Exploring southern Klaipėda by bike

Distance: 9.5 km
Cycling: easy asphalt/pavement
Duration: 50 minutes

Baltija borough (1) (4th borough)
Baltija borough, or so-called 4th borough of the city, was built in the place of Pempininkai village around 1969–1974, although after WW2 Soviet government had launched a kolkhoz (a form of a collective farm in the Soviet Union) called Baltija in this area. The borough has an approximate area of 92 ha and is divided into two smaller separate districts – Pempininkai (along the Taikos av.) and Nerija (along the Šilutės road). Hosting 24 thousand inhabitants, Baltija borough holds mostly massive five-story and nine-story condominium buildings, engineered specifically for this suburb. Nine-storey houses were masoned from red and yellow stone bricks with the blue glaze coating for the balconies.

Pempininkai community center and fountain (2) (Taikos av. 81) was built in 1968–1972 (architect A. G. Tiškus). The architect planned the food court and the shopping houses, the cinema theatre and the library together with the main symbol of the square – water fountain with the metal weather vanes, designed and made in 1975 by artist H. Urbaitis. Fountain and the traditional vanes were restored in 2016 and are at the beginning of a broad pedestrian avenue stretching throughout the whole Baltija borough.

Draugystės park (3)
Draugystės, or Friendship, park unites four different boroughs of the city and was created in the area of a former Gedminų (Gotzhofen) mansion from 16th century. The design of the park, incorporating a vast number of condominium buildings, public schools and churches, was established in 1962. Long walkways by the side of several ponds across the park soon became a popular spot to relax from the noisy city life. Park also holds various species of the trees, including European larch, horse-chestnut, European and Northern red oak, largeleaf linden and others. A stone monument to acknowledge the inception of the park was laid to the ground in 1975, close to the Debreceno str.

Parish of Bruno of Querfort (4) (Debreceno str. 3)
Catholic parish of Bruno of Querfort (šv. Brunono Kverfurtiečio) was founded by the Franciscans within the Catholic Church on January 7, 2007. Franciscans (in Lithuania commonly known as Bernardines after Bernardino of Sienna) moved to Lithuania in 13th century and greatly supported the development of education and local culture in the area, even created the first Lithuanian school. The current parish building is temporary – it has been planned to build a church and a monastery in the surrounding neighborhood in the nearest future. Four different units will be set up together: a 300 m2 sized chapel with a community center, a 500 m2 sized church, a bell tower and the monastery with five monks. The community center is ought to have a cinema theatre, adult and children education centers as well as AA recovery center.

Debrecenas district (5)
Debrecenas borough of the city has its name from the Debrecen city in Hungary, which is one of the twin towns (partners) of the Klaipėda city since 1970, when the neighborhood was built. Up to the 20th century this district was part of the former Gedminų (Gotzhofen) mansion territories and held small villages on wet and swampy lands. The condominium buildings in this borough were the first ones in the city made with a slab foundation rather than bricks. Architects of the city then and now paid a lot of attention to the green zones and the pedestrians – they designed a 500 m long broad walkway to connect a busy Taikos avenue with the Draugystės park. Lands along the avenue were turned into a green belt with parkways and trees, and schools with kindergartens around it.

Gedminai borough (6) (5th borough)
Built in 1975–1977 (architect A. Vitonis), Gedminai borough stretches for 113 ha along Taikos av., Debreceno str., Šilutės road and Statybininkų av., making two separate smaller districts – Debrecenas and Naujakiemis. Same as other boroughs in the southern part of the city, Gedminai were filled with the five- or nine-storey condominium buildings. Specially for this borough, however, twelvestorey condominium houses appeared. On the back side they were painted in a colourful decorative pattern.

Gedminai mansion (7) (Statybininkų av. 2)
First written mention of Gedminai estate and mansion has been dated to 1588. When Friedrich von Goetzen (Frydrichas fon Giocenas) became the owner of the mansion in 1675, the mansion itself was granted with the nobility title and at the time had extended through the current districts of Žardininkai, Smeltė, Kalotė and Tauralaukis. It was one of the biggest mansion houses with its lands in the region until 19th century. In 1859, the new owner of the mansion – Karl Friedrich Gubba (Karlas Frydrichas Guba) – built a palace in the Neo-Baroque style, formed a couple of artificial water ponds in the park. The palace was reconstructed in 1900 and later turned into a primary school. The mansion house and territories were officially attached to the city area some time after the WW2. Since 1983 the mansion house holds E. Balsys Gymnasium of Arts.

