Klaipėda, spread along the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon, is situated on both banks of the Dane river. There is the Old Town on the left bank of the river, and there is a industrial region and the fishing port to the south of the Old town near the Lagoon. There is a new town where the present centre of the city and the trade port are located on the right bank of the Dane. Klaipeda is the third largest city in Lithuania. There are more than 200 thousand people living in the city.
Klaipeda is Lithuania’s gate to the sea. More than half of the people living in the port city work as fishermen, sailors, ship builders or in other “sea” professions. The Klaipeda Port is situated at the site where Curonian Lagoon adjoins the Baltic Sea or “flows” into it. From winds and storms the harbour area is protected by Curonian Spit overgrown with not very high trees and brushes. Klaipeda is the only non-freezing port in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea coast. This marine gate of Lithuania is widely used by neighbouring states as well. Therefore, it is also the gate of an international transport corridor for cargoes moving to the East and the West, Klaipeda Port becomes an important unit in the economic system.
According to archaeological data there were already people living in this area in the first centuries of our era. The formation of the Order of the Crusaders in the south and the Livonian Order in the north were a great threat to this area in the 13th century. Both Orders began predatory marches into Lithuania land. In 1252, the Livonian Order devastated the settlement which was at the mouth of the Dane river and built the first wooden castle in its place. Construction of the stone Memelburg Castle began in 1253. The Lithuanians destroyed the castle more than once but the Germans kept rebuilding it. The struggle for the sea port persisted right up until the Battle of Tanneberg (in 1410), but Lithuanians could not seem to hold their ground against the well-armed knights. In 1422 Klaipeda was given to the Order of the Crusaders in accordance with the Treaty of Melne. The Lithuanians continued to attack the castle and in 1455 even managed to take it over. However, the Klaipeda castle is not longer standing. Archaeologists recently did an in-depth investigation of the former castle where the ship repair enterprise is now.
Near the castle a settlement gradually appeared. However destiny was not favourable for the town. Nearly the entire town burned down in 1540. The town was rebuilt only to fall the Swedes in 1629 for a period of six years. Then once again the German feudal lords became consolidated in Klaipeda and proceeded to oppress and Germanise the inhabitants: Lithuanians were forbidden to work as merchants or artisans and were forced to become auxiliary workers. In 1757 Klaipeda was occupied by Russian Navy and remained in the hands of the Russian Army for more then 5 years. After the Napoleon wars with Berlin which was occupied by the French Army, Klaipeda unexpectedly became the capital of Prussia in 1807. The Prussian king lived in Klaipeda for a year. The royal residence is still standing. It was there that the king signed the decree for the abolition of serfdom in Prussia.
Klaipeda belonged to Germany up until the World War I after which it was put under administration of France. It was only in 1923 that Klaipeda was finally re-annexed into Lithuania.
The history of the city is written in its buildings. The architectural chronicle of the Old Town of Klaipeda began in the 16th century. However, most of the buildings that are still standing were built in the 18th-19th centuries. The old architecture is characterised by a method of construction according to which the entire building, ceiling and roof are supported by a wooden frame field with brick. The most significant building done in this style is the 18th-century warehouse.
The best places to visit are the Clock Museum and Maritime Aquarium in Klaipeda.