You would be surprised how many times I have heard “Kaunas? It’s rather boring isn’t it?” Not only from locals, but travellers as well. However, what most people don’t realize is that Kaunas is a diamond in the rough. You need to put some time and energy to see its beauty, discover its history and learn about amazing people, who created it. But then again… Maybe it’s just my crazy interest in history that made me truly appreciate the temporary capital of Lithuania? So one sunny afternoon I invited my boyfriend (who is not that crazy about history) for a date to Kaunas. Let’s see if I can make him fall in love with this city.
1. LITHUANIAN LUNCH
Since we reached the city center well after lunch, we decided that best way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Good thing I already had Gastro Guide Map prepared by Kaunas Tourist Information Center. It’s divided into categories that make it easier to choose the place – from restaurants for everyday to places for special occasions. And most importantly – there is a section for vegetarians too! Pretty quickly we agreed to check out Višta Puode. Their specialty is taking old Lithuanian recipes to 21st century. We will definitely come back there for a second time!
Višta Puode | S. Daukanto str. 23, Kaunas | administracija@vištapuode.lt |www.vistapuode.lt
You can get Gastro guide and more in Tourism Information “Kaunas In” Rotušės sq. 15, Bus and Train stations, some bookshops and cafes.
2. MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE
While waiting for our order, we remembered that quite a few movies and TV series, we both enjoyed, were filmed in Kaunas. Since everyone was still crazy about HBO Chernobyl, we wanted to look for the apartment of Valery Legasov. It was filmed in an impressive art-deco building at Vytauto Ave. 58. The architecture definitely catches your eye, even if you don’t know that famous TV series was filmed here! And that is one of the hidden treasures of Kaunas – its modernistic architecture mixed with national symbols and traditional patterns. Kaunas was even recognized as UNESCO City of Design, because of this unique style! So, without even asking I dragged my boyfriend to V. Putvinskio str. – one of the best places to see the beauty of Kaunastic architecture. This street was also a center stage for interwar diplomacy – many of the representatives of foreign governments had their offices here.
3. RIDING THE FUNICULAR
Luckily, before my companion got bored to death by my stories about architects and interwar diplomacy peculiarities, we discovered Žaliakalnis Funicular! Lithuania is a flat country, so Kaunas funiculars are unique form of transportation. Built in 1931 it gets you up to Žaliakalnis hill in 1 minute and 38 seconds. Back in a day it was an important, distinctive and significant symbol of modernization of the city. Of course we had to try it for ourselves!
Žaliakalnis Funicular Aušros str. 6 | Ticket 1,00 Eur | I - V 07:00 - 19:00 VI-VII 09:00 - 19:00 (close on public holidays days)
4. VIEW OF KAUNAS
But what to do after you get up to Žaliakalnis? Well, get even higher! Why not to take the stairs (or elevator) to the rooftop of Resurrection Church? It’s probably the best view point to the modern interwar capital. It’s impressive how green and picturesque Kaunas really is. And the golden rays of afternoon sun made this viewpoint the most romantic place in town. Extraordinary white Art Deco church is not only interesting because of its architecture and impressive rooftop view. It is also the best symbol of Lithuanian history of 20th century. The idea to build this place of worship was first expressed in 1922. The church was meant to celebrate the resurrection of Lithuanian independence. The work began over a decade later, but it wasn’t finished and consecrated until 2004! During The Second World War it was first used as a warehouse by the Nazis and then as a radio factory by the Soviets.
5. KAUNAS STREET ART
Sadly, the closing time was approaching and we couldn’t stay at the rooftop for any longer. After getting down we decided to “get lost” and try to find another way from Žaliakalnis to the city center. While passing quite a number of beautiful villas on a way, we wished we could just move in there and enjoy glass of rose wine in one of romantic porches. Talking about pink color did you know that Kaunas is home to Pink Elephant? Just like that we had another thing to look for in our improvised tour. Street art is becoming increasingly popular all over Lithuania and Kaunas is no exception! Some of the murals – like Pink Elephant or Wise Old Man – became unofficial symbols of the city. If you like urban art another must is Yard Gallery. We sneaked inside as quietly as mice, because this open air gallery is hidden in the backyard of residential building. And people living there deserve some peace and quiet. It took us some time to inspect all the street art, installations and photos on the memory wall. Born out of need to connect the neighbors and create an active community, Yard Gallery inspires people not only in Kaunas, but all over the world. “Why not to make something like this in my apartment building?” I thought for myself. Now I have yet another project in mind…
6. SUNSET IN KAUNAS
Since the sun was already setting down, we agreed that the last thing we should do in Kaunas – to admire the sunset. Romantic isn’t it? And what is better place to do so than the confluence of two Lithuania’s biggest rivers - Nemunas and Neris. It’s sometimes called the birthplace of Kaunas, but more importantly (at least some sources say) this is where a grove of Milda, the Lithuanian goddess of love, courting, friendship and freedom, once was. Maybe this is why the place has always been so popular among couples. While walking alongside the confluence we realized that new traditions are being set. Most of the people there were not so much concerned with the sunset, but with tens of stone towers built by previous romantics. Of course we joined the fun! And after building quite an impressive tower we called it a day and headed back to Vilnius.
In conclusion: did my boyfriend fall in love with Kaunas? He actually did! Or maybe he was just nice to me. But we definitely agreed to come back again to check some of the museums (like Devils museum) which were closed by the time we reached them. Also we completely missed Kaunas Old town, which also has some amazing hidden treasures. And there are still a lot of street art pieces I wanted to see.
In conclusion part 2: how should you discover Kaunas? Well grab as many Kaunastic maps as possible. Take some time to read them through and mix those routes according to your taste. Try to find which theme interests you the most. And always, ALWAYS, leave some space for improvisation and pure joy of getting lost in a new city. This this how you will discover your Kaunas!
- Ieva B.