Dancing forest is a part of the pine forest on the territory of the Kaliningrad region, named so because the trunks of the trees growing here have very different curves and seem to “dance”. The pines look like the backs of chairs, harps, rings and human figures. Some trees are curled in spirals and intricate loops, while others “crawl” parallel to the ground. Some, particularly “prominent” pines have even been given their own names – “devil’s horns,” “witch’s ring,” and “devil’s gate.”
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Video: The Dancing Forest on the Curonian Spit
The dancing forest has long been a popular tourist attraction, and almost all tourists who come to the national park “Curonian Spit” try to visit here. Since 2000 the place where the dancing forest is located and the natural complexes around it have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Tilted and bent trees occupy an area of 0.5 hectares.
It is hard to believe, but the dancing or, as it is also called, “drunken” forest is not a natural natural anomaly. Trees on the Round dune, not far from the Rybachie settlement, were planted in 1961 in order to strengthen the Curonian Spit and to prevent erosion, typical for this area. Most of the dunes of the protected spit stretch along the coast of the Curonian Lagoon. The Kruglaya dune, where an unusual dancing forest grows, is located between the bay and the Baltic Sea coast on a flat plain. The old name of this place is Runderberg, which means “Round Mountain”. Rybachy village used to be called Rossitten.
Causes of tree deformation
Specialists have not come to a consensus on why the trunks of the pines of the dancing forest are so crooked. There are different points of view on this subject. One common theory among biologists is that the pine shoots were damaged already at a young age by the caterpillars of the red moth (Rhyacionia pinicolana). The caterpillars usually eat the apical and partially the lateral buds. Although the apex bud is missing, the tree must still develop, and it begins to grow at the expense of the remaining lateral buds. Because of this, the trunk becomes deformed and over the years takes on a curved shape.
Red spruce leafminer caterpillars are known to damage young trees between 5 and 20 years old most often. These pests thrive best in pine plantations that grow on soils with little groundwater and where the soil is not particularly rich in minerals. Exactly such conditions can be observed on the territory of the Curonian Spit.
Unnaturally bent trees
Modern problems of the dancing forest
Unusual shapes attract a huge number of tourists to the dancing forest. Although there are warning signs near the natural attraction, most visitors to the Curonian Spit ignore them.
Those who like to get spectacular photo shots climb on the curved trunks, touch the bark and break the lower branches of the pines. As a result, the unique pine massif is subjected to a huge anthropogenic impact. Many trees have almost all bark stripped off the lower parts of their trunks. The earth around the trees is so heavily rammed by people that nothing grows on it. Environmentalists are convinced that if visitors to the national park do not treat the dancing forest more carefully, in a few years it will be gone.
Trail through the dancing forest
Today there is a special trail through the dancing forest, and tourists are asked to walk only through it. The path is 0.8 km long and has wooden decking and handrails.
The foundations of buildings can be seen at the beginning of the trail. A famous German gliding school used to be located here. The school was founded in 1922 and 14 years later it received the Imperial status. Until January 1945 some 30,000 German pilots had been trained here, and among them quite a few of those who had set records for the length and duration of flights.
Moving along the trail, you can walk around the section of the dancing forest along the perimeter. Along the way there are several billboards with information about the pine forest and its environmental problems. The most “famous” trees are surrounded by low wooden hedges.
How to get there
The Dancing forest is situated on 37 km of the Curonian Spit on the territory of the national park. It is situated 4 km to the North from the Rybachy village, near the road to Lithuania. Closer to the road the pine forest is flat, without damage. Warped trunks are located at some distance from the highway.
From Kaliningrad to the national park “Curonian Spit” you can get by regular buses, going to Klaipeda. Tourists usually ask the driver to make a stop near the dancing forest.
There is also an opportunity to get to the Curonian Spit with transfer in Zelenogradsk. Kaliningrad and Zelenogradsk are connected by suburban electric trains and regular buses, and from Zelenogradsk to the Curonian Spit want buses and cabs.
The Dancing Forest on the Curonian Spit: what secret do the dancing trees of this anomalous place keep?
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In the Kaliningrad region, near the village of Rybachy, there is a strange creepy place. However, it is just as beautiful. Dancing Forest is a very popular and very mysterious local sight, shrouded in a halo of legends and superstitions. Incredibly curved tree trunks seem to be spinning in some kind of frantic dance, and the reason for their “behavior” is still not precisely defined. This forest, being a part of the “Curonian Spit” national park, attracts tourists and photographers like a magnet.
A strange place
The forest appeared here in 1961 – it was artificially planted to fortify the sands. More than half a century has passed and during this time the coniferous trees that grew here acquired very intricate shapes. What force has bent them so intricately? Scientists are still puzzling over it. It seems that the trees arranged a dance, and those who take the risk of walking in this place say that the further you go into the forest, the more aggressive the “dance” becomes.
