Evangelical Lutheran Church in Šilutė
Lithuania Minor is a region in Lithuania.
- Klaipėda — the third biggest city, stopover point for cruise ships, famous for various summer events, and one of the four cities that are not assigned to any ethnographic region.
- Šilutė — district centre, and an unofficial centre of all region. Small and cozy town near the Nemunas River delta, south of Klaipėda.
- Karklė — a well known village north of Klaipėda, operates as a quiet summer resort.
- Neringa — consists of four villages on Curonian Spit, municipality headquarters located in Nida.
- Pagėgiai — district centre in front of Sovetsk city in Kaliningrad Oblast, north across Nemunas river. A landmark on the way to the international border crossing point.
- Kintai — a village NW of Šilutė on the shore of Curonian Lagoon.
- National park Of Curonian Spit (Kuršių Nerijos nacionalinis parkas) — covers all territory of Neringa municipality.
- Nemunas Delta Regional Park (Nemuno deltos regioninis parkas) — covers territory of Nemunas delta and its surroundings.
- Rambynas Regional Park (Rambyno regioninis parkas) — covers territory of Nemunas river loop SE of Pagėgiai, with a legendary pagan place of worship Rambynas Hill.
- Seaside Regional Park (Pajūrio regioninis parkas) — covers Baltic sea coast between Klaipėda and Palanga.
- Viešvilė — town on the eastern end of the region, surrounded by large forests (Viešvilės miškas) suitable for recreation and hiking in nature.
Nemunas Delta, view to Curonian Lagoon
King Wilhelm Canal (Lith: Vilhelmo kanalas
Monument for French prisoners of war who built the Wilhelm Canal (by zebra crossing, at 55.64292, 21.16382)
Bird banding station at Ventė
Museum of polders, Uostadvaris village, Rusnė island
Old bridge over Viešvilė
river in Viešvilė
Lithuania Minor (Mažoji Lietuva) is right at the northern edge of former East Prussia (German: Ostpreussen), a German state that during history had different names, different territories and different political statuses. The population in its north-eastern part was predominantly Lithuanian-speaking, while maintaining loyalty to the German administration. The administrative divisions and terms of this area varied during history, however the names Preußisch-Litauen (Prussian-Lithuania) and Kleinlitauen (Little Lithuania) were used and are still in use in everyday language to distinguish the area inhabited by Lithuanians under German administration from the territory of Lithuania Major - the Lithuanian state itself.
After the second world war, East Prussia ceased to exist; the territory was ethnically cleansed of its native German-speaking population. Most of its territory is now divided between Poland in the south and Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation in the north. The narrow strip north of Nemunas river belong to Republic of Lithuania.
It stretches between Smalininkai village in the east (almost touching Tauragė city north of Smalininkai) and Klaipėda city in the west, almost up to Palanga in the very north-west corner.
The predominant ethnicity of the population in Kaliningrad Oblast is Russian, while it's predominantly Lithuanian in the Lithuania Minor region of Lithuania. Given the long period of time that has passed since the war, these historical changes are accepted by local people as a fact, no ethnic or national tensions, let alone scandals, were ever reported. Scarce remains of both German and Baltic cultural and historical heritage are more or less preserved, however, one should have in mind that the Second World War literally washed everything away from the ground. Several decades of decay were not merciful either.
What the visitor can expect is a calm and peaceful countryside with its everyday life, and the scenery that here and there resembles pre-war Eastern Prussia. All historical, cultural and other objects of interest are scattered across the region and requires advance preparation to locate or visit them.
However, the two main attractions are associated not with the countryside but with the sea: it’s the seaport of Klaipėda, and a narrow peninsula, called Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that stretches from Klaipėda on Lithuanian half, up to Zelenogradsk on Kaliningrad Oblast half.
- Curonian Lagoon Region Information Centre (Pamario informacijos centras), Lietuvininkų St 4, LT-99179 Šilutė (West of centre, by the main street, next to the bridge over Šyša river), ☎ +370 656 84886 ([email protected]). Summer season: M-F 08:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-15:00, lunchtime 12:00-12:45; cold season: M-Th 08:00-17:00, F 08:00-16:00, lunchtime 12:00-12:45. Information Centre responsible for the western half of Lithuania Minor region. Gather and provides all tourism related information: accommodation, restaurants and bars, places of interest, events; provides assistance with transferring across the Lagoon to Nida, in organizing tours, looking for transport and tourist equipment rent, offer guide services and all other regular tourist services.
