Klaipeda and the Curonian Spit

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Klaipeda to Nida, Lithuania

We went out for an early morning exploration before breakfast.

Klaipeda was controlled by successive German states until the Treaty of Versailles on 1919. Its Germanic heritage is immediately apparent in the buildings, squares and town layout. The old town has survived (or recovered from) the privations of the 20th century. So too have many cobblestone streets which shook us awake.

The Soviet Boroughs looked shabby but not as bleak as we expected. They stretch for kilometres in repetitive blocks south of the centre. We visited the brutalist St Joseph’s Catholic Church. Finished in the 1990s, it is a massive concrete structure that resembles an ugly power station. Perhaps the architects were unable to throw off the Soviet yoke. Sunday Mass was underway so we discreetly peeked inside and went on our way. Under a leaden sky, St Joseph’s was scowling across the road at a more conventional Orthodox Church.

After dodging some heavy rain showers by taking refuge in bus shelters, we sped back to the hotel for breakfast.

We took the pedestrian/cyclist ferry across the lagoon and headed south on pleasant bike paths along the Curonian Spit towards Russia. This slender, sandy, forested peninsula stretches for 100km separating the huge Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. It is a popular holiday destination but the high season is over now and the crowds have thinned.

On the way we were befriended by a young Lithuanian cyclist, Marius, aged 17 from Kaunas, who rode with us for awhile. He was curious about us and said that old people (ha ha) in Lithuania don’t do sports like we were doing. He is in year 11 at gumnasium and plans to study IT at university. He told us that he broke both his legs in a skiing accident in Norway a few years ago and that since his recovery he has taken up cycling and is now a serious road rider. We formed a peloton for awhile with Marius ‘making a tunnel in the air’, as he described it, but eventually we released him from this responsibility and he soon vanished ahead of us.

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About 20km north of Nida we took a break from the bikes and a board-walk to the top of a high but eroding dune for a spectacular view of the lagoon, spit and Baltic Sea.

We are staying in Nida on the shores of the lagoon just shy of the Russian border. This is place is popular with local tourists. The houses are well designed and maintained and brightly painted in a blue, white and Swedish red colour scheme. There are few cars driving around the village which is thronging with pedestrians and cyclists.

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