Curonian spit, the most popular destination of the Kaliningrad region

The landscape of the Curonian Spit is not always as tranquil as it appears.

The Curonian Spit is the most popular destination of the Kaliningrad region. The spit is a unique natural path of sand and trees surrounded by water on both sides: the cold Baltic Sea on the right and the warm shallow Curonian Lagoon to the left.
This curious strip of land is Russia’s westernmost site on UNESCO’s heritage list, with the southern half belonging to Russia’s Kaliningrad Region and the northern half located in Lithuania; both halves are connected by a single road.
The Curonian Spit is a nearly 100-kilometer long curved sand-dune spit separating the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea Coast. It ranges in width from 400 meters at its narrowest point to 3,800 meters at its widest.
The Curonian Spit is also called “Bird Bridge,” because the ancient migration routes of birds from the northern countries to the southern regions of Europe and further to Africa pass through here.
There are routes through the forest: the main one is built like a boardwalk. Leaving the trails is not recommended as the forest abounds in ticks (tourist paths are treated with a special tick-repellent solution).
The fragility of this extraordinarily thin landmass, which has managed to survive for well over 2,000 years with residents as varied as Teutonic Knights, fishermen and artists, is what makes this natural wonder so remarkable.
However, UNESCO included it not for its beauty, but for being an outstanding and unusual example of continuous human settlement.
The names of the villages reflect the main occupation of their inhabitants: Lesnoy (forestry), Rybachy (fishermen), and Morskoe (marine).
The spit became popular among painters, especially those who loved to work en plein air, starting in the 19th century. Creative bohemians from all over Europe flocked to the sand dunes for inspiration.
Many of them stayed there permanently, buying shacks from fishermen and turning them into workshops or hotels. Many hotels decorate their interiors with the works of these same artists.
However, the landscape of the Curonian Spit is not always as tranquil as it appears. The famous sand dunes flanking the snowy white beaches have buried more than one village over the past few hundred years, due to a phenomenon called “wandering dunes” in which sand pours uncontrollably into the Curonian Lagoon and presents a great threat to the local inhabitants.

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