Welcome to Nemunas Delta
The gateway into the extraordinary Nemunas Delta (Nemuno Delta), where the Nemunas River ends its 937km journey from its source in neighbouring Belarus, is Šilutė (population 21,000), a sleepy town an hours’ drive south of Klaipėda. Rusnė Island, the largest island, covers 48 sq km and increases in size by 15cm to 20cm a year.
Boat is the main form of transport; villagers travel in and out of the park by an amphibious tractor from March to mid-May, when merciless spring floods plunge about 5% of the park under water. In 1994 floodwaters rose to 1.5m in places, although 40cm to 70cm is the norm.
From Nida there are seasonal boats across the lagoon to the delta settlement of Mingė (also called Minija after the river that forms the main ‘street’ through the village). No more than 100 people live in Mingė – dubbed the ‘Venice of Lithuania’ – and only a handful of people still speak Lietuvinkai, an ethnic dialect of Lithuanian distinct to the delta. The 19th-century riverside houses are made of wood with reed roofs and are protected architectural monuments.
A good way to explore this area is by bicycle; from Mingė a cycling track runs around Lake Krokų Lanka, the largest lake in the park at 4km long and 3.3km wide.