Exploring the northern Klaipėda by bike

Distance: 20 km
Cycling: easy asphalt
Duration: 1.5 h

Klaipėda University campus (1) – the old army barracks (Herkaus Manto str. 84)
Klaipėda University was formally founded on January 1st, 1991, by Lithuanian Parliament. In 1993, the educational institution was granted with a former military campus – six Neo-Gothic buildings made with red bricks, built in 1904–1907, which are declared as an architectural monuments. Originally, army campus consisted of eight buildings, including two residential houses, canteen, general household building, guardhouse, headquarters, warehouses and apartments of higher rank military officers. Army campus served for its purpose until 1993, when the University settled in its premises. It is thought that a number of famous Lithuanian people have visited the military campus, including Jonas Basanavičius (the proponent of the revival of independent country of Lithuania), Maironis (one of the famous Lithuanian poets), also two Presidents of Lithuania – Kazys Grinius and Antanas Smetona.

Jūros/city park (2)
Jūros (engl. Sea) park was formed in the middle of the 19th century after the city has expanded to the north in 1834. Around 1899, when the park was still small and young, Robert Koch, a famous German microbiologist and a Nobel prize laureate initiated the emergence of the hospital for patients with leprosy in the area, the only in the whole Germany at the time (Klaipėda region – Lithuania Minor – was under German supervision). The hospital building is not present anymore.
For a long time the park used to be the main recreational area in the city – constant entertainment was boosted by a number of carousels and amusement rides, dance and playgrounds, ball pit, Ferris wheel. Park has held various competitions, including volleyball, handball, basketball and other sports tournaments, or even musical performances of the orchestra. Now the city has several parks, but this one is still very popular and enjoyable among citizens – it has basketball and volleyball courts, children’s playgrounds, skate park, disc golf course, adventure park.

German war cemetery (3) from WW1 and WW2
A small cemetery for 127 people (german soldiers) who died during the first world war was created close to the military campus right after the first world war. The WW2 brought even more casualties – 1.3 thousand people were buried here in the cemetery in the period until 1945. Even after the WW2 (in 1945–1948) the captives from the local German prisoner-of war camp were constantly laid to rest in this cemetery. In the 1960s, however, the burial site (together with the monument) was demolished.
The restoration works have started in 1995, initiated by German War Graves Commission (germ. Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) – graves of German soldiers of both wars from all over Lithuania were moved to this cemetery, a memorial with the names of the deceased was built in 1998. A separate memorial was raised to pay the tribute to the crew and passengers of Füsilier passenger ship, which on November 20th, 1944, accidentally entered Soviet-occupied territory after missing the entrance to the city. The ship was bombed by Soviet artillery with no survivors out of 287 of people on board.

Summer amphitheater (4) (lith. Vasaros estrada)
Outside amphitheater for summer events was built in 1983, and since then each year hosts regional Song Festivals (Dainų šventė).
Except from the Song Festival, summer amphitheater held a number of other events, including gatherings of Reform Movement in 1989–1990, concerts of famous singers.
A former shooting range resides close to the amphitheater. Before the WW1, the range had an elaborate structure, with various concrete constructions and ditches.

Mumlaukio–Aulaukio (5) (Svijanė) Lake
History of the Svijanė lake falls back to 13th century, when in 1290, local curonians put out a proclamation about the land distribution, in which the lake was mentioned as a landmark of the city’s border. The small stream (also bearing the name of Svijanė), comes from the lake, passes through the current railway station, Lietuvininkai square, Janonio street and flows into the Curonian Lagoon (Kuršių marios). The other small lake not very far away from Svijanė, used to be called Aulaukio lake. Now it is enclosed in the territory Grand Duke Butigeidis Dragoon Battalion (lith. Lietuvos Didžiojo Kunigaikščio Butigeidžio dragūnų batalionas) – the area of Lithuanian Armed Forces.

Radio and TV tower (6) (Vasarotojų str. 2)
Klaipėda’s Radio and TV station (or so called Giruliai TV tower) was built in 1957. The station first started with the radio transmission, later in the years followed by television. The TV towers in Lithuania have a notable significance – on January 13th, 1991, the main radio and TV tower in Lithuania (Vilnius TV station) was occupied by the Soviet Army, which had a goal to cut all the connection with the outside world. As the plan of the Soviet armed forces was known in advance, thousands of citizens gathered throughout the whole night around the main landmarks of the country – government buildings, supreme court, TV towers.
14 people died that night, more than over thousand were wounded. Even though the main events took place in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, each city in the country held a massive assembly of local residents, including Klaipėda. Hundreds of people clustered around Giruliai TV tower, not only determined to protect it, but also transmitting important information about the situation in the capital and the whole country to the CNN and other major media channels. Today the TV tower broadcasts around ten radio stations and all the available television channels in the country.

