Due to its organic nature, amber is absolutely unique amongst all precious and semi-precious stones, while the Baltic succinate has always been a highly sought-after and popular product that even in ancient times promoted the lands of our ancestors. Due to its warm shades and […]
In our previous videos, we have offered you three bike routes on the Lithuanian seacoast, and today we offer you to take a turn around Juodkrantė. It will be a mild 15-km hike, so you can both take a ride on a bike or walk. You will be free to choose the most convenient station for you and the direction you want to move.
The Amber Bay is the place to which the Curonian Spit owes its becoming an attractive resort destination. It was in this place where a huge amber „vein“ was found and therefore Stantien & Becker decided to move its office to Juodkrantė. The company has created many new jobs and contributed significantly to the development of the infrastructure of the town, which had previously been the main shortcoming of the peninsula in the tourists‘ eyes. In the course of digging amber, the amber treasure of Juodkrantė was discovered and collected here. We have already written about it recently.
In the northern part of Juodkrantė, near the bus stop, there is the Vila Flora Hotel-Restaurant, which is located in a restored farmhouse of the 19th-century villa with the same name. The original villa has also been given the second life with private funds – this cottage was formerly pictured on postcards illustrating the Curonian Spit and was a promotional face for Juodkrantė. Nearby, you will find the only fully preserved villa Monbijou. Now it houses the municipality administration of Juodkrantė. The two villas witnessed the town‘s prosperity. They were a part of a large villa quarter which has been established after the deposit of amber was found. Read more about the prosperity of Juodkrantė and villas here.
The highest dune of Juodkrantė has long been entrenched in legends about devils and witches holding feasts out there. The town‘s landowner Jonas Stanius decided to revive these stories and in 1979 organised the first creative camp during which artists from all over Lithuania created 25 sculptures, and today the number of sculptures is approaching a hundred. The nature divided the Witches Hill into two parts: the bright and the dark. In the bright part of the hill, the wide trail will lead you through the sculptures of the characters from the famous fairy tales, and at the top of the hill, the road is narrowing down and going dark. The true devilry begins then: dragons, Lucifer, witches and devils. On the way out of the park, the sculpture of the rooster crowing tells us that the ghosts disperse in here and all the magic ends.
However, if you have decided to ride a bike, consider the challenges of a particularly hilly area. You can also leave your bike at the foot of the Witches Hill and walk until you finish visiting the sculpture park to continue your bike trip.
Fourth stop – an egg-laying burrow for grey herons and great cormorants in Juodkrantė
A couple of kilometres outside Juodkrantė, there is the Garniai Hill, accommodating the largest birds brooding place in Lithuania. Here grey herons and great cormorants, which are being highly controversial, make their nests. Although cormorants are widely believed to be an invasive species that destroys forests and endangers fishermen for the staggering number of fish caught, scientists stick to the opinion that these two species are locally inhabited in the Curonian Spit and have bred here since before the seventeenth century.
Cormorants are referred to as the forest killers, because their excrements dry the pine, but if the latter perish, the soil acidity will decrease and the deciduous trees, such as oaks, will spread in the area. The cormorants mostly eat other fish than fishermen seek for. Besides birds can catch only weaker animals, thus leaving more space for healthy fish to feed on and grow. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, they do not pose a threat to fish stock in the Curonian Spit. In addition, they live on invasive fish like goby and are the only ones that regulate their prevalence. Some are joking that people dislike cormorants because they are very unattractive compared to herons. In any case, the population of these birds is regulated, and their brooding place, where thousands of cormorants and hundreds of herons make their nests, is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena not only in the Curonian Spit, but also throughout Lithuania, so it is definitely worth visiting it. The best time is early morning before the birds leave their nests or at sunset, when the birds return to their nests.
Leaving the dwelling place of herons and cormorants and moving away from Juodkrantė, on the right side you will see Avikalnis, which offers a wonderful view of the cape of Avikalnis horn. Shortly thereafter, there will be a road to the right, leading to the bicycle path along the sea. If you walk on foot, you will probably pull your shoes off and plunge into the sand or refreshing waves of the Baltic Sea. There is a chance you will find amber if a storm has recently hit the seashore. If it is hot and you want to freshen up, bear in mind that Juodkrantė’s central beach is marked with a blue flag, which means it is one of the world’s cleanest beaches.