- Pagėgiai Region Tourism Information Centre (Pagėgių krašto turizmo informacijos centras), Šereikos St 3-3, Vilkyškiai village, LT-99254 Pagėgiai district (South of village, southern side of the 141 highway; Rambynas Regional Park), ☎ +370 656 18551 ([email protected]). 15 Jun - 31 Aug: M-F 09:00-18:00, Sa-Su 10:00-14:00, 1 Sep - 31 Apr: M-F 08:00-17:00, 1 May - 14 Jun: M-F 09:00-18:00. Information Centre responsible for the eastern half of Lithuania Minor region. Provides: free tourist information, hotel and ferry ticket reservations, guide services in different languages, conference room rental, helps to organize and organizes excursions, offer all other regular tourist services. ("55°7'3.32"N","22°7'41.4"E")
Lithuanian dialect of this region is closest to the official Standard Lithuanian, as most of the scholars who developed the language were either from Lithuania Minor or from Sūduva region which linguistically was close. During certain period both regions were under the reign of Kingdom of Prussia. At the time of ban of lithuanian language in Russian Empire during 19th century, Lithuania Minor was a centre where Lithuanian-language books and periodicals were published and then smuggled into Lithuania, then part of Russia.
At present time the influence and presence of Samogitian dialect, especially in Klaipėda and its surroundings, is noticeable.
Most commonly used foreign languages are Russian, German, English and Polish.
- From the north: the A13 highway along the coast takes you there soon after Palanga. Away from the coast - straight as an arrow the European E77 highway from Riga (Latvia) through Šiauliai takes you to the region almost with your eyes closed by any transport means, the only place where you'll be awakened is the Sovetsk border crossing point; the road leads up to Kaliningrad.
- From the south: same road from Kaliningrad via Sovetsk takes you to the region in Pagėgiai vicinity. From Kaliningrad along the coast and Curonian Spit you can get to Neringa and Klaipėda.
- From the east: get to the 141 highway near Jurbarkas, this place is reachable from everywhere, including Poland (after entering the country take the road No 137 soon after Marijampolė), there is a bridge over Nemunas river in Jurbarkas. From there head west and reach the region after 10km of ride.
- From the west: there is a Baltic sea in the west, you either sail from somewhere to Klaipėda sea port or fly to Palanga air port. Klaipėda has a yacht marina by the Old Castle site (contacts [email protected] , reception +370 652 30408, fax +370 46 490-999), another marina is across the channel in Smiltynė (contacts [email protected] , fax +370 46 391-107, address Smiltynė St 25, LT-93100 Klaipėda). Šilutė marina is reachable from the sea by crossing both Curonian Lagoon and Nemunas Delta.
Most convenient transport is a car, though public transport (suburban and regular intercity buses) is also available. The land is flat, suitable for bicycling. Within Nemunas delta and Curonian Lagoon the motorboat is a common mode of transport.
View from the Baltic Sea to the Dutchman's Cap Dune in winter, near Karklė
Operating railway bridge in Šilutė
, built in 1875, reconstructed in a special way to meet the requirements of modern times. Coordinates 55.34079, 21.49295.
- Cape Ventė (Ventės ragas) with a Cape Ventė Lighthouse and the Ornithological Station.
- Curonian Spit.
- Karklė ethnographic village, its surroundings and the Olando kepurė (Dutchman's Cap) dune. Karklė operates as a quiet summer resort: several cottages, countryside tourism homesteads, hotel Gamtos perlas and a camp site Pajūrio takas offer accommodation and catering.
- King Wilhelm Canal (Lith: Karaliaus Vilhelmo kanalas; Germ: König-Wilhelm-Kanal), built 1865–1873 by French prisoners of war. Length 25–27km, width 28–30m, average depth 1.7m.
- Rambynas Hill.
- Remains of the northern Prussian–Lithuanian border which was determined by the Treaty of Melno on 27 Sep 1422, and remained unchanged for about 500 years.
- Rusnė island and Museum of polders (Polderių muziejus), Uostadvaris village, Šilutė district (Northern shore of Rusnė island), ☎ +370 441 62230 (fax: +370 441 62236).
