Fragile balance of the Curonian Spit. Lessons from the smallest national park in Russia

By the standards of national parks, it is small: 6.6 thousand hectares – two times less than the Elk Island located in northern Moscow. But lovers of nature and hiking there is where to roam. And there is something to think about: this place, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is a unique example of what the unreasonable use of natural resources can turn into, and how everything can be fixed.

The name of the park and the sandy scattering where it is located – by the way, the longest in the world – comes from the German KurischeNehrung, that is, the Curonian Spit (the Curon, they are the Kors – a tribe that once lived on the shores of the Baltic). The Russian version initially sounded like “Kursk Spit”, but in 1985 was replaced by the current one, in order to avoid unnecessary associations with Kursk.

The largest city closest to the spit is Kaliningrad, from where you can take a train or bus to the town of Zelenogradsk, which is located near the spit, and there you can catch a minibus running along the spit. And you can rent a car and not bother with studying schedules and transfers. True, entry to the territory of the national park is paid – 300 rubles. from the car. But by car, you can quickly get to Zelenogradsk – at least for the sake of the Murarium Museum with a collection of seals (from toys and postcards to dishes and household appliances) and a walk along the seaside promenade; and if the weather permits, there you can comfortably sunbathe and swim.

On the Curonian Spit itself, there are three small villages, Lesnoy, Rybachy and Morskoye, where Kaliningraders and vacationers from other cities and towns rent private accommodation for the summer. And here there are several hotels, campsites, and camping. A full-fledged beach holiday may not be necessary – the cold Baltic water is in no hurry to warm up and the weather suitable for swimming does not last all summer. But walks in the fresh sea air themselves are a separate pleasure, as well as swimming in the warm and freshwater of the Curonian Lagoon and the largest lake of the Spit Chaika (near Rybachy).

The Baltic coast is separated from the main part of the spit, covered with forest, by a high (3 to 15 meters) avandune, partially covered with grass, rare flowers and shrubs. She is the main local attraction. This huge shaft is man-made. In the XIX century, people built it so that the spit does not turn into a desert. And she began to desert … yes, also because of people. Due to the active felling of trees by the beginning of the 19th century, sand brought from the Baltic by wind and waves began to form huge dunes, which absorbed the remnants of forests, roads, and houses in fishing villages – the forerunners of three modern villages.

The onset of sand was not stopped forever – it continues, but on his way, there are an avidune and newly planted trees. Due to the erosion of the avandune, it continually crumbles and gaps appear in it, which are patched by volunteers and employees of the national park. Walking on the avandune is strictly forbidden, and crossing it, going to the beach, is allowed only on special wooden flooring.

There are other interesting routes. For example, the two-kilometer pedestrian route Müller Height, passing along the top of the Bolotnaya dune. This dune almost swallowed Rybachy village (then it was called Rotten), but was stopped and fixed by forest plantations in 1882. Another route was laid along the slope of the Orekhova dune on the 42nd kilometer of the highway running through the entire spit. It allows you to climb the highest point of the spit, which offers panoramic views of the surroundings.

These, of course, are not the only hiking trails. You can, for example, take a walk between the centuries-old trees of the Royal Forest, which still made Emperor Peter I on the 6th kilometer of the highway. You can also look at the bizarrely curved, or even completely tied into the knots of pine trees of the Dancing Forest. The dancing forest on the 37th kilometer is perhaps the most famous and most mysterious place of the Curonian Spit. There are many hypotheses explaining why the local pine forest arranged such a disco: from mystical ones that say that witches gather here for the Sabbath and open doors to other worlds to scientific ones (geomagnetic anomalies or caterpillars that damage the top kidneys of very young pines), but the true cause has not yet been established.

Walking through the forest and the edge of the bay, you can meet, with any luck, representatives of the local fauna: elk, fox or wild boar. And you can not hope for luck and go on an excursion to the field hospital of the Fringilla station, located on the 23rd kilometer of the highway. True, they will not show elk there, but you can see with your own eyes how scientists catch and ring birds. There are 262 species on the spit and most of them are migratory.

To learn more about the nature and history of the Curonian Spit and, of course, about the sandy disaster that not all the settlements that existed here could survive, visit the Museum Complex visit center on the 14th kilometer of the highway. Both adults and children will certainly be impressed by the interactive exhibition of the ancient Sambia open-air museum and funny wooden sculptures of evil spirits at the Museum of Russian Superstitions located right there.

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