By: DANIEL MORRIS
Klaipėda is a lovely town that is often overlooked as a little more than a place to dock en route to other locales — an add-on that’s give or take for many travelers. Unfortunately, the little things are often missed in towns like this. And, like in much of life, it’s those little things that enliven and inspire. In a historic city like Klaipėda, this holds true as well.
A Little Backstory
In 1252, the castle Memelburg was built by the Teutonic Knights on the mouth of the Dane River, giving birth to the city of Memel (now commonly known as Klaipėda). For the next 600-plus years, Klaipėda danced in and out of the grasp of multiple conquerors and suitors (particularly Russia and Germany) before finally returning to the Republic of Lithuania after World War II. Lithuania has remained independent since 1991, bringing us the Klaipėda we know today.
While there is much in the way of industrial commerce in this port city, from shipbuilding and deep-sea fishing to textiles and timber, Klaipėda is also rich in culture. Heavily steeped in German heritage that goes back to its Prussian roots, this city enjoys a number of culinary and artistic touchpoints. One of my personal favorites is the plethora of sculptures throughout the city. Two have always stood out to me…
The Black Ghost
Few sculptures in Klaipėda arrest your attention as quickly as Juodasis Vaiduoklis. “The Black Ghost,” as it’s translated in English, offers an echo of a centuries-old legend.
In 1595, it’s said that a guard of Klaipėda Castle (Memelburg) was patrolling the grounds when an apparition appeared. The ghost inquired about the sufficiency of the castle’s stores of timber and grain, to which the guard replied as being plentiful for their needs. Before disappearing, the phantom responded by warning the guard that their supplies would run low. Some believe this ghost saved Klaipeda from famine in the time that followed.
Today, “The Black Ghost” continues to be a sage reminder, for both residents and visitors alike, of the need to be grateful in times of prosperity and to prepare for times of leanness.
The Magical Mouse
Elsewhere in town, if you know where to look, there lives a different kind of sculpture. Instead of harkening to the past, this unique, bronze creation looks to the future. Standing only 17 cm tall, Stebuklingas Peliukas (“The Magical Mouse”), patiently awaits, ears agape, to hear what you have to say.
Inscribed around the little fellow is a phrase:
“MINTIS PAVERSK ZODŽIAIS – ZODZIAI TAPS STEBUKLAIS”
And, for those of you who only speak English:
“CONVERT YOUR IDEAS INTO WORDS – WORDS BECOME MIRACLES”
Svanjūnas Jurkus and Sergejus Plotnikovas, the creators of this adorable, little character, have suggested that if you whisper your wish to the mouse, he will grant you that wish. So, the next time you’re in Klaipėda, take the time to enjoy some of the artistic works that live throughout the city. Feel the history that goes back hundreds of years and allow a ghost to remind you of whatever goodness you have to be grateful for today.
Then, find a new little friend and quietly tell him what you hope for tomorrow.
Maybe world peace is just a whisper away.