- Kintai Music Festival “Lagoon Thunderstorm” (Kintų muzikos festivalis “Marių audra”), HQ: Vydūno St 5A, Kintai, LT-99358 Šilutė district (NW of Šilutė, on the Lagoon shore), ([email protected]). Since the middle of July till the beginning of August. Several classic music concerts and performances in different locations (Kintai Church, Evangelical Lutheran Small Church, Kintai Culture House) and on different weekends. Ticket ~€6-7.5. ("55°25'7.69"N","21°15'55.03"E")
- Sea Feast (Jūros šventė). Annually on the end of July. Takes place in Klaipėda city, see details on Klaipėda article. edit
- Karklė Karklė beach (Karklė village north of Klaipėda, south of Palanga), ☎ +370 46 256-590 ([email protected]). Weekend on the middle of August. Three day open air live music festival with "hippie" spirit and hippie atmosphere. Location is a well known summer resort, a tiny but notable village on the coast. Accommodation is available at campsites or cottages with a special ticket; campsites open from F 13:00 until Su 20:00. Three days without accommodation ~€70, three days with accommodation ~€80-120. Parking fee for a car or motorbike ~€10. ("55°48'27.3"N","21°3'57.34"E")
- Fish Soup Cooking Championship (Žuvienės virimo čempionatas), Uosto St 9 (The Šilutė marina), ☎ For participants +370 686 90368 ([email protected]). First weekend of September, opening ceremony at 12:00 on Saturday. Championship aims to choose the most delicious Žuvienė - Lithuanian fish soup and fish stew. Championship participants are obliged to distribute 2/3 of the cooked Žuvienė to the audience and visitors, and 1-3 liter pots go to the jury for testing. Event attracts crowds of town locals and many visitors from surrounding region; tasty smells and delicious fresh food turn this fest into one of the most mouth-watering festivals in the country. Details on championship are provided at the Šilutė Municipality website - choose "Žuvienės virimo čempionatas" from menu and use online translator if necessary. edit
- Bicycling. Apart from the 52km section of Hansa circuit along the Curonian Spit, the bicycle routes on the mainland are not the specifically designed individual paths, and they are not well marked, however they coincide with the existing local roads with little traffic flow. Further away from Lagoon, in the plains and forests, there are very few oficial roads and quite a lot of the forest paths which all are rideable by both car and bike but have very little traffic. Absence of heavy traffic is a significant comfort factor which allows you to enjoy the surrounding landscapes. The traveller is quite flexible to ride almost anywhere. As in all country, the most interesting and varied environment is away from the highways, which means that every traveller has to make some general efforts. Nothing and nobody here is going to supply you with detailed instructions served on a saucer: cyclists themselves are supposed to dive into the unknown and explore it. Initial information, related to everything needed for bicycling in the region, can be acquired at the Tourist offices (see "Understand" section) and also at Klaipėda's Tourist office.
- Bicycle route along the Baltic coast (section of Euroroute R1) from Klaipėda to Šventoji near Latvian border ~41km one way. Southern half (c. 20km) belongs to Lithuania Minor region, its northernmost point near Nemirseta village is marked on the online map as "34";
- Bicycle route along the Lagoon shore (Euroroute R1 satellite track) Klaipėda-Rusnė-Nida ~120km, 3 days is recommended for inexperienced cyclists;
- 24km detour - unmarked circuit along Minija river allows to enjoy the picturesque shores, especially from "monkey" footbridge in Dituva village at 55.59447, 21.29225;
- Bicycle route along Nemunas river Rusnė-Kaunas: section within region's limits between Rusnė and Smalininkai is 100km, and it stretches east up to Kaunas for another 100km;
- Areas and points of interest that require a detour (order north to south to east) : Kretinga town (55.89996, 21.24857), Eketė hill fort near swimable pool (55.7922, 21.17997), Kalotė lake (access point at 55.78201, 21.10666), Agluonėnai village (ethnographic homestead at 55.5852, 21.3936), stone "bridge" to Galzdonai island (55.19626, 21.59415), almost completely decayed abandoned Soviet anti-aircraft base W of Rumšai (3 batteries best seen on a satellite image, the middle one at 55.33013, 21.57987), site for wild camping near Kuciai hamlet (55.13938, 21.78747), Memorial "Oflag 53" (55.13721, 21.88187), view to Tilsit town and Queen Louise bridge (Panemunė village 55.08595, 21.90498), Tauragė town (tourist office and museum at 55.2524, 22.2846), Rambynas Hill (55.08804, 22.02142), Bitėnai cemetary (history heritage, 55.0859, 22.03507), site for wild camping by Nemunas river (55.08536, 22.0329), view to Ragnit town across the river (55.04144, 22.03984), Šereiklaukis manor estate (55.05439, 22.1189), Vilkyškiai manor estate (55.11765, 22.1296), Kaskalnis Hill (900ha of hilly upland deep in Karšuva forest, 55.12772, 22.37376), Viešvilė strict nature preserve crossing points (55.13379, 22.40586 and 55.13163, 22.43293), site to have a break near highway (55.06917, 22.47353), Smalininkai old harbour (55.07287, 22.58769).