On the days when the weather does not allow you to bathe in the sea or spend actively your leisure time, we invite you to take a walk around amber Palanga. There are many objects worth your attention: from exclusive exhibits to articles telling interesting […]
The 20th anniversary festival of the Days of Old Crafts in Nida will surprise you with its variety of activities
As every year, this August Nida invites all lovers of history, traditions and Baltic culture, and those holidaymakers who just want to have a good time to the Days of Old Crafts. This year the twentieth anniversary festival of live archaeology will be held, offering […]
We have offered two cycling routes for holidaymakers in Palanga: to the north and to the south of the resort. Now we would like to present a route for holidaymakers in the Curonian Spit. This route of about 40 kilometres begins in Nida and extends to the Grey Dunes.
The First Stop – Nida, Five Hills Settlement
After cycling for about 1.5 km south-westward from Nida along the Smiltynė-Nida highway, you will find a forest clearing leading to the Gliders’ Dune. Turn into the forest and you will reach a Stone Age settlement, which we have written in detail about in a separate article. In brief, it is the largest territory of the Curonian Spit that was inhabited for the longest time, covering more than 4.5 square kilometres. Because of its relative distance from Nida, the Five Hills Settlement unduly receives too little attention from Lithuanian holidaymakers, so we invite you to discover and appreciate this historic heritage.
Walk through the Five Hills Settlement, cycle back to Nida and ride along Pamario Street, where you can stop for a short visit to the Curonian Spit Museum of History – many of the archaeological finds from the Stone Age settlement you have just visited are exhibited here.
The Second Stop – Vecekrug Dune
Instead of leaving Nida by the highway, cycle towards Preila along Purvynės Street, which runs by the lagoon. Upon travelling for about 6 km through the forest, very close to Preila you will see a huge forest clearing revealing a view of the Vecekrug (or Old Tavern) Dune. Its name comes from the Curonian words “vece” (old) and “kruogs” (tavern), as once there was a tavern standing at the foot of the dune. You won’t find a tavern here now, but you can rest and admire the view while sitting on the benches placed at the bottom of the dune. It’s definitely worthwhile to leave your bike at the bottom and to climb to the top of the dune, as it is the highest in Neringa – its height reaches 67.2 metres and 360-degree views of the spit can be enjoyed from the top: you will see the Nida and Preila forests, the lagoon and the sea.
The Third Stop – Karvaičiai
Less than in 2 km from Preila you will reach the place where the village of Karvaičiai was once located. This Curonian Spit village was mentioned in historical sources as early as in 1509, but today it would be difficult to believe that the area was ever inhabited. Liudvikas Rėza (Ludwig Rhesa), a Lithuanian folklore researcher, was born in Karvaičiai and lived here for some time. It is said that Karvaičiai fishermen sat in his living room once a week and discussed how to fight the moving sand. Unfortunately, they failed to find the solution: moving dunes buried the houses one by one, and the inhabitants constantly retreated from the sand until finally even the church was buried. In 1797 the last inhabitants of the village left, and Karvaičiai was drowned in the sand forever. Today, on the Skripstas Dune near Pervalka, an oak monument stands with the lines from Rėza’s poem “The Drowned Village” carved into it.
The Fourth Stop – Grey Dunes
After visiting Karvačiai, continue cycling until you reach the Grey Dunes, although perhaps the name the “Dead Dunes,” which is more popular, fit them better because entire villages have been buried under the sand. Old Nagliai Village disappeared under the Agila Dune. When sand buried the village, people moved to New Nagliai Village established not far away, where a large number of Karvaičai residents also settled, but the dunes drifted over this village too. Eventually, all the people who lived in this territory surrendered to the force of nature and moved to Preiļa, Pervalka and Juodkrantė, and only an impressive, still gently shifting sea of sand remains here.
Back to Nida
Turn back to Nida from the dunes. On your way back, stop in Pervalka at the Horse Horn Lighthouse, which stands in the water, or look around the area from any of the bird watching towers – you will see several of them on the way. And we will soon suggest a cycling route in the Juodkrantė area.