Žardininkai borough (6th borough) and Simonaitytės hill (8)
Žardininkai borough (architect R. Valatka) is situated between Statybininkų av., Vingio str., Smiltelės str. and Taikos av. in an area of 100 ha and was built in 1981, making it one of the newer suburbs in the city (from those which were built during the Soviet occupation). The borough was designed to form a shape of a letter L with the park in the middle. The green area was drafted in 1979. It is connected to the Draugystės park, making a long stretch of parkland along the city. In the middle of the park there is a water pond with the small island in the center for the birds – swans, mallards, black-headed gulls and other species. Close to the pond lies a hill, highly popular among children both in summer and winter – Simonaitytės hill, called like that after a famous writer Ieva Simonaitytė, who lived in Klaipėda in 1921–1939.

Orthodox Church of st. Nicholas (9) (Smiltelės str. 14a) (lith. – šv. Mikalojaus Apvaizdos stačiatikių cerkvė) was built in 2008. The church has a lot of nautical motifs: frescoes with the fishing, navy or merchant marine episodes, paintings of st. Nicholas walking over the water, knots and anchor symbols incorporated into the metal fence outside. Paintings on the ceiling of the dome were done by Russian artists from the Palekh Artel of Ancient Painting in 2013. This orthodox church is the only one in the city with a distinct nautical theme. A stone-cross monument in the yard of the church portrays a prayer to st. Nicholas from a seaman, sailing away from a safe harbor into the sea. Together with a couple of Sunday schools, church holds a traditional craft studio and cinema hall.

Catholic Church of st. Joseph (10) (Smiltelės str. 27)
Klaipėda city at the moment has 5 catholic churches. The founder of Catholic Church of st. Joseph (šv. Juozapo Darbininko) is the bishop Bronislovas Burneikis, who invited Jesuit monks and the sisters from the Institute of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to join the new parish. The church construction started in 1991, in 1995 the church established a support center for young people. The church was opened to the public for the catholic mass in 2000. Since 2009, the church is supervised by a father and theologian dr. Vladas Gedgaudas.

Progymnasium of Pranas Mašiotas (11) (Varpų str. 3) was created by the local members of Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party and monsignor Jonas Gedvilas in 1997. The educational system in the school is based on Christian values and focuses a lot on moral as well as ethical schooling. The school is named after a famous teacher and the writer of children literature Pranas Mašiotas, who worked as a headmaster of a school in Klaipėda city in 1924–1929. A quotation of his is now the motto of the school: ‘More solidarity and well planned efficient work’.

Bandužiai borough (12) (7th borough) built in 1974–1985 in the place of a former village by the name Bandužiai, this suburb is the last and biggest on the southern city edge. The most prominent streets in the district are named after small villages that used to exist in the area – Bandužiai, Markučiai, Kuncai, Budelkiemis and others. Bandužiai borough is situated between Smiltelės str., Šilutės road, Jūrininkų av. and Taikos av., is almost 139 ha in size and holds around 38 thousand inhabitants. Most of the condominium buildings in the area are five-, nine- or ten-storey with slab foundation or twelve-, sixteen-storey with monolithic constructions.

Sąjūdžio Park (13)
To commemorate the 20 years after Reform Movement of Lithuania (i), in 2008 the city founded a park in the area between Laukininkų and Varpų streets. Even though not very big (only 8.3 ha), the park maintains nice biking and walking trails, playing and sport grounds for children, skate park and BMX tracks. Trees of 276 different species were planted in the park. A sculpture of a blooming blossom, built during the Reform, stands in the park as a monument (architect R. Marčius, sculptor S. Mišeikis).

Pigeon loft (14) (Varpų str. 31)
Pigeon post was used in Klaipėda even until 1930 to communicate with the local cities and villages. Klaipėda is the only city in Lithuania, which has its personal homing pigeon breed – Klaipėdos aukštaskridžiai (Klaipėda high fliers in English, or Der Memeler Hochflieger in German). It was bred by German breeder before WW1. The first pigeon keeper’s association in the city was established in 1896. Pigeon lofts like this were inseparable part of the city life and architecture.
Five pigeon lofts still remain in Klaipėda – most of them stand in between the condominium houses, mainly in the southern part of the city.

