Written by Koentje3000 on 11 Jul, 2007
The town was founded as Memelburg as a garrison fort in the 13th century by the crusading German Teutonic Knights. Prussia took control of the town and for the next centuries it formed the border with the powerful Grand Duchy of Lithuania. For the next…Read More
The town was founded as Memelburg as a garrison fort in the 13th century by the crusading German Teutonic Knights. Prussia took control of the town and for the next centuries it formed the border with the powerful Grand Duchy of Lithuania. For the next centuries, the Prussian rule proved to be a blessing for the town as it kept on growing and prospering due to the excellent location of its port facilities. After WWI the freshly independent Lithuania acquired the region, which already had a large Lithuanian population. Memel was officially renamed into its Lithuanian name Klaipeda. After the German occupation during WWII the Soviet Union invaded the country and made it the Lithuanian Soviet Republic. With the collapse of the USSR, Lithuania finally gained back its independence in 1991 and is now a member of both EU and NATO.A thing you may notice immediately when you visit Klaipeda is the lack of churches. The ones not destroyed during WWII were razed by the communists during the aftermath of the war. The few churches now are newer additions and not worth visiting. The town, however, is still full of German-style 17th and 18th century Fachwerk-houses (half-timbered) providing the face of the city. Examples of this architecture can be found anywhere in the old town, like in the unofficial centre of Klaipeda, Theatre Square. Here you will also find the 200 year old bright white building of the Klaipeda Drama Theatre. The building's balcony became infamous as the place from where Hitler announced the German annexation of the town in 1939. In front of it is a small statue in commemoration of one of the most famous Klaipedans, the Prussian German poet Simon Dach. In the small but pleasant streets behind the square are small statuettes of a mouse and a cat. See if you can spot them.Other landmarks in the city include the "Meridianas" schooner ship on the Dane river and the 13th century ruined Memel Castle near the river's mouth. The Museum of Lithuania Minor (Didzioji Vandens Street) is a rather interesting museum of the history of the Klaipeda region. Just northeast of the city, about 1.5 km away from the centre, lies the interesting sculpture park with over 100 statues of Lithuanian artists.There are many places to stay in Klaipeda. On the top end Europa Royal Hotel, located just next to Theatre Square, offers standard double rooms for around 100€. Just north of the Dane river, 1km away, is the excellent Vecekrug Hotel, offering better rooms for similar prices. Good middle class hotels (around 50€ per double room) are Hotel Aribe or the Pajuris Hotel, offering lots of spa facilities for an extra fee and located 6km north of the city but reachable by public bus. Near Vecekrug is the excellent Litinterp Guesthouse offering B&B-style accommodation and self-catering apartments for around 20€ per person. Close
Written by Owen Lipsett on 14 Dec, 2004
While the History Museum of Lithuania Minor offers interesting exhibitions on the cultural and social history of Klaipeda, it provides relatively little insight on the city’s political history and almost no information of any sort in English. I hope that this brief history will…Read More
While the History Museum of Lithuania Minor offers interesting exhibitions on the cultural and social history of Klaipeda, it provides relatively little insight on the city’s political history and almost no information of any sort in English. I hope that this brief history will enhance both your understanding and enjoyment of Lithuania’s third largest city and only commercial port.
On the bank of the Danes River stands a large stone monument, sculpted by A. Sakalauskas, inscribed with a quotation by the local writer Ieva Simonaityte, "We are one nation, one land, one Lithuania." The sculpture itself, whose larger gray column represents Lithuania Minor and whose smaller red Doric column represents Lithuania major, hints that history has told a different story. With its deliberately jagged edge, representing the loss felt by Lithuanians because of Russian sovereignty over what is now the Kaliningrad Oblast, it indicates that this thinking remains somewhat wishful.
Klaipeda owes its name to members of the Curonian tribe, among the ancestors of today’s Lithuanians, in whose language the words klaip and eda mean "bread" and "eat" respectively. While they established a fishing village in the general vicinity of today’s city around the first century AD, they rarely had the opportunity to consume their bread in peace. Various invaders, in particular the Vikings and later the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights, attacked the region with regularity. The latter succeeded in taking the settlement, and in 1252, erected a brick fortress they named Memelburg (Memel Castle) after the German name for the Nemunas River, which runs into the Curonian Lagoon 50km south, near Nida on the Curonian Spit.
