In 2021 Neringa was awarded with the title of Lithuanian capital of culture. The cultural caravan has traveled through the dunes of the Curonian Spit all the year and left over a hundred impressive events, cultural and artistic ideas and new initiatives. Some of them are successfully continued. On the website www.kulturossala.lt you will find current information about news, events and phenomena of Neringa culture.
"The Curonian Spit is so peculiar that it is a must to see it - like Spain or Italy so that the soul does not lack images of outstanding beauty. A narrow section of dead sand, which on one side is perpetually washed by an angry sea, and on the other side is washed by calm, large waters - the lagoon, mounds of gritty sand, terrible, saddest pines, grown as far as the eyes can reach, silence and wasteland, not even wild birds can be seen to surpass the roar of the sea, only sole large gulls hovering over the shore."
Wilhelm von Humboldt
Educator of Prussia and founder of the Humboldt University of Berlin
The first settlement on the Curonian Spit was mentioned in 1385. Over the centuries of its existence, the Spit has formed a multilingual and multicultural area: German, Lithuanian, Latvian (Curonian) and Prussian languages were spoken here. The most direct passage of land communication between Livonia and the rest of Europe passed through this land. Since the 17th century with the introduction of regular mail in the central region, correspondence, exchanges of information, messages and news from one part of Europe to another (from Paris to St Petersburg) went through the old European postal route and for almost two centuries passed through the present-day Neringa.
In the second part of the 19th century, the Curonian Spit, then called the East Prussian Sahara, was already known as a resort. At the end of the century, it became famous as a colony of Central and Eastern European artists. For more than 70 years, the most famous Impressionists, naturalists and expressionists (over 300 artists in total) of that time came to paint here. The Nida Art Colony, established by the Vilnius Academy of Arts, operates in Neringa. To revive the unique colony, the city municipality intends to establish a new cultural space - a museum - in the historic house of artist Ernst Mollenhauer - one of the most famous Nida Artists' Colony representatives.
At that time, the Curonian Spit was also famous for the historic Amber Bay in Juodkrante, the largest industrial object (an amber mining company operated) in East Prussia. The modern amber tradition is sustained by the Virginia and Kazimieras Mizgiriai Amber Gallery-Museum in Nida.
Martynas Liudvikas Rėza, a specialist in Lithuanian philology, theologian, folklorist, professor at the University of Kaliningrad and a representative of the European cultural elite, also came from the village of Karvaičiai on the Curonian Spit. The personality of M. L. Rėza - one of the most prominent cultivators of secular Lithuanian culture and the pioneer of Lithuanian folklore, has become an integral part of Juodkrante's identity. He is associated with ethnocultural events, Prussian Lithuania's history, the Reformation, the Lithuanian language, and preserving the landscape.
The constant conflict between nature and man has created a cultural landscape of this unique land, the attraction of which was not resisted by the German writer Thomas Mann. He first came to the Curonian Spit in 1929, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and later returned several times to rest and write in his summer house. Today, the Thomas Mann Cultural Center and Museum, and the International Thomas Mann Festival, which has been held annually for twenty years, is a sign of European thinking. Caring for the artist's creative legacy means recognizing the importance of pan-European traditions in Lithuania.
Today Neringa is a town on the Curonian Spit, a resort located between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon; the longest (about 50 km) and the westernmost town in Lithuania, with a population of almost 5,000 and includes four historical settlements: Juodkrantė, Pervalka, Preila, Nida - and Alksnynė. 1961 Neringa was granted the status of a landscape reserve, and in 2000 the Curonian Spit National Park is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a cultural landscape objects with many natural and cultural heritage values.
Bejewelled with the title of the Lithuanian Capital of Culture 2021, Neringa sought to reveal the region's unique cultural space, to re-acknowledge its historical significance, to mobilize the community for joint activities, meetings and creative dialogue.
The Spit's uniqueness became the basis for creating the 4 + 1 concept of "Neringa - Lithuanian Capital of Culture". The four elements of identity and existence - statuses, locations, seasons, elements, dimensions, directions - are supplemented by another sign of identity +1, which enriches the traditional perception of Neringa with an unexpected angle, unique to this region.
Four statuses + added value - UNESCO flag
Four settlements + Alksnyne single-family house
Four seasons + specific time of the Nemunas delta and the Curonian Lagoon "šaktarpis."
Four elements + the person who controls them
Four dimensions + the flow through them
Four directions of the World + the bird migration route through the Curonian Spit
The 4 + 1 structure dictated the design of the Neringa - Lithuanian Capital of Culture program. The four parts of the program: UNESCO and the World, Community and Landscape, Creative Residences, Heritage and History, also combined the +1 element, horizontally crossing all the thematic verticals - the axis of cultural policy and management - Smart culture.