By J. & R. Limantas
At the beginning of the 13th century the Prussians were at odds with the Poles in
the Lower Vistula basin. Being unable to resist the Prussian incursions, the Polish
duke Konrad of Mazovia extended an invitation to the Teutonic Order of the Cross,
expelled from Hungary in 1224. The first Teutons crossed the Vistula river in 1231
and embarked on the dramatic 180 years war against the Prussians and their nearest
racial relatives, Lithuanians and Latvians. Before 1231 there was no single German
village, town, or castle between the Vistula and the Nieman, there was no sign of
German cultural or linguistic influence in this region.
spoke Prussian or Lithuanian and possessed a high degree of culture with very pleasant
and hospitable manners: Adam, Bishop of Bremen, mentioned them in this chronicle
(ca.1070) as being”homines humanissimi”. But politically these people were not strong,
as they were divided into a dozen independent, and not united, principalities.
German crusade against the Prussians and Lithuanians (1231-1410).
Supplied with soldiers and money from all Germanic countries, the Knights of the
Cross continued the most savage war of conquest and extermination against the Prussians
and Lithuanians. These wars with some short intervals, extended over a period of
180 years: from 1231 to 1410.
(Prof. Kazys Pakstas “The problem of Lithuania Minor”, p.3, Santa Monica, Calif.,
The story of our trip to the Minge village will introduce you to Lithuania’s coast,
a small part of the Baltic Sea.
Lthuanian”s coast is primarily a beach due to prevailing onshore winds. there are
two ports on the 99 km. coastline: Sventoji, a resort community whose sea channel
has silted over and can not claim to be a port any longer, and Klaipeda, a large
port city. the Dange River flows through the center of the city and Klaipeda straddles
the entry into the large inland freshwater sea known as Kursiu Marios. The Kursiu
Marios is separated from the Baltic Sea by a narrow, sandy spit called Kursiu Nerija,
which is over 100km. long and only 0.4 km. to 4 km. wide. Lithuanian legend tells
of the giantess Neringa, who created the Spit so there would be a safe harbor for
fishermen. The Spit is a nature preserve with massive sand dunes and pine forests
that stabilize the sands. In the 16th-17th centuries destabilized sand dunes buried
14th fishing villages.
Our boat “Aura” had a berth at Old Castle canal of Klaipeda, which is now used as
a yacht basin. The canal empties into the Dange River, which flows into Kursiu Marios.
After picking up a few last minute supplies in Klaipeda, we set sail to Nida, the
main resort town on the Kursiu Nerija, about 30 miles from Klaipeda as the crow
The two Klaipeda city shorlines on the Kursiu Marios are a study of contrast-to
the east a forest of steel cranes and concrete chimneys, and on the western shore-pine
forest and white sand beaches. As the port ends, we passed Kiaules Nugara (Pig’s
Back), a small island, that is a bird refuge. At this point, the Kursiu Marios is
still narrow and requires a connect the dots approachto follow the buoys, but with
wind from the west this was not difficult.
We passed Alksnyne, an anchored floating dock. From here it’s a short walk to Eigulys
House where you’ll beer, pigs feet and other local favorites, but we not stop as
we were still within the city limits.
As we continued southward in the channel, we passed fisherman in their rowboats.
The obstacles to sailing the Kursiu Marios are many and varied from small rowboat
to flat-bottomed barges hauling loads down from the Lithuania interior via the Nemunas
River to staked out fishing nets. We were grateful, that we were sailing during
daylight hours and not only because of the magnificent views.
As we neared Juodkrante on the right, you can see old fishing village of Dreverna
on the left shoreline. At Juodkrante, the channel takes a sharp turn in toward shore,
don’t try to cut the corner. We tried and the crew was not happy when they had to
come out into rain to hike the boat off the shallows. Between Juodkrante and Pervalka
on the Kursiu Nerija you see the Dead dunes, under them lie several of the fishing
villages, that were buried by sand dunes. Once we got out past Zirgu ragas (Horse
cape) at Pervalka, we were able to relax. The Kursiu Marios from here on are wider
and deeper, and we were two-thirds of the way to Nida.
As you pass Bulvikio cape, you can see Nida in the distance and the big sand dunes
beyond. Nida is a wonderful resort area: beaches, 30-40 meters high sand dunes,
restaurants, galleries, and historic sights. Something for everyone as we discovered,
but the one sight that draws everyone like a magnet, is the sand dunes rising beyond
the yacht basin. If you walk south along the shoreline, you will eventually find
a small wooden pathway to the top of the dunes where you can view them in all their
We spent the evening and the next day exploring Nida and it’s environs. late in
the afternoon we decided to spend the next couple of days in the Nemunas river delta
on the east coast of Kursiu Marios. We crossed the Kursiu Marios in no time with
a strong favorable breeze. Our destination was minge village on the Minija River,
which flows into the Nemunas about a mile from it’s mouth. The village straddles
the river with neighbors visiting each other by boat like a rural Venice.
We entered the delta at the mouth of the Atmata, one of the main rivers that comprise
the Nemunas delta. We attempted to stop at Uostadvaris on the Atmata River, but
to no avail-our draft was too deep, so we continued on to the Minija River. At the
turn into river, we passed a merry group of campers, who invited us to dinner. We
told them we could join them, if we could not make it up the river. To the right,
the delta flats stretched off into the horizon. The steep roofed farmhouses of Minge
village lined the river. At each house a small dock jutted out into river, lily
pads lined the river edge. Small garden plots surrounded each house and fields of
vegetables, potatoes and hay ran out behind them.
We tied up to one of the docks, running lines to trees on shore so we would not
damage it. We okayed our stay with the owners and asked if they had milk and potatoes
for sale. We got eggs, and milk fresh from the cow as the farmer had just finished
the evening milking. New potatoes were dug up for us. A boy riding by on his horse
stopped to investigate the visitors. He gladly acquiesced to our request to ride
his horse. The well-trained filly politely walked us around the barn, although it
was obvious that allshe wanted was her stall and oats. After a light dinner, we
all turned in.
The next day dawned warm and sunny, the river was especially inviting and we all
went swimming. The more energetic raced back and forth across the river. One of
the farm boys told us his mother was preparing a special breakfast for us. It turned
out to be an enormous bowl of home-made yogurt mixed with diced cucumbers and dill.
With new boiled potatoes, it was a feast fit for kings.
After a walk along the banks of the river, (i.e. Main Street), we decided to explore
the delta by rowboat. The whole Nemunas river delta area is a zoological and botanical
preserve. We borrowed our hosts rowboat and dived into tall reeds that obscured
the horizon. Following various rivulets, were hoping to reach the large Krokiu Lanka
lake in the middle of the delta. Beautiful yellow and white water lilies lined the
water edges, and our only frame of reference was a dyke built to protect the farmlands
beyond. After reaching a number of dead ends and the wind blowing strongly against
us, we decided to return to the boat. Rowing against the wind extended the return
trip. On reaching the river, we were more than happy to tow the boat along the shore
instead of rowing. Back at the farm, after a hearty lunch, the farm boys showed
us last nights catch-a two meter long catfish, that was being stored in the cold
cellar before being taken to market. We invited our hosts for drinks after dinner.
We had a lively time before turning in for the night.
After another morning swim and quick breakfast, we got off to an early start back
to Klaipeda. During the night, the wind had calmed and turned to the east. The day
was picture perfect. A pick-up race with two other boats on the return trip brought
out some high tension competition, that geared everyone up for the return to the
P.S. A small marina has been established in Minges village.