Curonian Spit

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Curonian Spit
Lithuanian Kuršių nerija
Russian Куршская коса Kurschskaja kossa
Curonian Spit NP 05-2017 img17 aerial view at Epha Dune.jpg
Russian part - view of the Baltic Sea, the Epha dune and the lagoon
Geographical location
Curonian Spit (Kaliningrad Oblast)
Curonian Spit
Coordinates 55 ° 16 ′  N , 20 ° 58 ′  E Coordinates: 55 ° 16 ′  N , 20 ° 58 ′  E
Waters 1 Baltic Sea
Waters 2 Curonian Lagoon
length 98 km
width Max. 3.8 km
surface 162 km²
Curonian Lagoon.jpg
Landsat photo

The Curonian Spit ( Lithuanian Kuršių nerija , Russian Куршская коса Kurschskaja kossa ) is a 98 km long peninsula on the north coast of Samland . It begins in Lesnoi and ends at the Memeler Tief . Since 1945, the northern 52 km belong to Lithuania and the southern 46 km to the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast .


The spit separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea . The 3.8 km widest point is at Bulvikio ragas (Bullwikscher Haken), four kilometers northeast of Nida (Eng. Nidden ), the border town of the Lithuanian part. The narrowest point is near the settlement Lesnoi (Sarkau) at the southern end of the spit and is only 380 m wide.

The name comes from the Order of time and refers in this epoch only indirectly to the people of the cures because he set off for Kurland and Livonia points, as well as the Vistula Spit (of Königsberg of view) "Danziger Spit" was called. The spit was originally covered by coniferous forest . The first clearings took place during the time of the Teutonic Order . It was not until the deforestation in the Northern War (1674–1679) and in the Russian era that ungrown and higher dunes emerged .

Huge shifting dunes repeatedly buried villages. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that the dune inspector Wilhelm Franz Epha succeeded in planting and stabilizing the dunes. The Parnidis dune near Nida is one of the largest dunes in Europe. Formerly known as the "East Prussian Sahara", it serves as a film set .


In 2000 the Curonian Spit was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO .

In prehistoric times it was settled by cures , interrupted by around two centuries in which the inhabitants, with the exception of a few families, had migrated to the north. To the south of Lesnoj was Wiskiauten , where around 500 barrows from the Viking Age (middle of the 9th to 11th centuries) can still be found today. The Lithuanian part of the Curonian Spit was declared the Curonian Spit National Park (Lithuania) , the Russian part of the Curonian Spit National Park (Kaliningrad Oblast) since 1945 . In May 2006, over 200 hectares of pine forest in the northern part of the spit burned.

The Curonian Spit is traversed almost its entire length by an asphalt road ("R 515" in Russia, "167" in Lithuania). It begins in the south at the spit sign on the access road at Cranz ( Russian Зеленоградск Selenogradsk ) and leads to the old ferry dock at the Lithuanian town of Smiltyne, opposite the port of Klaipėda ( Memel ) in the north of the spit. On the Russian side, the milestones indicate the kilometers from the spit sign. On the Lithuanian side, the distance from the Russian-Lithuanian border is on the left, the distance from / to the ferry terminal on the right.


The path along the Curonian Spit as part of the route between Leipzig and St. Petersburg (1802)

The Curonian Lagoon was formed on the basis of the Polish-Lithuanian (Baltic) Depression, a pre-Cambrian tectonic structure, on a crystalline foundation . The lagoon foundation is at a depth of 2000 to 2300 meters. The axis of this depression lies roughly on the Riga - Kaliningrad line . The eastern part of the Baltic Depression is crossed by a series of tectonic faults in a southeast-northwest direction:

  • Line Gumbinnen - Groß Skaisgirren / Kreuzingen - Rossitten (Гусев / Gussew - Большаково / Bolshakowo - Рыбачий / Rybatschi ),
  • Line Labiau - Sarkau (Полесск / Polessk - Лесной / Lesnoi ),
  • Line Lasdehnen / Haselberg - Tilsit - Cranz (Краснознаменск / Krasnosnamensk - Советск / Sovetsk - Зеленоградск / Selenogradsk )

and in a north-north-east-south-south-west direction, down from the Миния / Minija (Minge) river .