- Birdwatching. Birdwatching Rally "Curonian Lagoon" is organized annually by Lithuanian Ornithological Society and takes place around the Lagoon in both mainland and Curonian Spit, in October. Birdwatching tours for the groups usually are organized in spring and autumn. Time is an important factor, because the main bird migration route goes along the Lagoon coast through Cape Ventė, therefore bird migration is a prime time to watch birds there.
- Some main bird-watching spots:
- along the Lagoon shore - Aukštumala bog (observation tower 55.3927, 21.3597), several spots in Rusnė island along Atmata and Skirvytė rivers, W shore of Cape Ventė, Krokų lanka lake and Mingė meadows (observation tower 55.3777, 21.31102), Kintai fish ponds (55.40966, 21.28526);
- near Baltic coast - N of Karklė by the lake Plazė (observation shed 55.83486, 21.06917);
- along Nemunas river - by two old river beds - lake Senoji Rusnė (55.14388, 21.746042) and lake Sennemunė (55.13302, 21.79395); spot for white stork watching with scope in Bitėnai during summer (55.08159, 22.04519, the colony of white storks at 55.08121, 22.04373).
- Canoeing in Minija and Jūra rivers, canoeing or rafting in Nemunas river.
- Hiking in Viešvilė forests, wild camping.
- Kintai mini-resort: Kintai village, Šilutė district (on the shore of Curonian Lagoon), ☎ +370 441 47339 ([email protected], fax: +370 441 47339). Organize or provides assistance in organizing birdwatching, fishing, hunting, boating and other activities. Rents all needful equipment, owns about 1,000ha of hunting grounds. Provides accommodation in hotel "Pelikanas" and the guest house "Žvejų užeiga".
- Skiing in winter at Utriai Hill (Utrių kalnas), Utriai village, Vėžaičiai elderate, Klaipėda district (eastern bank of Minija river, east of the road #2230 at 55°47'30.63”N, 21°26'19.05”E - east of Klaipėda, north of Gargždai), ☎ +370 699 03781. Workdays 15:00-22:00, Sa 10:00-22:00, Su 10:00-21:00. Small but favorite area to ski, with several tracks and equiped with lifts. Snow cannon works when temperature is at least -5°C or lower. Lifts on workdays: for adult €6/1.5h, €9/3h, €12/whole day; same for kid €4/6/9. Lifts on weekends: for adult €7.50/1.5h, €10.50/3h, €13/whole day; same for kid €5/7.50/10. (55.79185,21.43862)
- Ventainė Marių St 7, Ventė village, Šilutė district (at Cape Ventė), ☎ +370 686 70490 ([email protected], fax: + 370 441 47-422). A leisure centre on the coast of the Curronian Lagoon, features an "inn" type restaurant, also ofer the leisure and regular tours across the Lagoon to Nida.
- Windsurf Camp takes place on a site by Curonian Lagoon shore near Suvernai village at 55.400975, 21.238807 on the 2nd half of June. This is a free, week-long event, which aim to bring together all the surf-lifestyle enthusiasts from all over Lithuania and neighbouring countries. The main coordinator is a public institution Extreme Sports ☎ +370 611 49299 ([email protected]). Several accommodation options available in Kintai village, ~4km north from the site.
- Windsurfing in Curonian Lagoon.
Žuvienė, the Curonian fish broth, is a specialty of the region's Lagoon area.
Smoked fish (Rūkyta žuvis) is another specialty, common everywhere where the access to the Baltic sea available. Typically sold by the fishermen family members directly from the smokehouse in their courtyards, also in various public spaces of most villages during the tourist season.
Southern border along Nemunas river is an external EU border with Kaliningrad Oblast of Russian Federation: know where you go, where you are going to sail or swim, don't violate the border zone regime.
The average depth of Curonian Lagoon is about 4m, there are some deeper areas, and some very shallow areas. The latter ones create a false sense of safety which is the main danger in Lagoon. Same applies to the Baltic sea: the sea is very shallow near the shore, gradually deepening when walking away from it. However, the deep pits, which are visually unnoticeable, in combination with small but strong waves, which tend to occur unexpectedly, can create rather dangerous situations if you're swimming alone.