hidden europe 24

Spitting distance from the Baltic

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Erosion-prone sand dunes stablised with wood near Rybachy on the Russian section of the Curonian Spit (photo © hidden europe).


The Curonian Spit is a delicate concave arch, a narrow thread of land that divides the Baltic from the Courland Lagoon. We travel from Lithuania into Russia through one of Europe's most intriguing landscapes.

It is hard to beat a good spit. Geomorphologically speaking, that is. The nice thing about a spit is that you secure all the advantages of being at sea without the sickness. To walk out onto Spurn Head, jutting out beyond the Humber estuary in England, on a wild winter day is to give up your body, soul and senses to the North Sea. Spits, be they of shingle or sand, are wonderful things.

The spit at Hel is one of the finest, a delicate appendage of Poland that extends right out into the Baltic. The fifty minute train journey from Wladyslawowo out to the very end of the spit at Hel is one of the very best in Poland.

Yet there is one European spit that outclasses even Spurn and Hel. And that is Neringa, the great spit in the eastern Baltic that belongs partly to Lithuania and partly to Russia. About one hundred kilometres long, Neringa is a whopper of a spit that runs north from Zelenogradsk on the Sambian coast of Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast almost to Klaipeda in Lithuania. To the west lies the Baltic, and to the east the Curonian Lagoon.