Giruliai Railway Station (7) (Stoties str. 1)
Built in 1892, Giruliai Railway connects Klaipėda city with the capital Vilnius. The station was built after the railway section from Russian border to Klaipėda was laid down. The first passengers to arrive at Giruliai – a seaside resort – came here on June 15th, 1892.
The trains (especially in summer weekends) were filled with passengers coming to relax at the seaside. The Railway Station building dates more than a hundred years. The building is decorated in fachwerk style, traditional for the local region and brought to Lithuania (or to be specific, Klaipėda) from Germany.

Giruliai Forest (8)
Until 19th century, the area between Klaipėda city and current Giruliai suburb was a constantly moving sandhill. In 18–19th centuries the city (and its merchants) was obliged to cover these sectors with plants in order to stop erosion and retain the land. The forest at first was called Plantation Forest, but nowadays is known as Giruliai Forest. An association, called Plantacijos Girininkija (meaning a forest administration unit) was created at the time among the concerned citizens. Giruliai name comes exactly from this forestry unit – Girininkija. Forests all over the country are divided into separate administration units, in total 381 in Lithuania. Giruliai forest can be classified as coniferous, mostly pine forest.
However, black alder, European beech or even northern red oak can be found under the roof of the woods, as well as a handful of animal species, including foxes, squirrels, deer, wild boars and moose.

Giruliai suburb (9)
After the start of forestation works in 1819, the area around new forest slowly turned into a settlement. In 1863 the merchants of Klaipėda came into the possession of Giruliai village area and built a peaceful seaside resort.
They laid down the road to another resort – Melnragė, set up expensive and good-looking summer houses here, planted rare species of trees in the forest. The resort became popular amongst citizens in 1892. Giruliai and Melnragė were connected to the city of Klaipėda in 1946.

Labrenciškė (10) is a residential area in the northern part of Klaipėda. As many boroughs of the city, it used to be a mansion land, mentioned in the documents as long ago as 17th century.
Labrenz family was one of the wealthiest landowners in the region, handling more than 103 ha of property. They were in charge of the mansion until 1944. The current district of private houses was formed in 1992.

Plytinė (11) is another residential area in the north of Klaipėda, situated between Purmaliai and Tauralaukis districts. It is known that this site was settled even before the city of Klaipėda was established in 1252 – a hill fort and ruins of the pagan sanctuary were found next door to Purmaliai village. As mentioned in the historical sources, a windmill, built around the 13th century became the point of a local settlement, which later grew into several farmsteads. At the beginning of the 20th century, a brickyard (or plytinė in Lithuanian) was built in the mansion territory. The bricks it produced were mostly used for the construction of The Most Holy Virgin Mary’s Ascension Church in Palanga city (lith. Palangos Švč. Mergelės Marijos ėmimo į dangų bažnyčia).

Church of st. Francis of Assisi (12) (Savanorių str. 4)
In 2012, Klaipėda‘s Church of Saint Francis of Assisi (lith. šv. Pranciškaus Asyžiečio bažnyčia) and the Oncology centre was built. Currently, the church is supervised by Franciscans priests. The church was designed with the goal to recreate the architecture of Porziuncola, a symbol of the origin of Franciscan order, which is located at the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi. The inverted ship-like ceilings of the church resemble the Noah’s ship. The stones, used in the circular altar, are from the Mount Sinai, a place of Moses and his nation’s wanderings. During festive rituals, a sacred relic of St. Francis was placed at the altar, which symbolized the faith in one’s participation in the life of the church.

Hospital complex (13) (Liepojos str. 39, 41, 43, 45, 49)
The hospital district consists of two different hospitals in close collaboration. The construction of the first one, Klaipėda city hospital, started in 1973. A hospital unit with 600 beds was opened in 1976, another three units were opened in the following years: gynecology–obstetrics department, infectious disease department and oncology department. In 2006 the hospital name was changed to Klaipėda University Hospital. At the current time around 45 thousand patients are hospitalized here annually.
Another hospital in the area bears a name of Jūrininkų hospital (engl. Seamen’s hospital). Its establishment is linked with a small clinic from 1949. The current hospital building was built in 1988 (architect E. Chlomauskas), the official opening was held in 1994. Up to 19 thousand patients are hospitalized and 140 thousand out-patients are treated each year.

Lithuanian Cinema Studio (14) (Kretingos str. 100) (lith. Lietuvos kino studija – LKS) was founded in 1940. An abandoned building in Kretingos street, which in the past belonged to KGB, was given to LKS Klaipėda’s branch. Local people used to call this LKS complex ‘Hollywood’. Although studio was suitable for bigger projects, a building was mostly used for filming commercial programs and two TV games. The last movie, filmed in LKS Klaipėda’s branch, was “Störtebeker” (2006) by a Portuguese director and artist Miguel Alexandre, about a famous burglar Klaus Störtebeker, who raged around the Baltic sea in the Middle ages.

