The Curonian Spit

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

We woke early and packed our daypacks for a night on the Curonian Spit. We had organised to leave our big packs at the hostel, but when we were ready to leave the hostess was still fast asleep... Glenn had to wake her to drop our stuff off! Oops.

Our guidebooks had warned that getting accommodation in peak season was nearly impossible in Nida, the main tourist town on the Lithuanian side of the Curonian Spit (the southern side is owned by Russia).

We went to the information centre in Klaipeda to ask about accommodation before catching the ferry over there... but they didn't open until 10am! (Glenn had misread the guidebook that information was closed in Nida on a Sunday - in fact it was low season that it was closed, not high season... Oops again).

When they opened, we had a rather unhelpful guy that said that it would be impossible to get accommodation in Nida for this night... quite a dash to our hopes. We persisted and he finally relented saying that his colleague might be able to help, and yes, she was much more helpful and friendly. She found a place in Juodkrante, on the Curonian Spit about half way down to Nida and so we accepted.

So off we went to the ferry terminal (we now knew where it was!) but we had to wait for ages for a ferry to show up. The ferry did appear, coming down the narrow waters of the old port, and then did a wild turn on the river (only just wider than the ferry when it turned perpendicular to let off the passengers).

The trip over to the Spit was quite short, as it was only about 500m or so away. As it left the mainland, we travelled over what was known as the Curonian Lagoon, the calmer waters protected from the open sea, by the Spit itself. The ferry bobbed around as it was a windy day, but it was much smoother than being on the open sea.

Being a Sunday, there were a lot of people on the ferry, and we were worried that there would be no room on the buses down to Juodkrante and Nida. Luckily, not everyone headed towards the buses, but as we lined up at the only bus leaving soon, there were lots of people pushing and the queue went to 'mush'.

The bus was packed already and let alone getting a seat, we were pushed to even get on the bus! We were jam packed in the isle, barely past the bus driver, with a stack more people to get on still. The bus driver grabbed Christie's bag off her and shoved it in front of him to make more room for more people to jump on, and they did, filling it right up to the door. Everyone waiting managed to get on.

The people at the front, squashed right to the door, decided to lean on Christie the whole way, and every inch she moved they claimed it as their own. This wasn't much fun. We were glad that we were getting off at the first stop - Juodkrante, but this was still a half an hour ride.

Now off the bus, we were able to breathe again. Juodkrante is a small town, very quiet, but charming. We had a street name and number for our accommodation, but had to ask what street we were on to find it. It was the right street - the main street, and so we continued to walk down it to search. We found the right number - a cute house, and were about to knock on the door, when someone approached and asked if we were the ones that telephoned from information. Yes...

They then proceeded to lead us to the back of the property, to what looked like the barn, or a converted garage! Our room was still being made up. We raised an eyebrow... as the first "shed" contained tools, next door to our "self contained accommodation". We wondered what were we in for ... a little surprised, as it wasn't cheap.

Christie reassured Glenn, "Let's wait and see" and so we left Christie's bag with them and headed out to get some lunch. Not far from our place, we found a restaurant and had a great lunch. Ok, so it was not all bad. There was a great view out over the lagoon, and although a little windy, it was very peaceful and relaxing.

Checking on our accommodation, it was ready, and to our surprise - it was a delightful little converted cottage, decked out with a small kitchen, bathroom and dining area downstairs, with the bedroom upstairs in the attic. Although small, it was very cute and cosy and had a nice feel about it. It was charming!

We decided to keep walking down the street, and realising that we had almost walked out of the town limits, decided to catch a bus down to Nida to have a look. We were lucky, as a bus pulled up almost straight away, and we were off - another 30 min trip down to Nida, the southern most town on the Lithuanian owned part of the Spit.

Nida was much busier than Juodkrante, and it was windy and overcast. We went for a walk along the lagoon side, with many statues and beautiful parkland alongside the lagoon like a promenade. It was a nice walk - so relaxing. We felt a world away from our previous days, if not weeks of travel.

We called into the Information Centre (Yes, it was open Glenn!) and found out how to get to the sand dunes - the so called "Lithuanian Sahara". It was simply a walk to the dunes, and we climbed through the set path to get up high. There was a lot of conservation work in place to protect the dunes, and although nice, they were nothing like the grandeur of the Sahara. We could imagine some amazing photos here though, with the right timing and weather.

After playing on the dunes for a while and peering into the Russian side of the Curonian Spit, we walked back down through the forest. There was a very strong pine smell... mmmmm..., and it was beautiful.

We looked through some of the souveniers in town, impressed with the weather vanes that were historically typical of this area, although the prices weren't so impressive! We made a stop at the supermarket for some supplies for dinner and caught the bus back to Juodkrante.

We cooked ourselves a nice dinner (of course!) and unable to battle the eyelids any longer, we gave in and slept.

As the Curonian Spit is such a narrow strip of land, the following day we decided to walk across it from the Lagoon to the beach side. We set off, not knowing how to get there, but Christie was wise enough to follow some people who looked like they might be going to the beach.

We walked through some spectacularly beautiful pine forest, with amazing light and such a wonderful feeling - we were very happy.

Finally the long walk through the pine forest did come out at the beach (phew!), and although cold and windy, the beach was beautiful. Some brave souls were trying to get some sun, but the water was unsurprisingly empty. Brrrrr.

We wandered up and down the beach, enjoying the sea breeze, before making our way back through the pine forest.

After our beach walk, we decided to explore Juodkrante. We walked to an area known as "Witches Hill". It was basically a walk through the forest with many statues that had been carved from wood, by local artists. It was really quite fun. We had a great time being silly, and the walk through the forest was again beautiful.

However, we had to move on and head back to the mainland. We had such a wonderful time together on the Spit. It was a shame to leave it in a way - it was so beautiful and relaxing, even though the weather wasn't favourable for spending time at the beach.

So that afternoon we boarded the ferry back to Klaipeda...
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