At the meeting point of the Courland Lagoon, River Neman and the Baltic, Klaipėda is Lithuania’s key port.
A fishing village inhabited by ancient Balts, it was named Memel when German crusaders arrived in the thirteenth century. Lithuanian and Teutonic knights fought here. The castle was built by the Livonian Order in 1252 and occupied by the Teutonic knights in 1328. The Duchy of Prussia took over the town in 1525 and it was invaded and destroyed by Swedish forces in 1678.
Prussia re-took the city in 1701. Designated a city fortress in the middle of the century, it fell to Russian rule between 1757 and 1762. Capital for 1 year in 1808, in 1854 it was devastated by fire. This was the second time in its history, the city having been gutted in 1540. Memel became part of Germany in 1871, remaining so until World War I. The port thrived throughout the nineteenth century and rapid industrialization took hold.
Memel was returned to the Lithuanian Republic in 1923 and...