Lithuania’s Klaipėda and Curonian Spit

February, 2015

As Lithuania’s main port, Klaipėda is also the gateway to the gorgeous sliver known as the Curonian Spit.

Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, EuropeGetting there

The Ecolines Bus journey takes 2.5 hours from Liepāja (Latvia) to Klaipėda and stops at Palanga, Lithuania’s very popular seaside resort town on the shore of the Baltic Sea.

Apparently there are sandy beaches here, 18 kilometres long and stretching 300 metres wide.

A 100-year old famous wooden bridge still stands in Palanga: the Sea Bridge, which I would have liked to have seen but alas, next time…

Klaipėda

Situated at the mouth of the Danė River where it flows into the Baltic Sea and originally founded by Baltic tribes, Klaipėda’s winter weather is a little kinder than Liepāja – even the sun was out, if only briefly.

The Teutonic Order built the city of Klaipėda and its castle in around 1252.

Frozen harbour - Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Frozen canal

Strolling around the Old Town is incredibly striking. Knowing that time is this old in the surrounding buildings and alleyways, is hard to fathom, especially for an Australian – it’s awe-inspiring.

Bronze sculpture - Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Bronze sculpture – hooded fisherman emerging from the deep

Sights

As it is February and winter, there’s still snow around and iced sea in places.

The harbour still holds chunks of ice in the water and understandably, there isn’t as much activity on offer as during the warmer months. But, it’s still great to be here and enjoy the city – just need to layer up.

Old Town

Established around 1252 but much smaller than Estonia’s Old Town in Tallinn, it’s still delightful for taking photos and just meandering around the centuries’ old narrow cobble-stoned lanes.

Medieval architecture Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Medieval architecture – Old Town

The architecture is lovely and well maintained. Everywhere you gaze, there’s a piece of the past waiting to be experienced in your present.

Take in a coffee or two, some local delicacies, relax, and mingle with the locals; not that I ever blend in!

Sailing Vessel Meridianas

From the centre of Klaipėda, walk along the river Danė and near the bridge where the Meridianas is moored.

Built in 1948 in Finland, this ship is a popular photo shoot on weekends, especially for weddings.

Sailing vessel Meridianas Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
SV Meridianas

Saw a wedding photographer strapped to a harness, climb high up in the rigging to look down and take photos of the wedding party – all in the name of art!

Meridianas, Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Wedding photographer hanging in the rigging

If you want really good photos of this gorgeous traditional sailing ship, then time your visit during the week as it’s quieter.

For those that can afford a splurge, there’s a pricey restaurant inside the Meridianas. I’m sure the meals are delicious and enjoyed in perfect ambience.

Little Mermaid

Whilst you’re at the ship, walk back to the bridge (Tiltu g.) and at the bottom of the stairs, you’ll see a 140-kilograms bronze sculpture: The Little Mermaid, which is quite a fluid and beautiful sculpture.

The Little Mermaid - Klaipėda bronze sculpture, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
The Little Mermaid

The Lithuanian Maritime Academy requested Klaipėda sculptor Klaudijus Pudymas to create this bronze masterpiece.

Street Scenes

If you look hard enough, you’ll find some amazing street art that cover sides of whole buildings – simply stunning!

Public art: Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Fabulous street art
Treelined street: Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Treelined street
sculpture, Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Full view of hooded fisherman bronze sculpture

Where to sleep

Klaipėda Centras (Sausio 15-osios g.6A-8, LT-91236) – as with Estonia and Latvia, apartments are the way to go for price and facilities as you can keep costs down by cooking meals in-house.

This 1-bedroom apartment is very swish, spacious, and includes everything – even a full-sized kitchen and the BBC!

Viloetta (owner) is lovely but does not speak English, so a tad tricky but not impossible.

The apartment comes with a washing machine but broken on our visit. You do need a washing machine as haven’t found any Laundromats or drop-in washing places in the Baltics yet, just the occasional Dry Cleaners.

Food around Klaipėda

Seasonality, quantity, and compatibility are the principle of traditional Lithuanian cuisine.

Lithuanians have maintained the habit of eating dishes made from local and ingredients that are in season, which really says it all.

Beetroot, smoked fish, sausage, cheese, potato dumplings, colds meats, and accompanying sauces make for a delicious dining experience, regardless of whether you are dining at a restaurant or buying from a grocery store. Then there are all of the other local delectable dishes!

As in Estonia and Latvia, the bread here is superb. Not only is there a plethora but bread is cheap and the black Rye bread is very moorish.

Acropolis Shopping Mall

Be sure to visit the Acropolis chain whilst in Lithuania, especially the Super Maxima supermarkets – they’re huge and have so many delicacies at really cheap prices, you won’t know where to start or what to buy first…salivated the whole time I was there!

Many Maxima stores (X, XX, or XXX – denotes size of store) have live fish swimming in tanks, if you want your dinner really fresh.

Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Live fish tank in the Acropolis supermarket

I can’t believe how cheap food and produce is throughout the Baltics and it isn’t any different in Lithuania, so far.

The Acropolis also contains a full-sized ice rink surrounded by restaurants and an eatery. Watch local teams practising ice hockey, there’s even kids around 3 years old learning the ropes – it’s excellent and all for free.

Acropolis supermarket indoor ice rink Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Acropolis supermarket – indoor ice rink

Only tried one place for dinner whilst in Klaipeda and it was in the Acropolis. The food and price were okay, but if you’re on a budget and staying in an apartment, it’s much cheaper to cook for yourself.

As an example, 2 dinner plates (fish or chicken with chips or mash potatoes), no drinks, plus a small salad plate cost €12 at the Acropolis restaurant. In comparison to our shopping bill for 3 days only cost €15, which included 3 nights dinners (Bolognese with mince, vegetables, and a bottle of wine), 4 breakfasts (Muesli, fresh fruit, milk), chocolate, bread, and a litre of orange juice.

Max Coffee Shop

Enjoy a good coffee at Max’s, which offers shakes, fresh juices, and snacks at reasonable prices.

Returned a few times after trying a couple of other coffee shops in town, but not overly impressed with the quality and price.


Day Trip to the Curonian Spit / Kursiu Nerija National Park

Visit the Curonian Spit as a day trip from Klaipėda using public transport or why not stay a few days?

It’s especially handy if you have your own transport during your stay at the Spit as buses are infrequent.

This UNESCO World Heritage site shared by two countries, the Curonian Spit’s southern portion lies in Russia whilst the northern portion is in south-western Lithuania.

The Spit is a huge hit with tourists and locals in the summer as it offers everything from forests walks, dunes, beaches, and of course, the sea.

Curonian Spit, Kursiu Nerija National Park, Lithuania, Baltic States, EuropeGetting there

Take the 10-minute ferry trip (€0.80 return) at 09:00hrs from the Old Terminal.

The winter timetable is from 1st January 2015 to 30th April 2015, so not sure what times the ferry goes outside of these months. If ferries are regular in the winter, then the service would be even more frequent in the summer.

A bus (€3.48) waits at Smiltynė, which is close to the ferry stop and leaves for Nida at 09:15hrs and takes an hour for the 50-kilometre trip.

This bus runs on a winter time table from the 4th November to 30th April.

You can stop at Juodkrantė, which is about half-way down the spit before Nida (cost is €1.49).

The sliver of countryside – a 98-kilometre long, thin, curved, sand-dune – separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast.

Curonian Spit, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Walking trails

This is exactly what you see but also a forest of pine trees whilst heading south to Nida.

To do this Spit justice, you really need to stay longer than one day, preferably in the summer, and have a car, as it’s much easier to get around, than the 4 daily buses.

Nida

Nida isn’t a big town but has more of a village atmosphere with very pretty traditional buildings, some still with thatched roofs.

The town is very peaceful and the air seems fresher than the main land – if that’s possible.

Huge sand dunes around this area are popular in the summer, but as it’s winter, not much is happening, only independent walking trails – even the harbour and part of the seafront are frozen.

Nida thatched house Curonian Spit, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Nida – traditional thatched house

Of course, there’s even the obligatory Maxima X (small outlet) for anything you need, including pastries, whilst you’re visiting this town.

Take a break from the cold for a while at the café down from the Maxima for warmth, great service, coffees, and food at good prices. The pancakes are delicious.

Sights

From the town centre, you can do a few of the signed walking treks independently, including walking up to the lighthouse.

Nida, Curonian Spit, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Walking trail sign

Apparently you can see moose here but sadly, they seemed to be elusive this time on the walk through the woods.

It’s very peaceful on the Spit and the air smells fresher – not sure if this is just my imagination.

Tried to find the Russian border on the walk, but sadly, think it is a lot further than our walking trails, and bitterly cold also, so gave up after a few hours.

The wind coming off the Baltic Sea seems to penetrate and seep into your bones.


Public art Klaipėda, Lithuania, Baltic States, Europe
Stunning street art on one side of a 2-storey building

 

Leaving Klaipėda

Unfortunately, have to leave our lovely apartment today, could of stayed much longer but need to be mindful of time, which I hate doing when travelling.

Caught a cab (€3) from our apartment to the Autobusu Stotsi (bus station), where the bus (€14.34) to Kaunas leaves at 12:50hrs. Buses typically leave on the hour, but midday is a civilised time.

As this journey is only a 3-hour trip, it’s very expensive, but the Baltics seem to be expensive for buses. Positive is that all buses do run on time, are very good quality, and mostly include wi-fi and heating.

Visit my Nilla’s Photography Baltic States for more images. More posts on Lithuania at Image Earth Travel.

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