Lithuanian Seaside Cognitive Cycling Routes, Part 2: Palanga-Nemirseta-Karklė
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 pass through two parks: Birutė Park and Seaside Regional Park (Lithuanian: Pajūrio regioninis parkas). This route begins at the same place as the first one – at the Palanga Sea Pier – and its length is similar, approx. 30 kilometres.
The First Stop is Birutė Hill
At Palanga Pier wave to the romantic sculpture of Jūratė and Kastytis, turn to the Love Avenue and cycle along it to Birutė Hill. It is the highest dune on the coast of Palanga. It is famous not only for the magnificent landscape revealed from its top but also for its legend. It is said that there was a pagan sanctuary on this hill, where the holy fire was kindled by priestesses. The Grand Duke Kęstutis fell in love and kidnapped one of them – Birutė. They lived a happy married life, but when her husband died, Birutė came back to the sanctuary, continued her ministry to the gods until the end of her days and was buried in the hill. At the end of the 19th century, a chapel with stained glass windows was built at the top of the hill, and a small sculpture called ‘For You, Birute’ created by the artist Konstancija Petrikaitė-Tulienė was placed at the foot of the hill.
The Route through Seaside Regional Park
This route will lead you through Seaside Regional Park, which extends from Old Palanga to Giruliai. There was a military polygon in this area in Soviet times. After the proclamation of Lithuania’s independence, a regional park was established in order to preserve the seaside landscape and the surviving values of natural and cultural heritage. Large boulders, which are unusual for Lithuania, brokes up the sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea in the park area. They look beautiful but also are home for molluscs and seaweed. The great North-South bird migration route follows this seafront stretch, so during the autumn and spring migration, many species of birds found in Lithuania can be watched in the park, as well as an abundancy of wintering birds.
Cycling towards Klaipėda, you will reach Nemirseta. It is one of the oldest seaside settlements, but its cultural heritage was devastated during the Soviet occupation. Today, the most valuable aspect of Nemirseta is its amazing nature. The coast of the Baltic Sea is truly unique here: the protective coastal ridge of dunes, the fragment of the ancient Litorina Sea coast, which stretched along here 8 thousand years ago; a wavy sandy plain; a string of swamps; and small lakes – such a variety of terrain certainly will not leave anyone indifferent. By the way, the dark-red helleborine – a Lithuanian orchid of extraordinary beauty – grows in the surroundings of Nemirseta.
The Third Stop – Plazė Lake
Near Šaipiai village you will find Plazė – a small glacier lake formed 10 thousand years ago. It is located just 200 metres from the sea. During Soviet times, tanks were washed here, and now this area is preserved by the state. Many species of birds, such as whooper swans, garganeys, common teals, wigeons, common goldeneyes, tufted ducks and even very rare common cranes can be watched here during the autumn and spring migration.
The Fourth Stop – Karklė
Karklė was one of the largest seaside settlements in the sixteenth century. As the settlement was on the border of the territories of the Teutonic Order and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, there were plenty of taverns. You can find some taverns here now, so you can get a meal and rest here before continuing your route. In the 20th century, the settlement experienced the same fate as Nemirseta – it was severely devastated when the training grounds of the Soviet Army were built here. Now Karklė has been declared an ethnocultural reserve in order to preserve valuable architectural elements characteristic of the country. The ancient farmsteads and cemeteries that have survived to this day are worth your attention.
The Fifth Stop – the Dutchman’s Cap
In another couple of kilometres, you will see the 24-metre-high cliff called the Dutchman’s Cap, continuously eroded by the beat of the Baltic Sea waves. It was formed by a coastal glacier 12-15 thousand years ago. In the sandy plain, the Dutchman’s Cap clearly stands out with its hilltop covered with an old forest of pine and oak trees, and the observation decks at the top of the slope gives opportunity to see a wonderful panorama.
Back to Palanga – the Palanga Amber Museum and Birutė Park
After departing from the Dutchman’s Cap, continue cycling to Palanga. If you manage to come here before 6 – 7 pm, we suggest completing your route along the magnificent Lithuanian seaside with a visit to the Palanga Amber Museum. You will have to leave your bike outside the park because cycling is not allowed in the area of the park. But after enjoying the sea views and the diversity of the coastal terrain, you look at the Baltic gold – amber – in a different way. So, it’s definitely worth visiting this museum. About 29 thousand amber objects are held inhere, and the museum has one of the world’s largest collections of amber inclusions. The museum’s holdings consist of about 4.5 thousand unique archaeological finds, inclusions, items made of amber and the famous Sun Stone. The collections shown to visitors are updated and supplemented every year, so if you have been to the Palanga Amber Museum before, you still will find something new to see.