KlaipÄ—da was founded more than 750 years ago. After the signing of the treaty between the Curonian bishop and the local governor of the Livonian Order entered into on the 29th of July, 1252. It was decided to build the fortress of KlaipÄ—da. Germans called this city Memel, which is the German name for the Nemunas River. Because of the marshland around the mouth of the river, nowadays the name of the city is KlaipÄ—da, which means â€œklaipÄ— pÄ—dasâ€œ â€“ feet going down in the marsh.
The structure of the KlaipÄ—da old town has remained virtually unchanged for almost five hundred years. Even the great fire of 1854 did not change the historical chess-type pattern of the streets in the Old Town.
THE ARCHITECTURE OF KLAIPÄ–DA OLD TOWN
Fachwerk-style buildings, narrow streets and enclosed old craftsmenâ€˜s courtyards are among the most distinct features of KlaipÄ—da Old Town. The main architectural style in KlaipÄ—da is Fachwerk. It is a type of construction whereby the whole building, its ceiling and roof are supported by a wooden frame filled with stone. Most Fachwerk houses were built in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Â 1. Start your sightseeing tour in Theatre square. This is the heart of the city. There is a sculpture of Ann from Tharau in the fountain in the middle of the square. The monument is dedicated to Simon Dach, a German poet who was born in KlaipÄ—da and studied at Konigsberg University. Ann was the girl that the poet fell in love with at first sight. However, she was engaged to another man. Simon Dach dedicated a poem to her and called it â€œAnn from Tharauâ€ which is still very popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The fountain with the sculpture of the girl and the bas-relief of the poet were created in 1912 by the sculptor from Berlin, Alfred Kune. During World War II the sculpture disappeared. It was reconstructed in 1990 on the initiative of the city inhabitants and emigrants.
The building behind the sculpture is the Drama Theatre. Since the 18th century the theatre has played an important role in the cultural life of KlaipÄ—da. This building was reconstructed in the 19th century in a neo-classic style. The KlaipÄ—da coat of arms is on the faÃ§ade of the building.
2. After visiting the Theatre square, turn to AukÅ¡toji Street. There you will see the oldest buildings of the city, dating from the middle of the 18th century. They are warehouses built in the fachwerk style. This construction, influenced by Germanic culture, has been used since the foundation of the City. This method of construction was especially suitable for the marshy soil as frame constructions are lighter than the stone. Unfortunately, many of these buildings were destroyed by fire.
The tiny downtown houses and fachwerk-styled warehouses are being used by various art organizations â€“ writers, artists and photographers. There you can find small art galleries, museums, souvenir shops and cosy cafes.
3. Now find DidÅ¾ioji Vandens Street (Great Water). The name of the street comes from the times when there used to be another arm of the Danes river. When the bastion defence wall was planned and built in the city in the second half of the 17th century, the old river bed was filled in and the present, one was formed. The remaining bastion defense wall fragments have been restored, and this place is called Johnâ€˜s Hill.
4. Go along the river DanÄ— and near the bridge you will see the sailing vessel â€œMeridianasâ€. â€œMeridianasâ€œ was built in 1948 in Finland and is now one of the most beautiful sights of KlaipÄ—da. The KlaipÄ—da Navigation School used the sailing vessel for training purposes. When the vessel was laid up, it was turned into a restaurant and moored near the Dane River bank. Some ten years ago the owners who bought the vessel allowed it to fall into disrepair.
So a few years later the symbol of the city became nothing but a shadow of its former glory. The lawyer A. Å½iÄkus then bought the Meridianas for a token sum of one Litas and the â€œMeridianasâ€œ once again became the symbol of KlaipÄ—da. He organised a support fund and gave new life to the vessel. Today the restaurant â€œMeridianasâ€œ is again open to visitors.
Â 5. Nearby â€œMeridianasâ€ there is yellow house built at the beginning of the 20th century. There is the KlaipÄ—da City Coat of Arms on this house (TiltÅ³ Str. 1). This building was the first bank in KlaipÄ—da. This little boy on the wall is Cupid and is an expression of all the citizensâ€˜ affection for their town.
Â 6. Then cross the street and go further along the river embankment. On the way there is the first multi-storey building constructed in 1923 and the first lift in KlaipÄ—da was installed there. The house is constructed on wooden poles, because of the watery ground. As the floor of the basement is one metre lower than the DanÄ—, good hydro-insulation was indispensable. The bollards close to the river commemorate the historic cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1989 for the first time in the Lithuanian sailing history three yachts Lietuva, DailÄ— and Audra sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.
7. On the left you will find Jono Street. There you can see the sculpture â€œSights of the cityâ€ created by the sculptor A. Bosas. One can regard it as a symbol of the old town. One can imagine that this tiny brass house today shelters the people who used to live in the town. Fairy tale dragons seem to be protecting them. They are all in one and the same place â€“ those that built, created and lived in the medieval town.
Â 8. Cross the river and go to DanÄ—s Street. There you will see the Fishermanâ€™s sculpture. In front of it there is a building with the KlaipÄ—da city coat-of-arms. When Napoleon occupied the capital of Prussia Berlin, the king Wilhelm Friedrich III and the queen Luize found shelter in this building. KlaipÄ—da County Administration is now located there.
Â 9. Then go to the LiepÅ³ Street. This street developed on the right bank of the river DanÄ— in the 17th century. The new street later became popular with the aristocrats and rich merchants of the City. There are many buildings of different styles (jugend, neo-gothic).
One of the most elegant buildings is the old Post Office. The Post Office was one of the most important institutions because KlaipÄ—da was the hub of an important postal, as well as passenger traffic from Russia to Europe. The red-brick neogothic Palace, built in 1893, today has been renovated. The Post Office moved into this building in the 19th century and settled in merchant Argelanderâ€™s house. A carillion of 48 chromatically tuned bells was installed in the reconstructed tower in 1987 The first concert of bells was held on 13 November 1987. You can hear them play for 30 minutes every Sunday at midday.
10. The Sculpture park is a place for a pleasant walk. It is called Martynas MaÅ¾vydas Sculpture park after the author of the first Lithuanian book. Today there are about 100 modern sculptures on view. The park was created on the site of the former old cemetery which was opened in 1820. After WW2, the cemetery became neglected and the government decided to establish a sculpture park on the site. The graves were removed and some of the original and unique crosses from the cemetery are now on display in the Blacksmithâ€˜s Museum. Today only a few gravestones remain in the northeast corner of the park.
Â 11. And the last point of our tour is LietuvininkÅ³ square. There is a statue commemorating Martynas MaÅ¾vydas, the author of Catechisms, the first book published in Lithuania. The sculptor Regimantas Midvikis spend four years working on the 3,5 tall granite statue, which stands on a 2,5 m pedestal in the square, where it replaced the monument to the Red Aemy. The statue was commissioned to mark the 450yh anniversary of the bookâ€™s publication in 1547 in which the Lithuania religious scholar urges Lithuanians to convert to Protestantism.
Other interesting objects and places:
If you go north in the direction of Palanga along Manto Sreet, on the right you will see a collection of red-brick buildings. These are the restored 19th century Prussian military barracks, in Soviet times occupied by the 3 rd Coastal Division and which now belong to Klaipeda University. The six Neo-Gothic buildings house several University departments, the administration, and the University theatre. A modern university campus with study and sports facilities as well as student dormitories and entertainment facilities are planned to be constructed here in the future. Today the University departments are in different parts of the city. Klaipeda University was founded in 1991. Today the University comprises seven departments and two institutes.