Nida, Lithuania

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Nida port, 2004

Nida (German: Nidden) is a resort town in Lithuania, the administrative centre of Neringa municipality. Located on the Curonian Spit between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea, it is the westernmost point of Lithuania and the Baltic states, close to the border with the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast exclave. It currently has about 1,650 residents.

History[edit]

View from the Parnidis dune over the Curonian Lagoon and Cape Grobštas

A settlement area of the Baltic Curonians, the original place called nida ("fluent") in the Old Prussian language was first mentioned in 1385 documents issued by the Teutonic Knights, who ruled the lands within their Monastic State. The original settlement on the road along the Curonian Spit from Königsberg to Memel was located about 5 km (3.1 mi) south of its today's position near the Hohe Düne (High Dune) at Cape Grobštas (from Old Prussian: grabis, "hill"). The fishing village became part of the Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701.

In 1709 nearly all of the population died from a bubonic plague epidemia. Continuously threatened by sand drifts, the village was moved away from the approaching dune to today's position in the 1730s. Incorporated into the Prussian Province of East Prussia in 1773, it became part of the German Empire upon the German unification of 1871. In 1874 a lighthouse on Urbas hill was built, later destroyed in the war and rebuilt in 1945 and 1953.

Artists' colony[edit]

From the late 19th century, the dune landscape became popular with landscape and animal painters from the Kunstakademie Königsberg arts school. The local inn of Herman Blode was the nucleus of the expressionist artists' colony (Künstlerkolonie Nidden). Lovis Corinth stayed here in 1890, followed by artists such as Max Pechstein, Alfred Lichtwark, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Alfred Partikel.[1] Painters from Königsberg such as Julius Freymuth and Eduard Bischoff visited the area, as did poets like Ernst Wiechert and Carl Zuckmayer.[1] Other guests included Ernst Kirchner, Ernst Mollenhauer, Franz Domscheit, and Herrmann Wirth. The painters usually took accommodations at Blode's hotel, and left some of their works with him. Some also built their own residences in the vicinity.

After World War I Nidden together with the northern half of the Curonian Spit became part of the Klaipėda Region according to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and was annexed by Lithuania in 1923. Officially renamed Nida, the village nevertheless remained a German-majority settlement — the border with the remaining East Prussian half of the Spit lay only a few kilometres to the south.

Thomas Mann's summer house

In 1929 Nobel Prize-winning writer Thomas Mann visited Nida while on holiday in nearby Rauschen and decided to have a summer house erected on a hill above the Lagoon, mocked as Uncle Tom's Cabin (Onkel Toms Hütte) by locals. He and his family spent the summers of 1930–32 in the thatched cottage, parts of the epic novel Joseph and His Brothers (Joseph und seine Brüder) were written here. Threatened by the Nazis, Mann left Germany after Hitler's Machtergreifung in 1933 and never returned to Nida. After the Klaipėda Region was again annexed by Nazi Germany in 1939, his house was seized at the behest of Hermann Göring and served as a recreation home for Luftwaffe officers.

Post-war[edit]

In 1939 the town had 736 inhabitants.[1] Nida became nearly uninhabited, like all of the Curonian Spit, as a result of the Red Army advance and the Evacuation of East Prussia at the end of World War II, and the eventual expulsion of surviving German inhabitants. The town was reassigned to Lithuania under border changes promulgated at the Potsdam Conference, and became part of the Lithuanian SFSR within the Soviet Union; since 1990 it has been part of independent Lithuania.

In the early postwar period, Nida was a little-visited fishing village. Later in Soviet times Nida, together with three other villages of the Neringa Municipality (Juodkrantė, Preila and Pervalka), was a controlled-entry holiday region reserved for the Communist party officialdom (nomenklatura) and senior industry elite. Strict planning regulations, a ban on industrial development and generous municipal subsidies kept it unspoiled. Since independence, the area has been open to all, but the number of visitors is kept relatively low by the small number of hotel rooms (new developments usually are permitted only on old buildings' foundations) and comparatively high rents.

Mann's summer cottage survived the war and was preserved on the initiative of the Lithuanian poet Antanas Venclova. A first memorial site was inaugurated already in 1967. In the Soviet era it hosted a library open in summer only, with residential quarters of the visiting librarian posted from Klaipėda upstairs and public areas downstairs. In 1995/96 the house has been restored according to the original architectural design and re-openend as a cultural center dedicated to the writer, with a memorial exhibition and an annual festival.

Tourism[edit]

Beach on the Baltic coast of the Curonian Spit

The town is an upmarket holiday resort, hosting about 200,000 to 300,000 tourists each summer, mostly Lithuanians, Germans, Latvians, and Russians. It is characterized by low-key entertainment and a distinct family focus. However during recent years it become a decent point of interest for fine electronica music and modern art shows at an eclectic forest retreat.

Since 2000, a jazz festival has been held every year. A local radio station Neringa FM streams live beats over FM and online. There are also interesting places to see nearby, including some of the highest sand dunes in Europe, a large sundial (which has now been restored after being damaged by a Baltic gale), fisherman's ethnographic museum, gallery-museum of amber, neo-Gothic church (built in 1888). There is also a campsite.

The town is known for Nidden Kurenwimpel — German for "Curonian pennants" — ornate carved flags peculiar to local families resident on the Curonian Spit. The flags, replicas of which can be seen around Nida, feature animal and human figures as pictograms reminiscent of a pagan writing tradition. At the local cemetery, examples of krikštas (pl. krikštai), pagan burial markers in place of tombstones, can still be seen.

Nida's beach participates in the Blue Flag Programme.

Transportation[edit]

Nida Airport is located in the town. Nida also has a seaport which is used for ferries and fishing boats.

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Weise, p. 159

References[edit]

  • Weise, Erich (1981) [1966]. Handbuch der historischen Stätten Deutschlands, Ost- und Westpreussen [Handbook of places in Germany, East and West Prussia]. Kröners Taschenausgabe, Band 317 [Kröners pocket book edition, volume 317] (in German) (Reprint of the 1966 ed.). Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag. ISBN 978-3-520-31701-8. OCLC 36315021. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Nida at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 55°18′N 21°00′E / 55.300°N 21.000°E / 55.300; 21.000