Discovery path on the Baltic coast of Lithuania, Part 4: Juodkrantė
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.