Especially strange is the fact that in this forest you almost never hear birds sing and there are almost no animals. Well, most of the people who have visited this place confess that the sensations are strange. Some visitors feel a surge of energy, while others, on the contrary, get a headache and a feeling of fatigue and apathy.
Even more eerie is the deadly silence in the forest. Only occasional visiting tour groups break it, because this place is a very popular tourist destination.
It is worth noting that on the Round Dune, where Dancing Forest grows, not all trunks have a strange shape – “dancing” trees are concentrated on a particular (quite large, though) area.
What is the reason for this “dance”?
Researchers have not come to a consensus about the reason for the distortion of tree trunks.
According to one version, some natural phenomena, supposedly occurring in this place, such as a sharp change in the direction of the wind or temperature differences, may have contributed to the deformation. There is also a hypothesis about the special composition of the soil in the area.
Adherents of another hypothesis blame insect pests, an invasion of which has allegedly once been observed in the forest. There is a theory that the ravenous caterpillars of the wintering butterfly have damaged the trunks.
Scientists confirm their hypothesis by information that caterpillars usually damage young pine stems, devouring mainly apical buds and hardly touching lateral ones. As a result of disappearance of apical buds, lateral buds begin to grow actively, which later causes curvature of the trunk. Scientists note that these caterpillars usually eat pine shoots growing in poor soils poorly saturated with groundwater, such as those on the Curonian Spit. But there is no definite answer to the question “Why did the caterpillars spoil only a certain part of the forest and not all the trees?
Proponents of the third hypothesis see the cause of the “dance” of trees in the mobility of the local sands. Geologists say that the Round dune stands on the “pillow” of clay, which causes such mobility – in combination with the constantly changing direction of the wind, the angle of the dune, they say, is always different. Hence the curvature of the trunks. Other dunes of the Curonian Spit, according to the authors of this hypothesis, have no such features.
In favor of the “non-mystical” versions is the fact that many trunks in the Dancing Forest are not curved along their entire length, but only in the lower part, which means that they were deformed only at the initial stage of plant growth.
There are some researchers who see the reason for the deformation of trees in the powerful energy of this place, which has not yet been studied by the scientific community.
Fans of horror stories and mysticism put forward their own versions. According to one of them, some chemicals sprayed by the Germans before the Second World War, when the famous German gliding school was located on the Curonian Spit, influenced the trees. By the way, many famous record-breaking pilots came out of that school. The last gliding school flight took place in January 1945.
There are those who argue that the reason for the curved trunks is the sacredness and “special and mystical status” of the forest. They say that in ancient times, very old oaks and beeches grew here. These trees were considered sacred by the local pagans. They worshipped them to such an extent that they once killed a famous Christian missionary because he had disrespected the trees, or, to put it simply, violated the boundaries of the sacred grove.
The most mystical of the versions is that this place is a kind of portal to the otherworldly worlds.
Local residents, of course, make up beautiful legends about this forest. For example, that once young witches allegedly came to the forest for their coven. They began to whirl in their wild dance, but in the midst of the dance suddenly for some reason froze as if dead in their strange poses. And so the enchantresses remained forever in this forest, turning into twisted pines. In this connection, there was even a strange omen – if you crawl through the spiral of such a twisted trunk, you can become one year younger. And if you climb twice, you will become two years younger and so on.
There is a more romantic legend and fairy tale. Once, many years ago, a pagan prince was hunting in these parts. Suddenly, he heard a beautiful enchanting melody and went to the sounds. Coming out into the clearing, the young man saw a beautiful woman playing the lyre. They fell in love with each other, but the girl made the Prince a condition: she would marry him only when he accepts Christianity. And to show her pagan lover the power of the Cross, she made the trees around them dance.
It is said that 13 years ago an experiment was conducted in this forest – they planted young pines to see how they would grow. Time passed, but the trees did not start to bend. True, they are growing very slowly, which again suggests that there is clearly something abnormal in the forest.
Are the trees under threat?
But local environmentalists are sounding the alarm. They pay attention to the fact that the trees require careful attitude. In particular, it is allowed to walk in the woods only on special paths, bridges, fenced with railings. Administration asks tourists not to embrace pine trees (it erases the bark) and not to trample the soil. Environmentalists and the park administration pay attention to the fact that the most unique and popular trees of the Dancing Forest have already died.
For example, several years ago, the famous ring tree died – its bark was damaged and its root system was disrupted. This is due to the fact that tourists constantly sat on the tree, climbed through the ring, touched the trunk, stomped on the ground. For environmentalists, the forest is not a mystical place and not a photo zone, but above all a unique natural monument.