Cycle Tour Iron Curtain Tour, part 2, Klaipeda-Gdynia
Dag/day 1: Klaipeda-Nida
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Added on 18 May 2019
on 05 Jun 2019
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by Ottocolor on 18 May 2019
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Klaipėda, Klaipeda County, LT (-16 m NHN)
Neringa, Klaipeda County, LT (9 m NHN)
06 May 2019
Sunny, but chilly. Light head- and sidewinds.
Taikos gatve 45A
LT-93121 Neringa, Nida
A fine bike path on the Lithuaninan half of the Curonian spit. The tarmac is somewhat run-down and thus bumpy, and near the city I sometimes encountered broken glass on it. Good signposting, also to sights off the route. In Klaipeda itself there are also many good bike paths, however, with many obstacles that slow down one's speed.
First stage. Leads from Klaipeda ferry terminal into the old part of the city and from there via a bicycle ferry across the mouth of the river Nemunas to the Curonian spit, where I spent far the longest part of the day.
At 9 o'clock Lithuanian time, the DFDS ferry M / S Athena Seaways moored in Klaipeda's ferry terminal. I had slept okay and had enjoyed a good breakfast, so now I was ready to experience Lithuania. In addition, the sun shone from a cloudless sky, albeit it was rather cold. The first stop was at a Maxima store in the southern outskirts of the city center. As I had to limit the luggage in the Flix bus from Odense to Copenhagen, I carried no food with me, and therefore a good piece of shopping was needed. A poor bounty who spoke excellent English (??) watched me pack. I gave him a two-euro coin and feared he would call all his combos, but he just said "thank you and good luck" and sneaked off. The first stop in Klaipeda's beautiful old town was a peaceful square with a tower of cast iron with pictures where I relaxed in the sun. While I was sitting there, a group of German tourists walked along. They were all elderly, and their Lithuanian guide explained in lame German the tower's symbolic meaning. So I got it also. A few steps further I stopped at the beautiful theater square with the von Dach well with the poetry figure Annchen von Thurau. You have no doubt about being in an old German town, although this is so long ago, and was named Memel that none of the older German tourists on the other square had experienced it. It is 101 years ago (in November) that, after losing World War I, the German Empire lost the city and its upland to the League of Nations and from 1923 to the newly formed Lithuanian state. There was a market going on in the square, and I wanted to linger, but still went on to the harbor in order to catch the bike ferry over to Smiltyne on The Curonian Spit. There was some waiting time, which I spent on a bench in the sun, buying a ticket and talking to two Belarussian cyclists on racing bikes and with quite large backpacks. On the ferry an ice-cold wind was blowing, but in Smiltyne it was quiet. Both with regard to the wind and the noise levels. After few pedal revolutions to the north along the road towards the Kopgalis fortress, I was all alone, since the maritime museum and the dolphinarium out there had closed as it was Monday. Fine for me. Then I had the space for myself and could look at the pelicans in the moat in peace. I ended up at the tip of the headland, but eventually it literally ran out into the sand for me, as it had blown in heaps across the path and stopped my progress. On the other side of the river, Klaipeda's large and busy harbor facilities lay. Indeed I cycled to the north and in the wrong direction, so I turned my bike around and stepped onto the national Lithuanian cycle route # 5 to the south. I knew its counterpart to the north, from Klaipeda to the Latvian border, from my Iron Curtain tour, part 1 and that it's outstanding. Dutch conditions as I call it, when it's close to perfect. But some broken glass on the tarmac trail made it miss that mark. I had a headwind, but behind the high dunes and inside the dune forest it was no obstacle to me. A lovely bike day had begun in a lovely way.
Just ten kilometers down the spit, I felt hungry, so a sign saying "Nudistu papludimys", which I interpreted as a naturist beach, and a table-bench set next to it, was very welcome. First the bath! There were no other naturists than me on the wide sandy beach in front of the dunes, which were passed by way of wooden stairs. Outside these, it was forbidden to walk in the dunes. On both the Lithuanian and the Russian side of the Curonian Spit there is a nature reserve with limited access outside the paths. However, the beach is free area and extends with the finest sand several hundred kilometers to both sides interrupted only by a few towns. After my skinny dip I had lunch in the sun with self made sandwiches from the purchased rations. Lovely. And I wasn't the slightest bit cold. After a rest on my back in the sun, I rode on to the south. The asphalt was a bit worn and bumpy, but this was the only negative thing. Everything else was a pure bike paradise. I didn't see any cars. Only light-open forest with views to dunes and meadows. So I cycled for several hours and enjoyed it fully, until a certain thirst for coffee appeared. But one thing I had forgotten to buy was instant coffee in order to make coffee on the gas cooker, so a sign for the village of Juodkrante on the lagoon side of the spit was welcome. I guessed there would be a a cafe. And I was not disappointed on this fine, fine bike day. First I rode through a lovely seaside resort with old well-kept wooden houses and then a café appeared on the main road, where the bike path followed the water. Here I sat in a beautiful flower garden and was served carrot cake and coffee. For "dessert" a red ale from Klaipeda. Aahh! In the air, many midges swirled, and that was probably the reason, why the other guests all went inside, but the insects did not bother me much. After all they don't sting.
