The Curonian Spit is a 97 km strip of land in between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon. It was formed just over 5,000 years ago by the sea currents, the sand and the wind. Over centuries, the constant struggle between the natural elements has never ceased, resulting in an ever changing landscape, with often devastating outcomes for the local residents. It was, however, this relentless affair between the natural forces, most of all - the sand and the vegetation, that finally shaped the current unique phenomenon of nature that is the Curonian Spit.
The northern, largest part of the Curonian Spit belongs to Lithuania: the northernmost tip is part of Klaipėda city municipality and the rest - 94,4 sq km - belongs to Neringa municipality. The remaining part of the peninsula, south of Nida settlement, is under the Russian Federation (Kaliningrad enclave), where it joins the mainland.
The city of Neringa
In 1961 the four settlements of Nida, Juodkrantė, Pervalka, Preila as well as the homestead of Alksnynė formed an administrative unit of Neringa city.
Nida is the administrative centre and the biggest settlement of Neringa, about 45 km from the northernmost Smiltynė. The south side of Nida is backed by the dunes of Parnidžio, Urbo, Angių and Purvynės, and the Curonian Lagoon to the east. It was first mentioned in written historical records in 1366. Due to the travelling sand Nida changed location multiple times, before settling permanently in its current location in 1730. Nida has long been one of the landmarks of Lithuania, often visited by foreign officials, and over 60,000 tourists a year. There are currently 1,500 permanent residents in Nida.
Preila, to the north of Nida, is the third largest settlement in Neringa. Located 39 km from Smiltynė, the settlement was first mentioned in the 1843–1844 Juodkrantė’s church records, as a new settlement for the people of Naujieji Nagliai, escaping their buried village. Primarily a fisherman population picked a convenient spot for their trade by the lagoon, in the Bay of Little Preila, overlooking the 62 m Dune of Vecekrugas.
Today Preila is home to over 200 residents, who are mainly fishermen or work in the forestry of tourism industries.
Pervalka is the smallest of Neringa’s settlements, about 34 km from Klaipėda and 15 km from Nida. With only around 40 permanent residents, the hubbub of the tourism season is quietest compared to other Neringa’s settlements. The name is said to have derived from a specific action of the fishermen trade - the tugging of boats. Pervalka was established in 1844 by the residents of a buried village of Naujieji Nagliai.
Juodkrantė is located at the 18th kilometre of Smiltynė-Nida road, and is the only settlement of Neringa that has the main road crossing its centre. The German equivalent of the settlement’s name, Schwarzort, was first mentioned in 1429.
In the latter part of the 19th century the settlement’s development was largely influenced by the amber extraction company “W. Stantien & M. Becker“: a machinery port was established (now called the Bay of Amber) and the lagoon bottom soil was used to form the embankment. The company also financed a steam boat dock and sponsored a new organ for the local church. These developments resulted in Juodkrantė’s place as one of the well known resorts of the Baltic sea by the start of the 20th century: the settlement had five hotels, 20 villas and guest houses as well as plenty of local fishermen’s homesteads for a convenient stay.
Home to a couple of families, Alksnynė was once a lagoon bay. It was diminished during the lagoon deepening works to improve boat traffic to neighbouring ports. During the 19th century reforestation efforts a dune attendant’s home was built here and named Alksnynė. Today it is a fee collection outpost of the administrative fee for entering Neringa.
Curonian Spit National Park
The National Park was established in 1991. Its signature symbol is the impressive travelling sand dunes and the outstanding landscapes. The Park is home to over 900 plant species, 31 of which are included in the Red Book of Lithuania. About 40 species of animals live on the peninsula and over 300 bird species nest here or migrate through the White and Baltic Seas migration route that crosses the Curonian Spit.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site
Due to its authentic natural beauty, the peninsula was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. The Curonian Spit is recognised as a unique and vulnerable site of outstanding value by UNESCO due to its cultural and natural heritage.
The title stands as an international, world-renowned recognition for the local people’s historical reforestation and nature preservation efforts.
The emblem of Neringa
In 1967–1968 artist Arūnas Tarabilda created the city emblem for Neringa. It features the distinct weathervanes of the traditional kurėnas boats of Neringa that came about as a result of the fishing regulations of 19th century Prussia.
The city emblem is divided into six black and silvery white parts. The black rectangular shapes symbolise Nida, the triangles - Preila, and the diamond is for Purvynė. The silvery space is a tribute to Neringa’s buried villages, the cross is for Juodkrantė and the silver rectangle signifies Pervalka. The base of the emblem features a silver letter “N” for Neringa.