In the history of the Curonian Lagoon, the following three main periods can be distinguished in terms of geological development:

  • those of the ice reservoirs ,
  • those of the coastal seas,
  • that of the actual Curonian Lagoon.

After the last ice sheet retreated, ice reservoirs existed in the area of ​​the Curonian Lagoon for a while . This was followed by a longer mainland regime that lasted until the Ancylus period . During this time there were one or more coastal lakes in the port territory, which fell dry in the second half of this period. During the Littorina period there was a lake in the southern part of the port territory and a sea bay in the current northern part. The shoreline of this bay ran from Nida ( Eng . Nidden ) to Ventės Ragas ( Windenburger Eck ) , from here via Priekulė (Prökuls) in the direction of Klaipėda (Memel) .

During the regression of the Littorina Sea, the Curonian Spit gradually formed, which separated the former bay from the open Baltic Sea. A part of this bay later formed the low terrace near the harbor. The rest of the bay united with the beach lake in the south and in this way formed the current Curonian Lagoon. This could have happened in the second half of the Littorina Age, about 4,000 to 4,500 years ago. Under today's conditions, the Curonian Lagoon faces the inevitable fate of turning into a coastal lowland.

The following is a description of the Curonian Lagoon, its soil design and the soil deposits. The bottom relief of the lagoon is not very diverse and rich in contrast. The greatest depth (5 meters) is in the southern part of the basin, while its northern part is significantly shallower.

The distribution of recent soil deposits depends on the relief and the sedimentation conditions. The lagoon deposits can be divided into the following facies : sand , silt and loam .

In this facies, in turn, one can separate out lithologically genetic types and in them granulometric groups. The largest areas in the northern and central parts of the area are covered with sand, while mud is predominant in the southern part. The spread of the clay is linked to the zone near the shore ( Ventės Ragas , south coast of the lagoon). Once formed, the sands are of glacial , aeolian , alluvial or marine origin.

The sedimentary rock (two kilometers thick) in the lagoon area is composed of Paleozoic and Mesozoic formations. A Pleistocene complex forms a layer 80 to 160 meters thick here. The greatest thickness of the Pleistocene deposits in the area of ​​the Curonian Lagoon was left by the glaciers from the last glaciation ( Vistula Ice Age ).

The first stage of development of the Curonian Lagoon in the post-ice age is connected to the Baltic Ice Lake . The coast of the Yoldia Sea was 10 to 15 kilometers west of the Curonian Spit and on the moraine plateau near the settlement Rybatschi ( Rossitten ) and is 30 to 35 kilometers away from today's coast. Thanks to the rapid rate of lowering of the southern and especially the western part of the Hafsteil at the beginning of the early Holocene , which had replaced the glacio-isostatic uplift in the old Holocene, the Memel (lit. Nemunas ) directed the flow into this lagoon section. An extensive lagoon was formed on the river, which was united with the estuary of the middle flow during the Ancylus Transgression, giving rise to the Curonian Lagoon. At that time, the remains of a moraine chain and the moraine plateau at the Rybatschi settlement served as barriers against the sea. The northern part of the harbor was then a bay. Although the maximum eustatic water level of Lake Ancylus was about seven to ten meters, the tectonic subsidence in the Nemunas Delta had caused a significant local transgression and left a thick layer of sand and debris.

After the Ancylus Transgression, under the influence of the Ancylussee and later the Littorina Sea, the first stage formed in the shallows of the lagoon and in the delta bogs and swamps. In the lagoon area they were flooded by the following transgression and developed further in the river delta . The reason for their preservation and even the occurrence of oligotrophic bogs during the period of the eustatic litorina maximum can be explained by the increased local tectonic uplift, especially in the second half of the Littorina period.

