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Klaipeda
Klaipeda is Lithuanian’s third-largest city, with a population of 200,000, and is the main transport hub for the whole of the Lithuanian coast, giving access to the beaches of the Curonian Spit and Palanga. A small, easily, digestible, yet energetic city, it’s worth a stop-off in its own right, thanks to an atmospheric Old Town, a handful of worthwhile museums and lively year-round nightlife-scene.
 
Tucked into the right angle formed by the River Danė and the Curonian Lagoon, Klaipėda‘s Old Town boast the kind of cobbled streets and half –tim-bered houses reminiscent of a provincial German town – which is essentially what Klaipėda was until 1944. Many of the buildings, however, were damaged in World War II and rebuilt in not-quite-authentic style, giving the centre a rather untidy, fragmented air. The medieval, grid-iron street plan still survives thought, and reminders of the trades once practiced here live on in street names such as Kalvių(Blacksmith’), Kurpių(Cobblers’) and Vežėjų(Carters’).
 
At the heart of the Old Town is cobbled Theatre Square named after the ornate neoclassical theatre on its northern side. Hitler spoke from the balcony in March 1939 after Germany annexed Klaipėda in its last act of territorial aggrandizement before the outbreak of war. In front of the theatre is Anna’s Fountain, a replica of a famous prewar monument to the German poet Simon Dach(1605-1659), depicting the heroine of his folksong, Ännchen von Tharau.
 
  • The History Museum of Lithuania Minor – presents a comprehensive chronological account of the region’s history, including plenty of archeological interest, notably a scale model of a Lithuanian pagan sanctuary which once occupied Birutė‘s hill, a well-known landmark in nearby Palanga. The arrangement of the sanctuary reveals a high degree of astronomical knowledge, with the placing of totem-like poles dictated by the positions of the planets throughout the year, and the main axis of the ensemble aligned with the rays of setting sun on April 23. The later, Christianized inhabitants of Lithuania Minor were obviously a sober, serious-minded bunch if the costumes on display here are anything to go by – greys and blacks predominate, with delicately embroidered belt-purses probiding the only splash of colour. Finally, look out for photographs of Lithuania’s seizure of Klaipėda in 1923, and a 1939 snap of Adolf Hitler riding down Manto street in a motorcade, greeted by ranks of local brown-shirts.
  • Blacksmiths’ Museum of Lithuania Minor – the main attraction of which is a functioning forge where you can observe the smiths at work. There’s also a substantial display of wrought – iron work, a traditional Lithuanian folk art form, including some ornate weathercocks and graveyard crosses.
  • Post office – Built between 1883 and 1893, it’s a vivid reminder of German civic pride, not least because of the 48-bell carillon that rings out from the clock tower at noon every Saturday and Sunday. The post office is also famous for being the workplace of telephonist Erika Rostel, awarded the Iron Cross for staying at her post (and giving a running commentary on the events to the German General Staff) when the Russian army raided the city in March, 1915 – most of the other civilians had taken to the Curonian Lagoon in boats.
  • ClockMuseum– is stuffed with timepieces from the earliest candle clocks onwards. As much as anything else the display provides a fascinating overview of changing fashions in interior design, with some magnificently over-the-top seventeenth- and eighteenth-century creations, and the odd Art Nouveau grandfather clock bringing up the rear.

· Picture Gallery – has a small collection of twentieth-century Lithuanian painting and mounts challenging seasonal exhibitions by contemporary artists.

· Martynas Mažvydas Sculpture Park – peppered with all manner of abstract creations. Sixteenth-century priest and publicist Mažvydas provides the inspiration for several of the works here – although local sculptor Algirdas Bosas’s characteriscally angular portrayal of the man looks more like a football star seen through the eyes of Pablo Picasso than a distinguished literary figure.Standing at the park’s northern end is a megalithic memorial honouring the Soviet war dead.