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Along the Amber Route: Klaipėda.

Flaky snow started to fall as I drove across a wide modern bridge over the River Danė and into Klaipėda. The Old Town was an appealing jumble of cobbled streets, neoclassical stucco and gabled brick warehouses that gave some idea of what the rest of the city must have looked like before it was devastated in the last months of the Second World War.

The city’s location was crucial. It was here, on the narrow strait that connects the Curonian Lagoon to the Baltic, that Poppo von Osterna, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, built a castle in 1252 to control access to the lagoon and the River Nemunas – known to Germans as the Memel – which empties into it. The Curonian Spit, the 100-kilometre sandbar that divides the lagoon from the sea, provided an easier means of communication with the Knights’ domains in Prussia than the marshy mainland. The town that grew up around the castle was peopled by German settlers. Admitted to the Hanseatic League in 1254, it became a major entrepôt for timber (much of it exported to England), grain, leather, furs – and amber. Customs documents record that 27 Prussian stein (almost 300 kg) of amber was exported from here in 1677.

From Along the Amber Route by C.J. Schüler

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C.J. Schüler

C.J. Schüler