The neotectonics of the Middle Holocene differed in great regional differentiation. The subsidence area has shifted to the Soviet-Nida tectonic line. The peninsula and especially the plateau island near the Rybatschi settlement rose. The tectonic uplift of the lagoon eliminated the eustatic one, which is why the coastal formations of the first and last Littorina transgressions are almost identical. The Curonian Spit already existed in the middle of the Middle Holocene on the basis of moraine islands and plateau remains near the settlement Rybatschi. The limnic marine stage ( subboreal period) is characterized by changes in the direction of epirogenetic movements. The delta and the lagoon area sank. This tendency, which was caused by a eustatic-tectonic event, was also maintained during the first Baltic transgression.

The time between the first and second Baltic transgression is characterized by a differentiated upward trend. During the last five centuries this difference has increased: the southern and especially the southwestern part of the part, the area of ​​the Klaipėda / Memel strait, sank, and the middle part with the Curonian Spit and the area of ​​the Avant Delta rose. The strait of Klaipėda, created in the last millennium, replaced the earlier one that existed at the Zirgu Ragas Hook.

In the lagoon sedimentation, the allochthonous component outweighs the autochthonous component . Decaying north-western and southern moraine coasts and moraine undersea hills - reefs with gravelly facies - are transformed into a wide sandy strip and framed the lagoon. Mud is concentrated in the large area of ​​the southern part of the port. The buffer facies are sandy mud and muddy sand in the central and northern part of the lagoon. Autochthonous deposits ( detritus , shell limestone) are found more frequently in the southern lagoon area. Shell limestone is concentrated around the sandbars. The total carbonate content of the sediments is low. 98 percent of the catchment area of ​​the Curonian Lagoon forms the tributary area of ​​the Nemunas. This is characterized by intensive surface erosion (in 1965 the erosion soil formed around five percent of the entire area).

Medium fractions of the erosion products were deposited in the river valleys and in the delta during the spring flood. After the polder was established, the sealed stream was able to transport this bed load directly into the Avant Delta and the lagoon. In terms of landscape, the lagoon is divided into three areas: the northern, central and southern areas, in which ten further genetic microrajons can be distinguished. The adjoining delta areas of the coastal flatlands, the spit and the Nadruvs plateau are also divided into 16 additional microrajons.

Furthermore, the course of the tectonic uplifts and depressions in the Atlantic , Subboreal and Subatlantic is of interest for the formation of the relief . These times are characterized by compensating uplifts and subsidence up to a maximum of eight meters. Geologically older times record a total elevation of 70 meters.

Surface shapes

Using the elevation model of the Curonian Spit, you can see the relief of the Curonian Spit very well. In the west in the coastal area is the beach with the adjoining dune. The pre-dune rises to about ten meters above sea level. After the pre-dune, there is a flat drop towards the Palve . The palve itself is a flat relief and is usually three to seven meters high. In the south of the study area, the Palve is sometimes less than three meters, which is also important for the distance from the groundwater surface. The dune follows the Palve. The dune reaches different heights in the area of ​​Nidas, depending on whether the forest vegetation has been cleared or not. In areas that were cleared in the 18th century, strong dune formation began. Some of the remaining forests and fishing villages were buried, especially in the south of Nida. In the southern part of the study area there is still an unforested dune. It reaches almost 73 meters above sea level. The shape of these bare dunes consists of a flat rise (four to twelve degrees) from the Palve (= hiking trail of the dune). On the east side, the dune drops off relatively steeply (30–35 °).

In the area of ​​Nida you can see the original shape of the overgrown dunes with a maximum height of 20 to 30 meters. This area was not cleared in the 18th century.