After the afternoon coffee break I rushed into nature again. South of Juodkrante there were large swamp forests. The coast towards the lagoon is somewhat wetter than towards the Baltic Sea, and this provides a fantastic wildlife. Insects hummed and the birds sang really delightfully. Here nature is wild and still in order. Bicycle-wise it was a bit of a challenge to get back to the sea coast, because the wooded old dunes are 40-50 meters high. The new, white dunes in front of the forest, which you do not, however, cycle are up to almost 70 meters high and are thus among the highest in Europe. That was what I read on a board at one of the few parking spaces. Also this signage was fine-fine and in both Lithuanian and English. And also in Russian. And I thought about what was waiting for me tomorrow on the Russian side of the border in the middle of the spit. Here too, there is a national park, but I had seen Russia's nature between the Estonian and Finnish borders around Skt. Petersburg two years ago. And there it was rather devastated both by structures (both beautiful new ones and ugly, derelict old ones), but even worse by waste, both from households and construction waste. Really disgusting. But I was allowed to hope, and for the time being it was also Lithuania for the rest of the day. Soon after, I caught up with a funny set of vehicles on the bike path. A man on a heavily loaded bike and a slender woman on an similar one pulling a big children's bike trailer! I followed them, because they rode nicely fast, 17-18 km / h up and down the dunes in the woods and around many turns. The woman had to work well to follow her husband with the trailer wobbling behind her. Eventually I was curious and pulled up with the powerwoman. Not surprisingly, a small child was sitting in the trailer. Plus strapped on luggage. It turned out they were Belarussians. They couldn't speak English so we spoke Russian. They had been in Latvia and were now heading home to Belarus via Kaliningrad and Poland. The child, I learned, was the almost two-year-old toddler Ksyusha, a nickname of the girl name Kseniya, which is a Russification of Xenia. Typical (Belo)Russian name issue. We chatted along on the trail as we stepped in the pedals. I was impressed with this little strong lady, capable of pulling a bicycle trailer in this terrain through all the bends on bumpy tarmac is not exactly easy. And she even was able to chat freely. And she was very interested in my trip too! But our conversation did, however, make her husband go a long way in front of us, and I felt sorry for her, so at last I said "good luck and see you at Nida campsite" which I was told was their goal too. So I overtook her and her husband, who was not that talkative. Now Nida was approaching, but still I held a break at a small open space in the village of Preila, again towards the lagoon. The weather was absolutely fantastic and the evening light simply breathtaking. I had one of those 'virtually happy' moments that are not unknown to me on cycling holidays, but still always captivate me. A banana, some chocolate and energy drink were also soaked up, and then the Belarussian equipage passed by again on the road. The social aspect can be a part of such a gust of happiness. Great, that others have the same hobby and certainly feel this kind of sensations too. All what we share... My workplace TV 2's motto. Marina, the Belarussian super woman, hat slowed down a bit, but now Nida was also very close. In a road work on the outskirts of the town, we chose different bypasses, but at the campsite they had already arrived when I checked in. Well, I did not, because I made no contact with the camping landlord through the two phone numbers that were posted on the reception. Well, it could wait. A curious Swiss camper asked questions. So now I also spoke German. He quivered in the evening cold and told me that a cold night was predicted. And he had his luxury car, a heater plus his wife. While I was going to sleep alone in my tent. We were about peers. I was thinking more of my Belarusian friends with the little girl Kyushya. She romped about on the playground. Of course, she had plenty of energy to spare. Marina and her silent husband pitched their tent in the pine forest, which covered the whole site. Lovely! At least after removing the cones where the tent was put. Soon mine was standing too. Marina came over and gave me the campsite's wi-fi code. Her husband scowled at us from their spot. I think he was a little jealous. "Take care," I thought. Considering myself. And took care of myself. After unpacking and a hot bath I wanted to find a store in Nida to buy groceries for dinner. I easily did that in a Maxima, which I had not noticed myself. A friendly soul down at the harbour showed me the way. Sausages and potato roasts soon sizzled on the pan. I was hungry like a bull while I was cooking in the icy kitchen. It was without seats so I dined outside it. Brrr... Well, one could do without a refrigerator. They weren't even switched on. On the whole, the campsite only worked half. I know that from Finland. There it's just a month or so later. The camping season starts in the middle of June. Before that shops and restaurants are shuttered. But cooking range and bathrooms worked here. During the dishes I talked to a single female cyclist, what is quite rare. Not that I talk to fellow cyclists, but that a young woman rides along on a long trip alone. From Berlin, where she lives, through Kaliningrad, where she was unlucky to crash in a tram rail and all the way up to Estonia. She had passed the thousand kilometers mark. A doughty girl. So we were four orfive small bicycle tents well spread in the forest. Then we would not disturb each other with our snoring. I fell asleep really quickly. Once during night I woke up. And felt warm in my sleeping bag. But could well sense the cold outside it.