Sprawling attractively along three kilometers of the Curonian Lagoon’s shoreline, Nida is the largest town and capital of the Curonian Spit. Although its permanent population numbers a mere 2,000, it apparently plays host to 50,000 tourists during its brief summer season. Consequently I hope that this brief guide will assist you in navigating between both distances and crowds.
Nearly all of Nida’s sights are located along the main street, which is called Nagliu gatve south of the bus station and Pamario gatve north of the station. Despite its location near the southern edge of the town, the station, from which buses run hourly to Juodkrante and Smiltyne, actually forms part of the town’s commercial center. Nearly opposite the station, at Nagliu gatve 3, is the Ethnographic Museum, a somewhat optimistic title for the immaculately restored 19th-century fisherman’s cottage which is its sole exhibit. Although the artifacts on display are interesting, it unfortunately lacks explanatory information in any language. This may be a gesture toward historical sensitivity, as the Spit’s inhabitants were primarily German prior to the territory’s incorporation into the Soviet Union after the Second World War.
The harbor just to the south affords a fine view of the 52-meter-high Parnidis Dune (the largest and highest on the Spit). If this inspires you to climb it, simply follow the footpath that runs southward along the harbor and you’ll be rewarded with a similarly spectacular view of Nida. Most of the town’s restaurants are located between the harbor and bus station, as are quite a number of souvenir stalls, largely selling identical amber objects at fairly reasonable prices, although without certificates of authenticity. It’s possible to purchase meticulously documented (though rather more expensive) amber jewelry and objects at the Amber Gallery, located directly to the north at Pamario gatve 20. True to its name, the Gallery has a modest exhibition of artwork carved from the so-called "Baltic gold" as well as a glassed-in display of amber-cutting equipment visible from the street (thus alleviating the awkwardness of stepping inside if you aren’t inclined to purchase anything).
Further north is the Fisherman’s Museum, which in all honesty should exchanges names with the Ethnographic Museum as its own collections are significantly more extensive and varied. It’s located at Kuverto gatve 2, but is entered from Pamario gatve, which runs perpendicular to Kuverto gatve. Light and airy as a result of a recent (and extensive) refurbishment, it contains exhibitions presenting early human settlement on the Spit, amber harvesting, and fishing, as well as archival photographs of the early twentieth century when Nidden (as it was then known) gained a reputation as a somewhat bohemian resort. All are exhaustively labeled in Lithuanian, German, and English, but pale in comparison to a display on crow hunting – in times of poor harvests fisherman would hunt the birds with nets, dispatching them with a swift bite to the neck (preceded by an even swifter stiff drink!).
The Lutheran Parish Church, built between 1887 and 1888 in the same rustic German style that characterizes much of Klaipeda’s architecture, crowns a small hill just past the Ethnographic Exhibition. The interior has recently been restored to reflect the original furnishings (although, because a Lithuanian Catholic congregation that now Further north still, Pamario gatve turns to Skrudzynes gatve-–its name a relic of the village of Skrudzyne, which was incorporated into Nida. It contains Nida’s most famous sight, the summer home the German author Thomas Mann built in 1929 with the money he received for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature that year. The museum which it contains is a place of pilgrimage for the Germans who comprise the bulk of foreign visitors to Nida, but as it lacks labeling in any other language, is somewhat less interesting for others. Fortunately the traditionally built house’s beauty, including the seahorses on its roof which are intended to guard against evil spirits, like that of the Spit itself, transcends mere words.