The north-western part of Russia is the focus of lots of natural sites of beauty which are not known to most people in the region. One of such amazing sites located between the Kaliningrad region and Klaipeda, a town in Lithuania, is the Kurshskaya Kosa (Curonian Spit).
This is a narrow sand strip to be the unique nature reserve. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The peculiarity of Spit is that it joins several natural worlds at the single territory and this is why it is often called the «museum of climatic zones».
Sand deserts of dunes to be strengthened by humans from old ages smoothly replace birch forests, and then whimsy trees with trunks to twist as if they dance. Such a natural diversity is concentrated on the narrow strip of land with the maximum width of about 3.8 kilometers, and the minimum width of up to 400 meters.
There is no doubt that this unique ecosystem is very fragile and is thus protected as the heritage national park. At the same time, it houses several small settlements. The Curonian Spit is likely one of the most attractive sites for those who show concern in the nature of the Kaliningrad region, the former East Prussia. Those who ever visited this region are strongly invited to see this park that takes the promise to return again and again to see it. Unique sunsets, natural variety, Baltic Sea fresh air – all these nuances will touch everyone’s feelings!
Sights of the Curonian Spit
«Museum complex» Visit Center
The best way to investigate the Curonian Spit is to wander throughout its territory starting from the checkpoint. When you go into the national park, you will find a museum complex at the km 14. Visit it and you will get the idea of peculiarities ofthis site, its rich history and customs. You will appreciate the tree nursery and a small zoo. On the top of it, you have a chance to have a highlight tour by the boat moored on the dock.
The Swan Lake is deemed to be the one of the most popular hiking routes for tourists arrive to the Curonian Spit. Located just near the Lithuanian border, it is the habitat for various waterfowl. Apart from swans, tourists will be happy to see mallards, wild ducks and herons. The ornithological observatory that runs for over a century is the place where you can see more birds inhabiting the national park.
The Fringilla observatory was founded as early as 1901 by the Professor Thienemann on the Curonian Spit since it is the common migration path for most birds. It connects the Baltic states, Finland and Karelia with Africa and South Europe allowing high density of bird migration in spring and autumn.
The ornithological observatory was not abandoned and in 1957, during the Soviet ages, it was restored by the Academy of Sciences. Since then, studies are performed and tours are taken for tourists. Professional ornithologists will show and tell of the oldest stations in the Baltic region works.
Sand dunes are beautiful and, at the same time, they are dangerous and without the human proper care and accuracy can result in tragic consequences. One of the most «shrewish» dunes is located at the km 32 of the reserve which attack to the forest and settlements was stopped only in the late 19th century. It is mainly due to efforts by the forester by the Peter Erasmus Muller. Subsequently, the height was named after him.
Herein, you can enjoy stunning views from the viewing platform located between the forest and sands. A fire tower is nearby that is over two hundred years old. Due to that, its state remains wanting. It’s better to examine it remotely to avoid undesirable consequences.
The Dancing Forest
The forest is perhaps one of the most famous sights at the Curonian Spit planted in 60s of the last century that has taken bizarre forms since then. These twists really remind people frozen when dancing responsible for its name. The forest is located on the km 37 of the national park.
It is most interesting that not the entire pine forest on the Spit is unusually shaped. There is the clear border between the usual and twisting form of trees. The site of the «dancing» array has long been the subject of study of biologists; however they have not found the rooting reasons for the phenomena. There is a theory to look for the cause in specific natural conditions at the Curonian Spit that caused such genetic changes in the single floral site. It is also possible that this is resulting from some particular virus or insects.
However, local people believe this anomaly is something mystical and they treat the «dancing forest» with special care suggesting some space energy in there. Anyway, this is still a mystery attracting lovers of natural secrets year by year.
Epha Sand Dune
Having reached the km 42 of the Curonian Spit, research the sandy terrain named after FranzEpha, the dune inspector during the period of East Prussia. Such a title would confuse people though a person who held this position was in the great respect by locals. The settlements could have been covered with sand without the proper dune management and this occurred repeatedly throughout the history of the Spit.
The stunning view of all «worlds» of the Curonian Spit opens from this height named in honor of the inspector for his merits. Dunes fortified with greenery, beaches, birch and pine forests and the unique view of the Baltic Sea appear to you.
History of the Curonian Spit
Looking at the golden sand, you will want to go barefoot, though it is strictly forbidden under specific conditions of the Curonian Spit. A careless step may ruin the fragile ecosystem of this unique corner of nature and locals know of that since long. Therefore, you can move around the sand only along specially made paths constructed by volunteers, enthusiasts and park personnel.
This strip of land was formed by natural alluviation and it happened relatively recently in terms of historical paradigm. The name of the area is associated with the Curonians, the pagan tribe that lived here in the 9th century AD. These people were known for their special attitude to the forest. They believed the forest was sacred, they danced around it and worshiped gods. Vojtĕch Adalbertus, the Prague missionary who ignored this rule and stepped into the forbidden grove, paid with his life.
The Vikings who settled here in the 12th century failed to have special feelings for flora and fauna, though forests of the Curonian Spit survived their reign. The real danger to local pines and birches appeared later, from about the 16th century, when the Prussian kings began to rule on those lands. They hunted in former sacred woods changing to forest devastation, and they never through of drastic consequences. Though, they took no long to occur: having no vegetation barriers, sands began to open an attack to settlements.
The results of vandal clearance resulted in escape of residents and the launch of centuries-long battle for preservation of the Curonian Spit. Since then, people tend to plant bushes herein, the dune behavior is controlled by foresters and scientists, surveyors elaborately monitor to strain the sands. The Soviet specialists followed these activities to keep on reserve the spit within the post-World War II period. Since 2000, the area has been acknowledged as the World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO.
How to get to the Curonian Spit from Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad lies in 30 km distance to the Curonian Spit that is easy to cover. You can do this in two different ways:
- in this direction, a direct Kaliningrad-Klaipeda bus runs from the South Railway Station that takes you to any section of the spit, whether it is the Lithuanian or Russian side. Also, you can trip by the road from the regional center to Zelenogradsk, one of two federal resort towns that also requires to be visited when you stay here. As you see this beautiful coastal town, you can get to the final destination by taking a bus to Morskoe village;
- a car rent is the simplest and quickest way to get to the place. You can rent a car any time by contacting the hotel manager. The trip takes about half an hour and the car rent will be extra paid.
It should be noted that the entrance to the Curonian Spit is restricted by the fee of 150 rubles per person and 300 rubles per vehicle. The fee will be twice lower for schoolchildren and pensioners by 50% discount, and the access is free for disabled people and children under the age of 12.