Lithuania's only seaport (and third-largest city) is also one of the few ports in the eastern Baltic area to remain ice-free year-round. That quirk of nature has always kept Klaipėda's economy humming since the city was founded in 1252, though for most of that period it was known by its German name, Memel. The Livonian Order of Teutonic Knights first settled the area, completing a fortress and christening it and the town Memelburg, later shortened to Memel. For most of its history, Memel was an important eastern Prussian and later German outpost (and for a brief period during the Napoleonic wars it was even the capital of Prussia). The city became part of Lithuania in 1923 and, after a period of further German occupation before and during World War II, it once again returned to Lithuania. The architecture of the city may appear more German than anything else, especially if you walk in the Old Town, where many of the buildings are in the Fachwerk style where the walls are framed with small squares. Over the river Danė, across the wooden bridge, you will find moats and fortifications of a 17th-century bastion, today used mostly by fishermen. The city's proximity to the Curonian Spit makes nature just a short trip away.
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