We recently introduced the first cycling route in the Palanga. First we suggested to go north, but now we are changing direction. The first route is more cultural-religious, but heading towards Klaipėda. This time we will pay more attention to nature because the road will […]
Many holidaymakers like to ride their own or rented bicycles on the cycling paths along the sea during the warm season. If you also like this type of leisure activity, we suggest taking a ride to view seaside objects which are worth seeing. We would […]
Amber Road travellers are invited to visit Juodkrantė and pay attention to the old villas built back in the 19th century. You might be wondering how the villas are associated with amber. There is no direct link, but Juodkrantė should be grateful to amber for helping it become one of the most attractive resorts on the Baltic Sea coast, and the old villas remind us of the transformation of a small fishermen’s village into a famous resort.
Tourism to the Curonian Spit before the discovery of amber
Recreation on the sea coast became an international phenomenon in the whole Baltic region and a sign of good social standing for the middle class and wealthy Europeans in the 19th century. Some people compared the Curonian Spit to the desert, while others were attracted by its rather harsh scenery, which was punctuated by small fishermen’s villages. At that time, this territory belonged to the German Empire, one of the leaders of industrialization and modernization in Europe. This resulted in excellent connections from Königsberg (East Prussia, former German Empire city) to Klaipėda (former Memel) by railway, and steamboats shuttled from Cranzbeek (East Prussia) to the Curonian Spit. That led to the transformation of small fishermen’s villages into famous resorts.
Yet there was one major drawback. Although it was easy to arrive to the Curonian Spit, in the 19th century, there were only small fishermen’s villages there and they lacked basic comforts. Arriving by steamboat, on which they enjoyed various amenities and danced to the sounds of Strauss music, travellers hoped for high culture at the resorts, but in the first half of the19th century, the infrastructure was still underdeveloped and there was a lack of accommodation and entertainment.
The Role of Amber in the Growth of Juodkrantė
A breakthrough took place around 1860, when the Stantien & Becker company began operations in Juodkrantė. The Germans performed the dredging of the fairway in the lagoon here, and in return they received the right to excavate and sell amber found at the bottom of the lagoon. The discovered amber-bearing vein was huge, so Stantien & Becker settled in Juodkrantė for decades and created many new jobs. The town began to grow by leaps and bounds – from 170 inhabitants in 1860 to 851 in 1885, and Juodkrantė became the largest settlement in the Curonian Spit at that time.
Stantien & Becker’s role in the development of Juodkrantė and making it famous was not limited to newly created jobs. The company not only excavated amber but also sold raw materials and various amber articles around the world. Insightful management helped the company to become famous itself as well as spread the message about the Curonian Spit and Juodkrantė. The most impressive was the collection of ancient amber articles found during the excavations. An important part of this collection was the Juodkrantė amber treasure described above – a collection of Stone Age amber jewellery. The Stantien & Becker amber collection was exhibited in Berlin, St. Petersburg, St. Louis, Chicago and London. This was a priceless advertisement for Juodkrantė and the whole Curonian Spit.
Not surprisingly, with the growth of the population and the spreading fame of this culturally unique resort of unusual beauty, the number of tourists grew. Hotel business representatives became interested in Juodkrantė, the infrastructure of the town was significantly improved and walking promenades, taverns and hotels were constructed.
Just then, at the end of the 19th century, a whole block of villas was formed between the marina and the cemetery: two hotels, a number of private summer houses and furnished apartments. To date, only the authentic Villa Monbijou has survived, which now houses the local administration of Juodkrantė. Furthermore, one of the most beautiful buildings in Juodkrantė, Villa Flora, has been resurrected using private funds, and a hotel with a cafe of the same name has been operating for a long time in the reconstructed outbuilding of the summer house.
They seem to be nothing special – some beautiful old buildings. But they evidence the remarkable transformation of Juodkrantė. The next time you pass by these villas, think that at the end of the 19th century there was nothing more but a tavern-post office, a school and nine fishermen’s houses. And only after the discovery of Nordic Gold in the Amber Bay, in only a few decades, a small fishermen’s village turned into one of the most attractive seaside resorts in Europe.
Most of us, who comes to the coast of Lithuanian Baltic Sea once has searched for an amber or at least has accidentally found a small piece of it. However, finding one small piece of the Nordic gold does not explain where such an abundance […]