A special posting from our “guest blogger” Charlotte (aka “Lotta”)
Here we are in Nidden – finally! Most important view are the “wimples,” they were identifying the Kurin Kähne (fishing boats) since this was really a fishing village in my time. I remember the Kurin people as very simple, honest, down to earth people. They were always very kind to me, I could always go where I wanted and they welcomed me to their tables, fishing huts… even on their boats…. and I could eat whatever they had — the smoked flounders on the beach or their big terrines of fish stew shared at their family tables.
Today it is not a fishing village anymore, hardly any Kähne left (just a few for show), very touristic today; all the dirt roads of my memory are paved. The houses changed, rebuilt, refurbished, but they still hold onto these lovely artistic detailed carvings and the color called Nida Blue against the white trim. It is not the village I remember, but there are still many areas I recognize 75 years later.
I wanted to find the house we lived in, but I could not recognize it without help. So, one of the first things we did here was to visit the cemetery of the the old Lutheran Church. In the graveyard we looked for the name of our landlady, Frau Radmacher, but could not find it. We went into the church and read a book of records of the births and deaths of people of Nidden, beautifully printed in calligraphy and bound in a leather volume. A man came to talk with us, he is Pastor Shekhan, and I started to ask him questions about the house we lived in and he said to come to service tomorrow and a lady, Cristi, would have all the answers. The next day I went to the service, and he told the congregation about me introducing that I was visiting from Canada and grew up as a child here in Nida.
After service, the pastor and his wife invited me to the Gemeinde House (community house) for coffee and cake where I met Cristi, her husband, and friends. They showed me that right across from where we sat was the house I grew up in.
The next day we walked near the church into the forest toward the sea. I spent my childhood in this forest. I remember walking in this same way of sunshine through the trees and the soft moss underfoot. I followed the cows to the beach because I knew that they knew the way! I remember just meandering slowly and sitting in the shafts of sun, taking a lot of time walking through the trees. In high summer there were lots of blueberries to eat and in June the wild strawberries ripened. Even as young as 2 or 3 years old I would spend my days exploring — I left the house in the morning and only returned home at dark. A road like this took me to beach, where my lunch or dinner was always the flounder the Kurish fisherpeople where smoking over pine fires. When you got to the beach there were women and young children and the boats were coming in. The women were making many big long rows of sticks crossed at angles, there were many rows, some from days before, some new for today’s catch. They pulled the boats on to the beach and collected strings of flounder from the men, cleaned the fish then hung them on these “arches.” In the gully beneath they put zieferzapfen (pine cones) to burn and smoke, I could smell this delicious scent as I got near the beach.
On this day, there were no smells of smoking fish, but I loved the wonderful clear clear air scented by pine and balsam. As we got near the beach we heard the waves roaring. I couldn’t wait to get my feet back into this ocean – what a delight!
We had a great day on the beach, burying each other in the soft sand. The sand knirschen (squeeks) when we walked. It’s so white and fine. I am bringing some home in a little cloth bag I brought just for this purpose.
The next day, we walked toward the dunes through the woods where Patty heard a cuckoo. I kept calling out, “coo koo” hoping it would answer me. We climbed lots of stairs to the top where they had a beautiful stone monument. Maxie build a sea turtle out of sand as we sat looking out over the dunes toward the ocean on the right and the Haff on the left. In this picture you can see the Haff, it is an estuary half sweet water, half sea water and in the far distance is mainland Lithuania (an area called Mamelland).
Our luck! A stork landed on the monument and stayed for a long time posing for pictures and looking at us, one eye then the other. He is banded from the bird sanctuary, he must have come from the Russian side of the Nehrunge (Couronian spit).
Here is a picture of Patty and Emma on the dune. In the distance you can see the town of Nidden – at the point is the harbor where my father worked as the customs official.
When I was just three years old I snuck onto the boat for Mamel and went to my grandmother. She was furious — not because I showed up un-announced and un-accompanied, but because my hair was full of tar. She was so worried that someone might see me looking like such a mess. She cut all my hair off. One of the pictures I have from these days is of me with very very short hair just after this episode.
Here is a picture of me showing Emma and Max one of the old style fishing boats in the harbor (this one has no mast left so it won’t be sailing far). I’m pointing to the front hatch where the nets were stored. This is where I hid one evening because I wanted to go out with the fishermen for their night fishing. They went out boat by boat in a line with the nets strung between them. So when I appeared on the farthest boat they could not go back in so they called from boat to boat the message that “der Kujelfritsch” is here to get the message to the land where my father was looking for me and so I could stay out all night with them, just what I wanted! Yesterday I finally found out what “Kujelfritsch” means: Kujel means “hammer” which was my family name, and Fritsch a boy’s name, and my father always called me by endearing boy’s names.
It’s been an unbelievable experience — it’s hard to believe I am really here again. More stories another day.