Curonian Spit National Park
by Olga Petrova
It was a rainy evening in October when our plane proceeded to land at the airport of Kaliningrad, Hrabrovo. The sky was filled with gray clouds, the strong gusty wind shook a wing of our airplane and the pilot announced that due to the gale a landing would be hard. So it was a bit, but thanks to the skill of the crew, we landed safely. By the way, time in Kaliningrad is UTC + 2.
At the exit of the airport, good luck was waiting for us: a bus to the city was already there! I said good luck because it was really it – there are just two (or even one now) buses from the airport Hrabrovo, and they run only one per hour. A ticket to Kaliningrad costs 70 rubles. If you don’t ready for wait long, you can get a taxi, which costs about 400 rubles and reaches the city faster: in about 25 minutes if a road is free.
What to see in Kaliningrad
First, you’ll see when you’ll step in a center of the city, on a bus station named “Gostinnica Kaliningrad”, will be cute “gingerbread houses”. To the word, Soviet Russia’s hotel “Kaliningrad” is located here too. So, the houses were built in a style of ancient Königsberg (it’s the previous name of the city). Here you recognize that it is not an ordinary Russian city, but a city of three nations. It was founded in the middle of 13th century as a Prussian castle for the Teutonic Knights as a base for the war against pagans. After Seven Years’ War Königsberg was joined to Russian Empire for four years. And at the beginning of the Twenty’s century, it became a military stronghold of the Third Reich on a border with the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, during the World War II almost whole city was destroyed by aerial bombs.
One of dozen half-surviving buildings is the Königsberg Cathedral, located on an island of Kant. The famous philosopher was born here in 1724 and still remains the most famous person of Kaliningrad. His grave is located under a wall of the Cathedral. Not far away you could find a place of European dream among the Soviet utilitarianism: the cozy quay with a lighthouse and a complex of half-timbered houses – so-called “Fish village”. It was created at the beginning of the XXI century and now here is an ethnographic, trade and craft center.
These are the main attractions, which you must see having only one day for the city like us. But if you want to discover more local colors, such as the Museum of the World Ocean, Kaliningrad Amber Museum, the Friedland Gate or the Brandenburg Gate, a fortification from the Second World War etc, then I advise you to take two or three days. As to us, we have chosen a journey to Curonian Spit for a second day. In Russian, it sounds “Kurshskaja Kosa”.
Curonian Spit Tour
In former times there was a tribe of Curonians, which inhabited a long strip of land that now connects the north of Kaliningrad region with the western region of Lithuania. The uniqueness of this place is in its mix of the landscapes: from the desert quicksand dunes to the tundra bushes and mosses. From the one side of the spit, you can see the Curonian lagoon, on the other side is the Baltic Sea.
Height of Eph and the amber of the Baltic Sea
The most beautiful view is opened from Height of Eph, which located on the 37th kilometer from the start of the spit (it’s 23 miles). A silver band of a bay shines in the cold autumn sun, the white dunes lie in front of you, and a fishing village wallows in a green forest far below. The fluffy green spruces and the mosses grow right from the white sand, amazing neighborhood! If you will be attentive, you can see the grids of the dry branches, which are laid out on the slopes. What is it? These devices are designed to protect the dunes from shedding. The fact is that the spit is slowly swept off by water. The grids strengthen the dunes.
Make a note! Do not go out of a tourist route: the dunes consist of quicksand!
You need about ten minutes to cross the spit from Height of Eph to the side of the Baltic Sea. The white sand of the beach contains the addition of quartz, amber, garnet, zircon and the other minerals. Because of it, the sand becomes pink sometimes. After a storm, you can find here the pieces of amber, that were thrown out by the sea. In spite of concept of the cold, gray Baltic sea, the water’s temperature reaches 20–22 degrees in August, what allows me to represent this place as a resort for those who like the temperate climate and seclusion. You can stay in accommodation right on the Curonian Spit, not in Kaliningrad.
Dancing forest of Curonian Spit
Have you ever heard that trees can dance? If not, then welcome to the “dancing forest”, located on the 37th kilometer of the Curonian Spit! Nobody knows why, but the trees that grow here, bend and twist, forming a complex of bizarre statues. One trunk even makes a loop. The legend says that there was a sacred forest of pagans in the ancient times. Maybe, the magic of ancient gods was reborn in these trees… who knows?
The forest filled with wild animals, such as foxes, elks and wild boars. Sometimes they come out to the road to ask the tourists give them some food. Especially foxes, of course! But I don’t recommend you to contact with elks and wild boars – it can be unsafe.
Entrance to the territory of the National Park is paid but not expensive: about 150 rubles for a people and 300 for a car. Along the road, there are cafes, souvenir shops, toilets. If you travel on your own, you can stay in one of the local hotels and try the special ecological routes – there are about 9 in the park.
How to go to Curonian Spit
At the end a couple of words about how you can get to Curonian Spit and back to the airport. From Kaliningrad, you can get the bus № 593, which goes each hour from the South bus station (Zheleznodorozhnaya street, 7). If you start from Svetlogorsk or Zelenogradsk, you need the bus № 596.
For return to the airport Hrabrovo from Kaliningrad, you should buy a ticket on the bus № 244-Э, which departs from the South bus station to the airport directly, without stops in the city. You can also get a taxi for about 400 rubles.
Wish you good luck in your adventures!