After a delayed entry to the port of Klaipeda caused by military mine sweep operations, we arrived at 9am. By 9:15am, we were on the bus for The Best of Neringa tour. Our tour guide this day was Ingrida. I suggest setting on the left side of the bus for the best views on this tour.
We left the pier and headed to the Curonian Spit ferry. Along the way, we heard about the history of both Klaipeda and Lithuania. We learned that during WWII Germany destroyed about 60 percent of the city. The present population of the area is about 2.8 million but because wages are inadequate (each household earning about 870 Euro’s per month), many Lithuanian’s have migrated elsewhere.
Occupied by Russia until 1990, the Russian influence on this area is striking. At 9:38am we caught the Ferry at the Smiltynes Ferry Terminal landing on the Curonian Spit. This peninsula is a mere 98km long, with 52km belonging to Lithuania and the rest belonging to Russia.
By 9:50am we had entered the Neringa National Park, an area blanketed in 70% pines. Some of these forested areas are being lost to a non-indigenous bird species whose droppings are extremely acidic. We continued driving until reaching Nidos, the farthest stop of our journey about 10:30am.
Exiting the bus, we ascended a staircase to view the Dune of Parnidis draped against the Baltic Sea. We had 25 minutes to stroll around the area. After re-boarding the bus, it required a bit of specialized driving to back us down a long drive and get the bus headed in the proper direction.
At 11:10am we arrived in the village of Nida, the oldest recorded settlement on the Curonian Spit. Here our tour group visited the Amber Gallery. Having seen enough Amber for one lifetime, we broke off from the group and wander about on our own. We walked by the old fisherman’s houses, which appeared quite charming, then around the bay and back into town.
Next, we stopped at Senasis Uostas Restaurant across from the bus depot, where we had ham and cheese crepes and some black tea. Our bill here was a mere 8 Euro.
At 12:55pm, we met our awaiting coach and headed to the fishing village of Juodkrante. We first visited the Weathervane Gallery and sipped an alcoholic amber drink followed by a tasting of the 27-herb tea called 999. The owner of the gallery gave us a history lesson on the weathervane produced here and what each section of the vane represents.
Afterward, we crossed the street to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and met with the pastor at 1:45pm. The pastor delivered a message to the group about the former Russian Occupation; the difficulties incurred by residents and then asked us to consider making a donation.
At 2pm, we were back on the bus and headed to our final stop at the Blue Flag sandy beach. Here we climbed the 138 steps to an overlook of the Baltic Sea. It was windy at the top with not much to see besides the ocean, but it made for another great picture. We stayed here for 10 minutes.
Soon it was back to the bus to catch the 2:45pm ferry back to the mainland, arriving at the pier at 3pm. Some folks took the option for drop-off just outside the gates to visit the old town.
Cruise Port: Klaipeda, Lithuania
Cruise Ship: Queen Elizabeth
Tour Name: The Best Of Neringa
Tour Guide: Ingrida