help people, especially fishermen, in all kind of ways. Once people asked Neringa to protect them from the furious waves of the sea. Neringa began to scoop sand into her apron and pour it between the islands creating an embankment which separates the sea from the peaceful bay. Grateful to her, people named the embankment after the giant – Neringa.
Learn more about Settlements.