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 was a little kinder – even the sun was out, if only briefly. As Lithuania’s main port, Klaipėda is also the gateway to the Curonian Spit.
The Ecolines Bus journey (2.5 hours) from Liepāja (Latvia) to Klaipėda stopped at Palanga, Lithuania’s very popular seaside resort town on the shore of the Baltic Sea, which is popular with both local and Russian tourists in the summer months. 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…
The Teutonic Order built the city of Klaipėda and its castle in around 1252. Walking around the Old Town is incredibly amazing and 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…
As it is February and winter, there’s still snow around and an iced sea in places, the harbour still has chunks of ice in the water; not as much activity on offer as in 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. The architecture is lovely and well maintained. Everywhere you gaze, there’s a piece of the past waiting to be experienced in your present.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find some amazing street art that cover sides of whole buildings – simply stunning! 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. 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! If you want really good photos of this gorgeous traditional sailing ship, then time your visit for during the week. For those that can afford a splurge, there’s a pricey restaurant inside the Meridianas. I’m sure the meals would be delicious and enjoyed in a 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 Lithuanian Maritime Academy requested Klaipėda sculptor Klaudijus Pudymas to create this bronze masterpiece.
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 every day, if you wish.
This 1-bedroom apartment is very swish, large, and included everything; even a full-sized kitchen and the BBC! Viloetta (owner) was lovely but does not speak English, so a tad tricky but not impossible. The apartment came with a washing machine but it was broken. You need a washing machine as haven’t found any Laundromats or drop-in washing places in the Baltics, so far, just the occasional Dry Cleaners.
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 not frequent.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by two countries, the Curonian Spit’s southern portion lies within Russia whilst the northern portion is within south-western Lithuania.
The Spit is a huge hit with tourists and locals in the summer as it offers everything from forests, dunes, beaches, and of course, the sea.
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; guess if they’re regular in the winter, 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. 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 would be much easier to get around than the 4 daily buses; you would definitely see much more.
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. There are huge sand dunes around this area but as it’s winter, not much is happening, only independent walking trails; even the harbour and part of the seafront are frozen!
Of course, there’s 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.
From the town centre, you can do a few of the signed walking treks independently, including walking up to the lighthouse. 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 the latter is just my imagination).
Tried to find the Russian border on the walk, but sadly, think it was 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.
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 the other local delectable dishes!
As in Estonia and Latvia, the bread here is superb. Not only is there a plethora of varieties but it 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.
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!
Only tried one place for dinner whilst in Klaipeda and it was in the Acropolis. The food and price were OK but if you’re on a budget and staying in an apartment, it’s much cheaper to cook for yourself, of course. 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 this coffee shop, which offers shakes, fresh juices, and snacks at reasonable prices. Returned here a few times after trying a couple of other coffee shops in town but not overly impressed by the quality and price.
Klaipeda to Kaunas
Unfortunately, had 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 leave on the hour but midday is a civilised time, don’t you think? As this journey is only a 3-hour trip, it’s very expensive, but the Baltics seem to be expensive for buses. However, all buses do run on time, are very good quality, mostly include wi-fi, and heating!