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Category: Poland (north) and Baltic states (2006, world trip)
20060726_P_0187 lo-res
Local delicacy no.1: juicy summer berries
20060726_P_0264 lo-res
Fishing in the lagoon
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Local wooden markers, used by fishermen
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Local delicacy no.2: strips of pig's ear with fried bread.

We slept well in our snug wooden room, waking up to bright daylight. I think I forgot to mention that yesterday we had a mini-picnic on our balcony – we must have gone out and come back at some point, or maybe was that today after all? Anyway, we sat on the balcony, me writing my diary, Ness reading or doing something on the laptop, with a tasy packet of small rollmops strips in rolls with gherkins, delicious, and cranberry + other berries juice, this one I think from the Ukraine. Anyway, just a little memory I had already nearly forgotten about. (“Now” is 31 July, and I’m sat at the desk at the back of the living at home in Wezembeek, visiting Mama for her birthday tomorrow!)

Back to today’s diary... We hired bikes down the road from our B&B, two comfortable bikes – wary after the last time I hired one and much too hasty. This time we made sure our posture and saddles were good, and then cycled through the village and along the lagoon towards the dunes on the southern side of the village. A sandy path led through the pine trees and after a short ride we reached the bottom of a tall dune. We parked the bikes and climbed the steps that led up the 50m high dune hill, puffing and sweating a bit.

At the top, wooden boardwalks crossed the dune. We had a look on one side from where we could look over the waters of the lagoon and then walked further uphill, through the sliding sands, reminding us of our walk to Dead Vlei in Namibia. At the top of the dune there was a large sun dial and the gnomon, the central pointy thing made from concrete, lay broken in three pieces, following an earthquake some years ago. From this point we had a great view looking out over the surrounding dunes and landscape. A mixture of sandy Sahara landscape combined with extensive green forests stretched off towards the south, where the spit continued into the Russian territory of Kaliningrad. In the distance I could see a watchtower and some other isolated contraptions, a rusty water container, but nothing like a town or village or signs of tourism. There were plenty of tourists on our side though, snapping away.

We walked back down, passing a couple of lads who were hopping their way up (big jump ahead, small one back, big jump ahead, etc. a surfeit of energy!) We unchained our bikes and tried to find the other path back into the village but just ended up on the same one and back by the road. Ness was not at ease on her bike and so we decided to return her bike and I would carry on on my own for the afternoon. After returning Ness’s bike we walked to the lagoonfront, to the quay at the centre of the little harbour where we had a drink at a café. The whole atmosphere is of a relaxed yet buzzing summer resort. People are out and about for a stroll, or on a boat trip on the lagoon, and there are a few white sails of yachts.

Ness then headed back to the B&B for a snooze/relax/reading, while I cycled first to the same restaurant from last night and made a booking for a table for 8.30, beating the Germans at their own game, and then started to cycle out of Nida and uphill to the top of another dune just outside the village. This one was covered in forest, not so desert-like. I puffed in the heat and found it hard work cycling uphill. At the top there was a small lighthouse. Rough Guide described wide-ranging views but with all the greenery around I could only get some glimpses in a few directions.

From here a narrow asphalt track wound through the pine trees and it was a pleasure to cycle along. I was just sorry that Ness was not here to enjoy it too. Across the other side of the spit lay the beach. I parked the bike behind the low ridge of the dune and climbed the wooden stairs to find a lovely wide stretch of beach, stretching away to north and south, and with lots of people out on the beach and swimming in the sea, all along the coast. There was plenty of space for everyone and I found myself a spot close to the water and just plonked on the sand for the next couple of hours. All around me Lithuanians were at play, a totally hassle-free summer atmosphere. I snoozed for a while and soaked up the sunshine. I felt like going for a swim but was wary of leaving my bag unattended. Later I cycled further up the spit and turned off on another entrance to the beach where there were some stands selling snacks and a beach-front bar where I had a cold beer and wrote my diary for a while. From here I cycled back to town. Along the way I stopped at a few stalls selling fruit and bought some cherries, more to “buy the picture” really. Five litas (€1.40) seemed a bit much for a small cup of cherries and I commented on the high price. The older woman at one of the two stalls said “We have separate stalls, we’re in competition with each other”. “OK, so how much for the cherries then?” She still insisted on 5 Lts, but the younger girl at the other stall caught my drift and dropped her price to 4 Lts. and threw in a few dark cherries.

I continued on the path through the trees, shared with some pedestrians, families heading back from the beach, and on the main road into the village back to the B&B. Ness had had a kip and shower and was feeling better for it but still a little “shaken” by the cycling. We had both had a pleasant afternoon, each in their own way, although Ness said she had been feeling a little out of sorts since this morning. So, back at the B&B. I had kept the bike as it had only to be returned by 10pm and maybe I could use it again. We got ready to go out, I dropped the bike off, and we found a bar by the harbour to go for a beer, and then headed for the little restaurant at the back (or front) garden of the blue-and-brown fisherman’s house. Glad we booked as there were plenty of people hunting for a table, some commenting on the fact that “they (i.e. us) have booked”. Ha! A tasty meal in charming surroundings. Ness was still not feeling totally at ease and the end of the evening fell a bit sour. We walked back to our B&B and nodded off, ready to carry on tomorrow. Nida and the Curonian Spit have been a great spot to come and have a look at and I think it would have been even better on a blustery off-season day, with clear beaches and a strong fresh wind blowing off those Baltic seas.