CULTURE / Settlements / Fishing villages

Force of nature had major impact  on both local people life and homesteads of dune-dwellers of that time it was no point to settle for long and construct durable and long-term buildings. Mainly small cottages were built of various material such as shipwreck or aged boat planks. Small homesteads were scattered in safer areas.

More permanent settlements and homesteads were situated only in the 19th century. Dune planting has been launched at that time gradually stabilizing the life in the Curonian Spit.

Fisherman's homesteads of particular type finally developed during the late 18th and mid-19th centuries under the influence of changes in living conditions. Contrary to continental farmers, fishermen got along with less buildings however used to arrange more premises under the same roof. This was due to housekeeping differences and lack of wood.

Fisherman's homestead layout was different from farmer's one - narrow and long land plot. Convenient access to the lagoon shore and quays was essential. Farm buildings - a fish smokehouse, a cattle shed, and less often a barn - were situated near the lagoon. There were fish-net dryers arranged as well. A house was situated with its one butt to the lagoon and the other butt to a street. A free space for a kitchen garden, berry shrubs, and fish-net drying was located in the middle of the plot. Plots were usually limited by willow-fences, since the end of the 19th century - most often by wooden fences or hedgerows. Sometimes the homestead plots were fenced by old fishnets.

Buildings were wooden, built of carving pine wallplanks,covered with thatch or reeds. Traditional fisherman's house was a chimneyless two-butt hut with two sided exits in the middle and big shed. The house had a spacious porch without floor where fish-nets used to be repaired. A porch and garrets were also applied to hang up fish-nets, arrange granaries as well as quern for milling. A house, a cattle shed and a barn of less wealthy fishermen was arranged in a single long building. Fish-nets were placed and fumigated under a shed of dwelling house. Fumigation of fish-nets took place in other buildings when ridged roofs extincted and stoves got settled in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Fishermen used to decorate their buildings with carved architectural elements such as gable finials of crossed horses' heads, etc. Major ornaments served for magical protection. 

Health resort demands and new type of construction materials caused the changes in the traditional layout of fisherman's homesteads and settlements as well as in the landscape.  The houses were used to be drawn further from thelagoon and built closer to the littoral road with their side oriented towards the lagoon or the road thereby neglecting the traditions of the old fishermen's settlements. Fishermens houses were extended: garrets arranged, verandas attached and enlarged. Exterior walls were planked, a ridged roof changed to steep roof, reeds replaced with tiles. Outer walls most often were painted dark brown or dark blue, decorated with perforated finials, so called "žirgeliai",weather-vanes were carved of plant patterns, window rims painted white and bluish. Fishermans homestead was enclosed by brown painted wooden fences with white tips. Summer cottages - a hybrid of a fishermans house and villa - appeared. Plots of homesteads were enlarged and adjusted to summer rest. 

The southern part of Nida settlement, previously called Atragis, perfectly represents a fishing village of the Curonian Spit in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has maintained a strict rectangular layout structure, regular street network and single-storey surroundings. This settlement of the Curonian Spit is distinctive by its the most valuable heritage of urban and ethnic architecture - kind of an ethnic architecture museum under the open sky. 


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