Žardė and Alksnynė (15)
Traditionally for the city, Žardininkai borough gets its name from the historical sites in the area – Žardė or Sarde was a name of a small water stream. Around 11–12th centuries community here grew into a village, which was protected by a couple of hillforts – Laistų hillfort and Žardės hillfort, on which curonians (Baltic tribe) had a castle, first mentioned in 1253. Sadly, hillforts did not survive until these days. Alksnynė, however, gets its name from the settlement in the Curonian Spit (lith. Kuršių nerija). The suburb was built in 1975, filling the area with five-, nine-, ten- and twelve-storey houses. They were planned as a bit more luxurious – flats were more spacious, houses built using decorative red bricks. Plan of the area was designed to protect the buildings from harsh northern and western winds, and give as much privacy as possible.

The New Market (16) (Taikos av. 80)
The oldest market in the city was based at the center of the old town – Theatre square, which later was turned into the cultural site. In the old times the second market place was created at the outskirts of Friedriech suburbs (now the outliers of the old town). These days the second market place is called the Old Market (lith. Senasis turgus). Small and temporary markets have often been found on the banks of the river and some of the streets in the city center.
After nine years of planning and building, the New Market was opened in 1989 and has 158 trading sites as well as a supermarket, general household building, covers for the seasonal marketing and a small hotel. One of the specialties of the New Market is fish selling – a separate building only for the fresh fish of many varieties is on the left side of the main market building. Because of the assortment of the fish the emblem of the market is a dolphin, as a symbol of the sea.

Movie theatre (17) “Jūratė ir Kastytis”
Right after the development of the movies, cinema became one of the most popular recreational activities of the 20th century. Seven movie theatres were opened in Klaipėda city during Soviet occupation: Baltija, Aurora, Vaidila, Vaiva, Švyturys (Kapitolijus), Žemaitija, Jūratė ir Kastytis. These days, however, there is only one permanent movie theatre. Jūratė ir Kastytis, which is now closed, was the last one from the seven to be opened. Red brick building had two movie halls of 200 and 400 seats, with a wide vestibule between the halls. The sculpture of Jūratė and Kastytis, the characters from a well known local love story, was built on the wall of the theatre in 1977 (sculptor G. Jonkus).

Debrecenas supermarket, fountain (18) and the Monument of Friendship To celebrate the partnership with Debrecen city in Hungary – the twin city of Klaipėda, in the 1970s the city council gave the name Debrecenas to the newly built district. At the same time a shopping center was built in the area, and consequently was given the same name. For the design of the shop, the architect G. Tiškus and his group were awarded a prize from the Soviet Architect Association. At the time, it was the biggest supermarket in the city and had the brand new technologies, such as self-checkout. The fountain in the square right beside the supermarket was built in 1976–1977 (author A. Bosas). The Monument of Friendship between the cities was built in 1970 on the corner of Taikos av. and Debreceno street (sculptor L. Garla). The monument displays the heraldic bearings of both Klaipėda and Debrecen.

New Apostolic Church (19) (Taikos av. 72) broke apart from the Catholic Apostolic Church in the middle of 19th century. Originally formed in England and often referred to as Irvingism, it soon spread throughout Europe. One of the first irvingian societies in Europe formed in Klaipėda, in the 1830s. After the independence of Lithuania was regained in 1991, irvingian societies were registered in a number of cities in Lithuania. The community in Klaipėda has over 400 members, the current church building was granted to the irvingians in 1996. Over nine million members are united by this church worldwide. The religion accepts the Apostles’ Creed, believes in the sacramental nature of Holy Communion and baptism, considers the Bible as the authority of the Word of God, the next coming of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Culture center Žvejų Rūmai (20)
Most of the southern boroughs were built around the same time and in similar style – big condominium houses. Earlier during the wars city lost almost all of its higher buildings, making it rather flat.
For this reason, as well as the fact that multistory houses were getting into fashion all over the world, these houses were especially desired by architects and the community. Only seven out of nine planned boroughs were actually built during the expansion of the city. Culture center Žvejų Rūmai (the name – Palace of the Seamen translated to the English language – refers to the nautical nature of the surrounding boroughs as well as the city itself) was built close to the Baltija borough in 1981. The center has an area of eight thousand square meters and is distributed into three zones: concert hall, sport hall and the club. The bigger concert hall has 1127 seats, the smaller one – 200. The center was opened in 1982 and at the time was one of the most prestigious in the country. It is still open and active for theatre, concerts, art exhibitions.