Klaipeda

Trip Start Jun 26, 2007
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Klaipeda is located on the west coast of Lithuania and until 1925 was called Memel and was part of Germany. Very little remains of the old town of Memel after the devastating bombing during WWII, the only exceptions is the market square and the theater where Adolf Hitler gave a speech form the outside balcony. Otherwise the rest of the old town has been reconstructed since the war. The town itself is more aimed at industry than tourism but the Martynas Mazvyda Sculpture Park is packed with random stone statues is definitely worth a stroll through as well as the moving farewell statue of a German family depicting the German history of the town and the forced migration of the German locals in the 1920's. But other than that all of Klaipeda can be seen in half a day. However Klaipeda is a great base to explore the Curonian Spit National Park, situated a mere 10 minutes away by boat.
 
Farewell Monument
The Farewell Momument situated outside the train station in Klaipeda

I would recommend a stay of 2 days here to explore the northern and southern sections of the spit. The first day I was here I headed to the spit's northern town of Smiltyne and to the Lithuanian sea museum where an aquarium and boat museum can be found within the old sea fort. Unfortunately the sea museum in nothing to write home about, however a visit to the neighbouring Dolphinarium is definitely worth a visit. And Yes, I was reluctant to go and spend my 14 Litas (~3 GBP), thinking that this might be some cruel animal show from a former USSR country where the animals are inhumanely forced to perform. But the 40 minute dolphin and sea-lion show was very enjoyable, especially the sea-lions doing their X-factor style singing, plus the animals looked healthy in their reasonably large water tank. Another thing that made me laugh is they expected you to pay 5 Litas (1) to take photos but I am not sure how they can keep an eye on a crowd of several hundred people snapping away. 
 
The second day I headed off to the southern town of Nida home to the Parnidis dune. Here is where I climbed the 50 m dune to catch a glimpse of the Russian country of Kallingrad a mere 3 km away. Nida is also a great place to rent a bike (30 Litas for a day) and explore the rest of the Spit and its national parks. I only aimed to cycle half the length of the Lithuanian side of the Curonian Spit but I got lost (which is quite remarkable on a well marked cycle track) and ended up cycling over 80km. It was only when I was cycling back to Nida when I found the signposted turning I was suppose to take. 
View from Parnidis Dune, Klaipeda, Lithuania
View from Parnidis Dune, Klaipeda, Lithuania
A View from Parnidis Dune, with Kalligrad on the horizon.

Curonian Spit 3, Klaipeda, Lithuania
A typical view on the Curonian Spit.

En route back to Nida, I made a quick detour to the beach to have a quick dip into the Baltic Sea, however the first beach I stopped had 6 or 7 naked ladies bathing in the shallow sea waters. I would have joined them in if I hadn't got those dirty looks and then I quickly realised I had stumbled across another Woman's beach. Starting to realise these Baltic ladies like their nudist swimming and sun-bathing but like UK nudist beaches it not particularly pretty on the eyes. So cycled another 3 km to a deserted beach before having my swim. The cold water worked wonders and I fully recommend a cold swim to relieve the burning Lactic Acid in my legs.

Eventually got back to Nida damp and exhausted. Where unfortunately I was 5 km short when I got caught up in a quick rain shower. Travelling back on the bus to Klaipeda I bumped into some guys from my hostel who were easy persuade to go out for a meal and a few drinks to help neutralize the aching that is starting to start effect from the long bike ride. 
By the end of the evening we had ended up in 'Kurpiai', an Old Town jazz club. But might need to sue Lonely Planet for false advertisement as the live music wasn't Jazz but a band playing a variety of pop/rock songs. However this bar has alot of character with its wooden maze like floor plan and the steak comes highly recommended at a cheap 30 Litas/6. We may have been disappointed with the music but we were still the last ones to be thrown out of the bar at midnight. Outside we started talking to this local lad in a vain attempt to find another watering hole but what we ended up with instead was a talk on his fascist, racist and homophobic views. So we made our excuses and retired back to the hostel. Lets hope that kind of views in only isolated in the few uneducated kids.

The hostel 'Klaipeda travellers hostel' is nice and small but is nothing special although it is ideally located by the bus station. The kitchen and common room area is uncomfortable small but the atmosphere is good and you don't appear to get the drunken travellers coming in at some ungodly time.   
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