Coastal morphology

Dunes near Nida, Lithuanian side

Caused by material transport, erosion and accumulation of aeolian and marine species, the narrow strip of land of the Curonian Spit is constantly in motion. Evidence for this was provided by archaeological excavations. The shifting of the coastline on the sea side and on the haff side takes place more or less quickly to the east, depending on the soil reinforcement. The beach is relatively flat along the Curonian Spit. The ten-meter line is here about one kilometer from the coast. The coastal current lying here forms an underwater channel with well-developed two to three sand bars in the Nida area. As mentioned, the coast is shaped by hydrodynamic processes, especially by the longitudinal coast current. This was connected with the erosion of the moraine cape (Samland peninsula) and with the deposition of the material along today's spit. There was an intensive transport of sediments along and across the coast with a Depris sorting process. During the Atlantic , prevailing south-westerly winds and the resulting sediment transport from the south shaped the current shape of the Curonian Spit. This can be inferred not only from the elongated shape of the Curonian Spit, but also from the composition of the sediments (glauconites, phosphorites). These sediments are present in the maximum amount found in the Atlantic period. They were washed out of the paleogenetic layers of the Samland peninsula.

Sections of the coast where erosion takes place and sections of coast where deposits take place alternate. The total volume of the sediment flow moves between 300,000 and 1,000,000 cubic meters per year. Coastal erosion is the main source of sediment flow. Coastal erosion is most intense during storms in the Samland peninsula at a depth of five to six meters. Here the 10-meter line is only five to seven meters from the coast. The coastal zones of the longitudinal coastal sediment flow can therefore be divided into:

  • Erosion zone (ER)
  • Transit zone (TR)
  • Deposition zone (AL)

The erosion zone is characterized by a negative sediment balance, which is why the beaches are poorly developed and narrow. The debris is rough (poorly sorted sediments on the beach). The erosion zone extends over the entire area of ​​the Samland peninsula and the lower part of the Curonian Spit.

The transit zone has a balanced sediment balance. The sediments are well sorted on the coastline. The beaches are relatively stable and wide (35 to 75 meters). The Underwaterslope is complemented by a series of (three to four) sand bars close to the coast. This transit zone is on the Curonian Spit between Rybatschi and Juodkrantė .

There is a positive sediment balance in the deposit zone. The beach here is between 75 and 100 meters wide. This zone is characterized by a well-aeolian relief. A reduced granulometric form is given. The amount of sediment flow is also affected by man-made obstacles. Therefore, artificial obstacles can also have a disruptive effect and are avoided on the Curonian Spit.

In general, the sediment flow increases in amount towards the north to Klaipeda:



There are the following villages on the Curonian Spit:

Lithuanian part
Russian part
  • Морско́е / Morskoje (Eng. Pillkoppen ), kilometer 44.3
  • Рыбачий / Rybatschi (Rossitten) , km 34
  • Красноречье / Krasnoretschje ( Kunzen ; no longer existent), km 31
  • Лесной / Lesnoi (Sarkau) , km 10.8

While the residents of the Lithuanian part today mostly speak Lithuanian and the Russian part mostly Russian, up to the Second World War the dominant language of the residents was, alongside German, the Latvian-related Nehrungskurisch .


The Lithuanian part of the spit in particular is a popular travel destination. The center of tourism is the town of Nida, where there are hotels , holiday apartments , campsites and restaurants .

The Russian part of the spit is less developed for tourism, not least because of the visa requirement for Russia. Most of the holidaymakers on this side of the spit come from Russia and Belarus . Some Kaliningraders have weekend cottages. There are two summer camps for children and young people (Djuny at kilometer 16.8 and Chvoinoje at kilometer 28.8). Lively construction activity has started in the Russian spit villages, and many holiday homes are being built.


Lithuanian part

Thomas Mann House in Nidden
  • Thomas Mann Cultural Center in Nida. Every year the Thomas Mann Festival takes place in Nida with readings, discussions and concerts.
  • Ludwig Rhesa monuments in Juodkrantė and near Pervalka
  • Witch Mountain in Juodkrantė with wooden sculptures
  • Ethnographic cemetery with grave monuments and Kurenkreuzes in Nida
  • Atelier of the well-known Lithuanian artist Eduardas Jonušas in Nida
  • Fishermen's Ethnographic Museum in Smiltynė
  • Dolphinarium and Maritime Museum in Smiltynė
  • Lutheran churches in Nida and Juodkrantė (Lithuania is otherwise mostly Catholic)
  • Dead dunes between Juodkrantė and Pervalka
  • Valley of silence
  • Valley of Death , got its name because of the French prisoners of war who died here during the construction of a camp in the years 1870–1872 due to poor conditions.
  • Parnidis dune (lit. Parnidžio kopa ) with sundial - calendar in Nida, also known as the high dune
  • Memorial for the Lithuanian glider pioneers and for the German glider pilot Ferdinand Schulz
  • Amber Museum in Nida and the former Amber Harbor in Juodkrantė
  • Gray heron and cormorant colony near Juodkrantė
  • Negelsches Naturreservat (lit. Naglių rezervatas ), dunes north of Pervalka above the former village of Negeln (lit. Nagliai ).

