Nida is a resort town in Lithuania, the administrative centre of Neringa municipality. Located on the Curonian Spit between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea, it is the westernmost point of Lithuania and the Baltic states, close to the border with the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast exclave. It currently has about 2,385 residents.
History : A settlement area of the Baltic Curonians, the original place called nida (“fluent” in the Old Prussian language) was first mentioned in 1385 documents issued by the Teutonic Knights, who ruled the lands within their Monastic State. The original settlement on the road along the Curonian Spit from Konigsberg to Memel was located about 5 km (3.1 mi) south of its today’s position near the Hohe Dune (High Dune) at Cape Grobstas (from Old Prussian: grabis, “hill”). The fishing village became part of the Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701.
In 1709 nearly all of the population died from a bubonic plague epidemic. Continuously threatened by sand drifts, the village was moved away from the approaching dune to today’s position in the 1730s. Incorporated into the Prussian Province of East Prussia in 1773, it became part of the German Empire upon the German unification of 1871. In 1874 a lighthouse on Urbas hill was built, later destroyed in the war and rebuilt in 1945 and 1953
Artists’ colony : From the late 19th century, the dune landscape became popular with landscape and animal painters from the Kunstakademie Konigsberg arts school. The local inn of Herman Blode was the nucleus of the expressionist artists’ colony (Kunstlerkolonie Nidden). Lovis Corinth sojourned there, as did Max Pechstein, Alfred Lichtwark, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Alfred Partikel. Painters from Konigsberg such as Julius Freymuth and Eduard Bischoff visited the area, as did poets such as Ernst Wiechert and Carl Zuckmayer. Other guests included Ernst Kirchner, Ernst Mollenhauer, Franz Domscheit, and Herrmann Wirth. The painters usually took accommodations at Blode’s hotel, and left some of their works with him. Some also built their own residences in the vicinity.
After World War I Nidden, together with the northern half of the Curonian Spit (Kurische Nehrung), became part of the Klaipeda Region (Memelland) under terms of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and was annexed by Lithuania in 1923. Officially renamed Nida, the village nevertheless remained a predominantly German settlement; the border with the remaining German (East Prussian) half of the spit lay only a few kilometers to the south. In 1929 Nobel Prize-winning writer Thomas Mann visited Nida while on holiday in nearby Rauschen and decided to have a summer house erected on a hill above the lagoon; it was mocked by locals as Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Onkel Toms Hutte). He and his family spent the summers of 1930–32 in the cottage, and parts of the epic novel Joseph and His Brothers (Joseph und seine Bruder) were written there.
Threatened by the Nazis due to his political views, Mann left Germany after Hitler’s Machtergreifung in 1933 and eventually emigrated to the United States. After the Klaipeda Region was again annexed by (now Nazified) Germany in 1939, his house was seized at the behest of Hermann Goring and designated a recreation home for Luftwaffe officers. Post-war : In 1939 the town had 736 inhabitants. Nida became nearly uninhabited, like all of the Curonian Spit, as a result of the Red Army advance and the Evacuation of East Prussia at the end of World War II, and the eventual expulsion of surviving German inhabitants. The town was reassigned to Lithuania under border changes promulgated at the Potsdam Conference, and became part of the Lithuanian SSR within the Soviet Union; since 1990 it has been part of independent Lithuania.
In the early postwar period, Nida was a little-visited fishing village. Later in Soviet times Nida, together with three other villages of the Neringa Municipality (Juodkrante, Preila and Pervalka), was a controlled-entry holiday region reserved for the Communist party officialdom (nomenklatura) and senior industry elite. Strict planning regulations, a ban on industrial development and generous municipal subsidies kept it unspoiled. Since independence, the area has been open to all, but the number of visitors is kept relatively low by the small number of hotel rooms (new developments usually are permitted only on old buildings’ foundations) and comparatively high rents.
Mann’s summer cottage survived the war and was preserved on the initiative of the Lithuanian poet Antanas Venclova. A first memorial site was inaugurated already in 1967. In the Soviet era it hosted a library open in summer only, with residential quarters of the visiting librarian posted from Klaipeda upstairs and public areas downstairs. In 1995/96 the house has been restored according to the original architectural design and re-openend as a cultural center dedicated to the writer, with a memorial exhibition and an annual festival.
Access : Coordinates: 55.303333, 21.005556 / Most travellers arrive via ferry from Klaipeda: direct ferry from Klaipeda to Nida (2 hr 5 min, €12, 2 ferries daily as of June 2017) take one of the frequent ferries to Smiltyne (5-10 min, €0.80 timetable 1 and 2). Then take a bus from Smiltyne to Nida (50 min, €3.40)
Attractions : Nida Dunes , Nida Beach , Promedane of Nida , Thomas Mann Museum , Sculpture Neringa , Catholic Church , Ethnographic Fishermen’s Museum , Nida Lighthouse , Amber Gallery / Activities : Boat Tours & Water Sports , Sailing yacht ,
Go next : Klaipeda