Nida

A spit in the ocean

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Nida sits half-way down the Curonian Spit, a 98 kilometre-long, Unesco-protected slither of banana-shaped sand stretching from Kaliningrad’s Sambian Peninsula in the south all the way to, but not quite touching, Klaipėda. Separating the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea, the spit covers an area of 180 square kilometres and is home to some of the highest drifting sand dunes in Europe, which at times can reach up to 60m. The Lithuanian part of the spit covers about half its total length and includes the settlements of Alksnynė, Smiltynė, Juodkrantė, Nida, Pervalka and Preila, of which the latter four make up the municipality of Neringa, the smallest municipality in Lithuania and the only one named after a figure from ancient mythology and not an actual town. If you’re travelling to Nida from Klaipėda or are thinking about seeing more than just Nida when visiting, there are a number of recommended things to see and do whilst in the area. Heading south soon after disembarking from the ferry, keep an eye out to the left of the road for the 1967 monument to fallen Red Army soldiers who lost their lives here during the early days of the East Prussian Offensive in January 1945. The tiny village of Preila on the eastern shore of the Curonian Spit is unremarkable with perhaps the exception of a small ethnographic cemetery where the village’s last true Curonians lay at rest. The well-tended graves, some of them wooden and dating back well over a century, offer an insight into the former multi-ethnic makeup of the area. Both Nida and Juodkrantė lie inside the Curonian Spit National Park, set up in 1991 to protect the flora and fauna of the region. About a quarter of the park is forested, there are some 960 plant species, just under 40 mammals including elk, wild boar, otters and badgers, 200 kinds of bird, eight amphibians, over 460 types of butterfly and countless bugs and beetles. Among the 40 or so types of fish living on either side of the spit are bream, eel, cod, Baltic herring and plaice. Meat-eaters should try some of the smoked fish specialities found for sale almost everywhere, whilst those who prefer to see wildlife in its natural habitat should take advantage of the manifold opportunities to view it in the area. With a bracing coastline and an inland body of water that’s known to freeze over during the winter, the Curonian Spit is a unique feature of Lithuania that deserves much more than a quick day trip from Klaipėda.
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