Lithuanian dunes – constantly changing fragile beauty

Lithuanian dunes – constantly changing fragile beauty

Lithuanian coastal dunes, constantly being re-formed by the wind, show us how fragile and constantly changing is the beauty created by nature. According to the historical sources, dunes of our seaside used to be a lot higher once and used to remind of huge sand mountains, and the sound of the sand slide plunging into the water used to be heard from tens of kilometres away. Currently the dunes are quite diminished, though they still have preserved their incredible beauty, unique flora, and calming and romantic atmosphere.

Lithuanians have hundreds of stories and legends about the appearance of dunes. One of the most famous stories tells us that the coastal dunes of Lithuania have been formed by the hands of a giant girl named Neringa, who used to live there. A beautiful and hard-working girl wanted to get married and announced that she would give her hand and her heart to a man, who would through a stone across the lagoon. One strong man was successful at executing the task and thus got Bangpūtys, who wanted to have Neringa for himself, really mad. Bangpūtys created an enormous storm, which started to flood over entire villages. And Neringa the giant rushed over there. The girl started scooping up the sand from the bottom of the sea and piled it on the shore to stop the waves. All of the locals of Neringa would back up that this was the way the majestic sand dunes were born.

Dunes are of two types – mobile and immobile. Mobile dunes are covered only with poor flora. Their waves are being constantly ruffled anew by the wind, and the dunes move leeward from several centimetres to several meters a year. You can find the highest mobile Lithuanian dunes in the Curonian Spit. These are the dunes of Parnidis, Urbas and the Great dune, which are over 50 meters of height.

Mobile dunes are currently bringing joy to Lithuanian and foreign tourists; however, once they were a great threat to the residents of the seaside. A great number of stories of villages buried by the dunes has still remained. One of them – the village of Naglis, which had been buried by Agila dune, brought by the wind one and half a hundred years ago. Seven generations tried to stop the sand from covering their dwellings, but all for nothing – the sand would creep over the streets shortly after and would flood the dwellings. Eventually, the residents started retreating taking the buildings with them. The village had migrated for two hundred years – the residents would constantly move back a few kilometres until eventually they stopped fighting the nature and leaving the territory would simply settle in other villages – Preila and Pervalka.

It’s quite possible that these settlements would have awaited a similar fate, but people found out a way to “calm” the moving dunes. They brought plants from abroad with long and widely spread out roots, and planted the dunes with them. These works for reinforcement of the dunes have not only ensured that the mobile dunes will not swallow their villages anymore, but also helped to stop the dunes from sliding down.

Mobile dunes are most often planted with shrubs and dwarf pines, the roots of which seem to wrap the dunes and protect them from spillage. This is how a new creation of nature and human handcraft – immobile or dead dunes, which have unique flora not to be found anywhere else in Lithuania – is born.

When you walk around in the shade of the dwarf pines, it’s quite easy to feel as if you’re in a fairy-tale. It’s really pleasant to hide from the heat of the sun there in the summer, to refresh the lungs with the aroma of the conifer trees and simply enjoy the peace.

The highest Lithuanian dead coastal dune is Vecekrugas dune. It reaches even 67 meters. A fancy name of the dune came from the tavern, which once used to stand at the foot of the dune. In the language of the ancient seaside residents, the Curonians, the word “vece” means “old”, and the word “kruogs” means a tavern. At the top of the dune, planted with Danish pines, you will find an observation deck, which opens up an overwhelming view towards the forests of Nida and Pervalka, sea and lagoon.

The other dune, called Skirpstas dune, is not far off. Having buried the whole village of Karvaičiai in the 18th century, this dune is now also planted with trees. When you reach the top of the dune, you will find the poems of a famous Lithuanian poet Liudvikas Rėza, who was born in these areas and engraved his poems into the oak monument, dedicated to the memory of the greatness of the dunes destroying the villages.

You can find more information about the Lithuanian dunes on the website www.lietuvosgamta.lt. Here you will find pictures of the most famous dunes, short films about them as well as audio stories. Once you select the dune you like the most, you can easily find it using coordinates and map, provided for you on the website. All that remains is to wish you a wonderful and adventurous journey!