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Legend says that, a long time ago, Neringa – the daughter of Karvaitis grew up to be very big, a real giantess. She had a kind heart and often helped people by wading through the stormy sea and bringing lost ships back to the shore. One day, Bangpūtys (God of Storms in the Baltic mythology) grew angry and summoned endless storms. Neringa came to defend the people. She used her apron to pick up sand, carry it to the sea and pour it into the water. She carried and poured the sand until the Curonian Spit was finally formed and separated the lagoon from the sea. Out of gratitude, people named this strip of sand Neringa.
Other legends say that the Curonian Spit was built from sand by a little, yet very strong girl named Neringa who was playing by the sea. The Hill of Witches in Juodkrantė displays sculptures that describe the life and exploits of Neringa.
It is believed that the word nerija is of Prussian origin. The term “nerija” was first used to name the long peninsula located at Aistmarės, however this name was later used to also name the peninsula located at Kuršmarės. This term is related to the Lithuanian word nerija – “long and narrow sandy shallows in the sea along the shore”, even though this term was used more in written language, rather than spoken language. The root of the word ner- may be related to the word nerti – “abruptly go into water, sink, swim underwater”…
Nerija or the Curonian Spit was once called the “Kopos”, “Randavos” and “Pajūriai”, and was mostly known in the Samogitia as “Užmaris”.
The Curonian Spit is a peninsula of sand dunes formed more than 5 thousand years ago. The peninsula separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. The entire Curonian Spit is a 98 km long peninsula whose southern part belongs to the Russian Federation. In 2016, the population of the northern side of the peninsula which belongs to Lithuania and includes the Neringa municipality was 3024. The peninsula was covered in forests until the 17th century, however, during the Seven Years’ War in 1674–1679, these forests were massively cut down for war purposes. At the beginning of the 19th century, forests in the Curonian Spit covered only 10% of the area. The deterioration of forests resulted in drifting dunes that buried many villages in sand. A total of 14 villages of the Curonian Spit were buried under sand since the 16th century. Residents of Nida and Pilkopa were forced to move three times from one place to another due to the drifting sand. The people of Juodkrantė, Smiltynė and Šarkuva had to relocate as well.
Visitors traveling by foot or car can reach the peninsula from Klaipėda via ferries.
The Curonian Spit attracts visitors with its sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea coast, white dunes, fragrant pine forests, beautiful nature and well-developed services. People usually visit the Curonian Spit first when taking a trip to the Western part of Lithuania. In 2000, this peninsula of wind-blown sands was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Dunes are the most characteristic and the most impressive natural element of the Curonian Spit. The exclusive value of the Curonian Spit lies not in its separate natural components, but in the unique combination, coexistence and interaction of these components.
The flora of the Curonian Spit National Park has an abundance of species, 31 of which are included in the Lithuanian Red Book. This place is home to 46 species of mammals, including moose, deer, roe deer, boar, grey hare, squirrel, European badger, red fox, marten, otter, beaver and grey seal. Since the Curonian Spit is included in the old migration route of seabirds flying from the White Sea to the Baltic Sea, many birds traveling from northern lands pass through the peninsula. A total of 262 species of birds can be found here, of which 102 species of birds stay to breed.
In 1809, German scientist and the Minister of Education of Prussia Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote: “The Curonian Spit is so unique, that you simply must visit it just like Italy or Spain in order to fill your soul with images of amazing beauty”.
The four settlements of the Curonian Spit – Nida, Preila, Pervalka and Juodkrantė were merged into a single town of Neringa in 1961. It is the longest town in Lithuania. The origin of the name of the Curonian Spit is associated with the Curonians – a western Baltic tribe.
- Vaclovas Straukas. Neringa, Klaipėda, 2004. – ISBN 978-9986-31-194-2
- Western Lithuania: descriptions of places of interest and detailed maps, 2011. – ISBN 978-906-01-0028-8