The name of the borough Tauralaukis (15) can be translated to Auchor’s (extinct species of domestic cattle) field. Tauralaukis (also called the old crossroad) is known for its connections with the royal family of Prussia – King Frederick William III, Queen Louisa and their children, who liked to spend their time here in their mansion house. Historical sources list two separate mansions in Tauralaukis district: the bigger mansion was on the right river bank, nowadays in the territory of University Botanical Gardens; the smaller mansion, set up in 1539, is preserved until today on the left river bank. Most of the buildings seen today (manor house, guard-room, household buildings and the park) were designed and constructed in the period of 18–20th centuries and are listed as historical heritage. The small manor house was often visited by the royal family.

Klaipėda University Botanical Gardens (16) (Kretingos str. 92) have an area of 9.3 hectares and were established in 1993. The main botanical garden in the Western Lithuania exhibits 4 different plant collections – coniferous woody, deciduous woody, herbaceous ornamental, and herbs as well as medicinal plant collection. Not only domestic Lithuanian species, but plants from all over the world can be found here. Altogether, the gardens have around 40 thousand plants and more than 250 plant species. The main goal of the Gardens is to foster the local and global plant species, exchange the different species and breeds with other institutions. A plant seed collection can also be found in KU Botanical Gardens.

Residential area and community gardens (17)
The new residential area of 5.3 ha in size is situated between KU Botanical Gardens, Kretingos street and Danė river. The construction of the district started in 2004, two new streets were laid down in the area – Senvagės street and Žolynų street. A couple of decades ago there used to be a planting administration for the Klaipėda city. Close to the planting office there used to be a horse riding stud. Near the private houses there is a community garden, or allotment (lith. kolektyviniai sodai), private plots for growing various food plants or gardening for non-commercial purposes. Initially most of the allotments are located outside of the city, near forests, rivers or other water bodies, however, during city expansion, some of them turn into suburban areas.

Danė river (18)
Three rivers cross the city of Klaipėda – Danė (interchangeably called Dangė as well), Smeltalė and Kretainis. Danė river, the main and biggest one, rises in Kretinga district (a small town outside Klaipėda), where it bears the name Akmena (sometimes Danė is called that name too). After traveling across the region for about 65 km, Danė flows through Klaipėda city, drains into the Curonian Lagoon (lith. Kuršių marios) and, consequently, into the Baltic Sea (Baltijos jūra). The size of the drainage basin is 595 km2. The name Dangė was officially used until 1981, when linguists decided that it is too Germanic and suggested using Danė instead. Nowadays linguists agree that Dangė is more of a Prussian and Curonian origin, meaning ‘bend, angle’ and resembling the river bed, while Danė does not have an actual meaning. Both of these names are used today, while a lot of people agree that the river should be officially renamed back to Dangė.

Luizė borough (19) is based in between Kretingos str., Panevėžio str., Anykščių str., Pievų str. and Šiaurės av. Luizė (Louisa) name comes from the Queen of Prussia, the district was called that way because of a local mansion house (Luisenhof) that belonged to the royal family. The mansion was built in 1783 (on the crossroad of current Liepų str. and Šiaurės av.). The founder of the manor house was Ch. W. Wachsen, a head of a Merchants’ Guild, Sweden and France consul in Prussia. His house is still preserved until these days at Liepų str. 62.
Most of the houses in Luizė borough are private and luxurious homes. In 1992, a catholic parish was established in the area. The church, built-in 2007, was dedicated to St. Casimir (šv. Kazimiero bažnyčia) who was the prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 15th century. The stained glass window in the church is probably the biggest in the whole country – height 11 m, length 4.5 m (created by Prof. K. Morkūnas and E. Valiūtė).

LCC International University (20) (Kretingos str. 36), established in
1991, is an internationally recognized liberal arts institution. It was founded by a joint campaign of Lithuanian, Canadian and US American foundations. At first the University started functioning in Panevėžys, another Lithuanian city but was soon moved here. The University adopts an educational model, where broad-based education is placed within the context of a Christian academic community in order to extend education beyond the classroom.

Vynerio (Wiener) promenade (21) (Kretingos str.)
A tree avenue, connecting Klaipėda city and Tauralaukis, was designed and planted at the end of 19th century. 5 km in length, the avenue was called Vynerio (Wiener) promenade. Julius Ludwig Wiener (1795–1862) was one of the greatest philanthropists of the city. J. L. Wiener was a member of the Klaipėda city Council. Over the years he gained the affluence by selling plant seeds and after death left all of his wealth as a legacy to the community of Klaipėda city – more than 300 thousands thalers. The bigger part of Wiener promenade persisted until these days, however, the old trees are gone. During Soviet occupation the promenade was planted with linden trees.