Russian part

Forest of the dancing trees
  • Northern dune area, partly border area (“No trespassing!”), From 45.8 km
  • Epha dune at kilometers 43 to 44
  • Dune area vantage point, stopping point, then 500 m walk, kilometer 42.2
  • Middle dune area at kilometers 38.0 to 42.5
  • Ornithological station in Rybatschi ( Rossitten ): oldest ornithological station in the world, kilometer 34
  • Old cemetery: tombs of ornithologist Johannes Thienemann and dune inspector Franz Epha , kilometer 32.1 (sea side)
  • Bruchberge Müllers Höhe (Gora Krutaja) : parking lot and small designated hiking trail, highest point in the Russian part (43 m), kilometer 32.1 (sea side)
  • Ornithological station Fringilla: guided tours for groups, information boards, large fish trap networks (Rybatschi branch), kilometer 23 (side of the lagoon)
  • Southern dune area at kilometers 19.3 to 30.5 (lagoon side)
  • National Park Museum (Musei Nationalnogo parka) : Shows the fauna and flora of the spit, but also the local history. The museum clearly shows how sensitive the ecological balance of the spit is. The museum building previously served as a guest house for the party leadership of the Kaliningrad region. Km 14 (lagoon side, north of Lesnoje)
    • Museum of Russian Superstition: on the grounds of the National Park Museum. Over 80 small, bizarre wooden figures give visitors an insight into the world of Slavic mythology with its water, forest, field and house spirits.
  • Morskoje : Northernmost place in the Russian part of the spit. The former village of Pillkoppen, which was founded by the German knights in 1283 on the site of the Prussian settlement Pillikoppen, was a prosperous fishing village, whose houses were thatched, many of which are still preserved. 500 m north, not far from the shore of the lagoon, is a cemetery with Russian graves.
In 1283 the German Order of Knights built a defensive castle near Morskoje. The ruins of the old knight's castle are still standing.


There is a road border crossing between the Lithuanian and the Russian part of the spit , which is crossed twice a day in both directions by Russian buses between Kaliningrad and Klaipėda.

Lithuanian side

Entrance to the port of Klaipėda - on the right the northern tip of the spit - called Kopgalis ( southern tip )

Russian side

  • The Russian side of the spit is under nature protection (Kurschskaja Kossa National Park), visitors can purchase an entry permit into the nature reserve for a fee. The checkpoint of the national park is at km 3.8 (there is no bus stop here). The approach to the spit is via Zelenogradsk (German: Cranz ) at the southern end of the spit. At kilometer 0, i.e. the beginning of the spit in Zelenogradsk, there are two petrol stations, the next and last petrol station on Russian territory is just after Rybachi.
  • Several buses run daily between Kaliningrad and the Curonian Spit, the Kaliningrad – Klaipeda bus stops in Zelenogradsk as well as in all villages on the Spit. The drive from Kaliningrad to Rybachi takes about two hours.
  • The international airport Kaliningrad - Khrabrovo is located directly south of the spit .

See also

Imperial mail on the Curonian Spit


Web links

Commons : Curonian Spit  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert Albinus: Königsberg Lexicon . Würzburg 2002, ISBN 3-88189-441-1
  2. UNESCO World Heritage Center: Curonian Spit. Retrieved March 31, 2017 (English).
  3. until 1938 Groß Skaisgirren, 1938–45 Kreuzingen
  4. to 1938 Lasdehnen, 1938–1945 Haselberg