In 1258 the city, which came to be known as Memel, was given municipal rights, and in 1328, the Livonian Order transferred control of the city to its counterpart in Prussia. Despite frequent attempts to take the city, first by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and then by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the town remained firmly in the hands of the Teutonic Knights, even after their otherwise decisive defeat at the Battle of Zalgiris (Gruenwald) in present-day Poland in 1410. After the Order’s abandonment of its religious status in 1525, Memel became the northernmost town of the Duchy of Prussia, which it would remain until 1918.
As a member of the Hanseatic League and a key strategic fortress, Memel was often attacked by foreign powers; however, its sturdy fortress fell into non-Prussian hands on only two occasions – to the Swedes in 1628-1635 and the Russians in 1757-62. The thriving trading city that developed was less fortunate – burning to the ground in 1540, badly damaged again in 1678, and stricken with famine and plague between 1709 and 1711. Nonetheless, it developed strong trading ties with Britain and was settled by both Scottish and English merchants, who gave it something of a multicultural character. When King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia fled French occupation of Berlin in 1807, he made Memel his temporary capital for a single year.
With the establishment of the Second Reich in 1871, the Prussian King Wilhelm I became Kaiser (Emperor) of Germany as well, and on the urging of his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, commenced a Germanization campaign that rankled with Lithuanians. After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, the city and surrounding region were placed under international jurisdiction (akin to the status afforded the Free City of Danzig/Gdansk) with day-to-day administration to be conducted by the French. Embittered by the awarding of Vilnius (Wilno) to Poland, the fledgling Lithuanian Republic organized demonstrations by the local Lithuanian population, and amid international dithering, annexed the city in 1923, giving the new country a working port.
Although the international community accepted the transfer as compensation for the loss of Vilnius, this Germans regarded the action as yet another entry on the list of territorial grievances they had with their victorious enemies in the First World War. Adolf Hitler was able to play upon this sentiment, and on March 23, 1939, unilaterally announced the annexation of the territory while the international community again stood by. It was Nazi Germany’s last territorial annexation before it attacked Poland in September of the same year.
The Soviet Army seized Klaipeda in 1945 and annexed it to the rest of Lithuania, which it had recently captured from Nazi Germany. During the war, much of the city was destroyed, accounting for the Soviet character of its architecture outside the small (and largely reconstructed) Old Town. The Soviets expelled the German population and deported many members of the Lithuanian population to Siberia. At the same time, Russians were settled in Klaipeda, which became a major shipbuilding and fishing center, and its prewar population more than quadrupled to 200,000. By the time Lithuania regained its independence, Klaipeda had become the fourth largest port in the entire Soviet Union as a result of its status as the country’s only ice-free port.
Unlike Kaunas and Siauliai, which suffered significant economic losses after the end of Soviet control, Klaipeda has risen to become the country’s second most important business center as a result of its port and consequently has begun to recapture some of its old cosmopolitan flavor.
Written by dangaroo on 13 Jan, 2009
On arrival in Klaipeda (the largest city in Western Lithuania), I had some issues with the luggage lockers at the station which at that time still required the use of Kopeks which weren't in use but could be bought from an old lady standing at…Read More
On arrival in Klaipeda (the largest city in Western Lithuania), I had some issues with the luggage lockers at the station which at that time still required the use of Kopeks which weren't in use but could be bought from an old lady standing at a window. I imagine this is now a thing of the past but haven't been to the train station recently, Klaipeda is a sea-side city with a port atmosphere, boats go to Germany from here and more importantly to the Curonian spit.As nice as Klaipeda is, there isn't a great amount of things of real interest there. Palanga the noisy northern neigbour is the place where many a Lithuanian, Russian and Scandanavian head to party and meet girls. A Baltic Ibiza so to speak, Nida however is quite the opposite. Isolated on the spit of land that joins Kaliningrad, only reachable by boat this gem of a place is the only place in Europe you will find a Wadi. When you cross the lagoon, you may drive along the forest laden piece of land for the best part of 50km's until a few kilometers from the border with Russia, you arrive at the town of Nida. The wadi, lagoon and pine forests give an amazing feeling, this is best visited out of the summer months when you will bump into German and Lithuanian tourists.Klaipeda itself does still have some things to offer, the old buildings in the centre are nice albeit not outstanding and the remains of the Memelburg castle also attract visitors. For the geordies amongst you, it's twinned with North Tyneside! Close