Coastal Klaipeda

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Klaipeda Travellers Guesthouse

Flag of Lithuania  ,
Saturday, April 10, 2010

On the coast of Lithuania, Klaipeda was our first glimpse of the Baltic Sea. Which is not strictly true, as the view from Klaipeda is of the Curonian lagoon, as we are right next to the Curonian Spit, the extremely long narrow piece of land that joins Lithuania to Kaliningrad (the funny bit of Russia stuck out on its own).
We took the ferry over to the Curonian spit for views of pine forests, and our first real view of the Baltic sea, with beautiful long stretches of white sand beach.  Just in case you were thinking it might be a nice spot to swim, parts of the Baltic sea freeze over in winter... even now, being April, we're guessing that the water temperature is probably 6 degrees (google informs me its actually 3 degrees), Bevan was looking for the floating ice chunks.

On the Curonian spit is a maritime museum, with impressive exhibits on the ship building and shipwreck history of Klaipeda as well as an interactive computer exhibit that lets you steer a ship into Klaipeda port (or Klaipeda rocks, depending) - its harder than you might think, much to the amusement of the museum attendant who watched us crash and burn repeatedly. The same museum also houses an aquarium with a surprising assortment of sea lions, penguins and fish - from beluga and sturgeon (hello Russia) to coral, angelfish and tangs (are we at the barrier reef now?).
Next door is the dolphinarium, which we visited with much trepidation and were greatly surprised to find an extremely well performed dolphin and sea lion show. I have to say, performing dolphins were the last thing we expected to find in Lithuania!

The quiet forests of the Curonian spit are beautiful. Our plan was to hire bikes in Nida (the southern end of the Lithuanian spit) and ride the 50km back to the Northern end of the spit. Sadly all the bike hire places were closed - we asked at the tourist office and were told 'oh, thats strange, they were all open last week'. Hmm, helpful. So we took the bus instead, soft, I know. We stopped off about halfway at the 'Witches Hill' (Raganu Kalnas), an eerie deserted ridge of pine forest, populated with immense wooden statues, mostly featuring the devil... I sense a recurring theme here! Lithuania was one of the last European countries to convert from Pagan religions to Christian, and the devil seems to be a cheeky sprite from Pagan days.

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