Lithuania
Kaunas

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  • Day1079

    A visit to Kaunas

    June 10, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We'd set a day aside to visit Kaunas, Lithuania's 2nd city. We'd originally planned to stay 5km out of town and cycle in along the river, but it was a scorcher of a day so parking in the castle car park in the old town at just 30 cents an hour was a lot better option.

    As we approached the city, we passed roadside plant sellers and a few fruit stalls. The closer we got the more tram wires criss crossed over our heads. The trams and trolleybuses had real character, around half were lime green, but the rest had been decorated in different styles; animal prints, outer space, flowers and cartoons were just a few. There was a real mix of buildings too. Run down concrete walled factories were interspersed with modern car washes, glass fronted offices and the now familiar flapboard houses with corrugated rooves. We'd been spoiled with the miles of open road in Lithuania's countryside. If a fast moving vehicle came up behind you there, it just overtook, but the city phyche ruled here, with close knit gridlocks whete cars pushed in front with inches to spare. Keeping their place in the line of traffic was of the highest priority.

    The castle car park was already pretty full when we arrived late morning but we managed to find a space. Martha will just about fit into a regular sized bay with her rear wheels up against the line so long as there is a verge for her back end to overhang.

    We set off up Vilniaus Gatve, the pedestrianised main street in the Old Town, towards a couple of vegetarian restaurants the guide book had recommended. Either side was an interesting selection of colourful townhouses, some with dormer windows in their tiled rooves, others sporting decorative flushes of plasterwork around their doorways and window frames. People enjoyed cool drinks as café tables and chairs spilled out onto the thoroughfare. The area was quite touristy, but thanks to Kaunas's two universities there was a good mix of students too. Arriving at the first eatery, a sign told us it was closed on Mondays. Lithuania is the first country we've encountered that uses symbols such as Roman Numerals or dots to communicate opening days and times instead of the names of days or abbreviations of them. We like it!

    Will's feet weren't on best form thanks to the cuts he had sustained on successive wild swims, so we didn't venture as far as the new town that stretched eastwards, where there were a few other veggie places. Instead we looked around at what else Vilnaiaus Gatve had to offer. Dismissing Hesburger (the Lithuanian McDonalds) in favour of Casa Della pizzeria. Whilst pizza isn't traditional Lithuanian fare, it seems to be one of the most popular contemporary food choices. Vicky got the pleasure of choosing between four veggie pizzas, opting for the goat's cheese with fresh spinach, while Will ramped up the heat with pepperoni and fresh chilli. Sitting on the metal runged chairs at the melamine covered table outside, we were approached by a persistent (but well dressed) beggar, until a member of staff asked them to leave. She then went over to a burly looking man who gave her a cigarette and sent her off in a different direction... The pizzas were delicious and together with nectarine juice for Vicky and a large can of beer for Will, came to only €9.30. It seemed mean to only tip 10%!

    After lunch we went in search of a viewpoint from which the guidebook promised the best views of the old town. Dominating one side of the main square, St Francis Xavier Church, college and Jesuit monastery was easy enough to find. A point of entry was not! We'd walked almost all the way around the large complex before we found a small gate under a brick arch. An A4 printed sheet pinned to a notice board advertised the viewpoint. Stepping through the portal we came to a closed wooden door with entry buzzer. We pressed the button, half expecting to speak to a random resident who knew nothing about any observation deck, but no, to our relief we were buzzed in and met by a warden who knew what we were talking about! Another setback came when they couldn't find the keys to the tower, but they led us out of the building and to the entryphone on the main square, hoping the door at the top of the staircase was open! Thankfully it was and we were left to our own devices on a large rectangular rooftop area beneath the church's pink and white steeple. The views were definitely worth the hassle, encompassing the river, rusty tin rooftops mingled with modern tiles of different hues that covered dormer windows. Trees in full leaf bordered the grey paved square and various steeples protruded, vying for attention. The winner had got to be that of the historic, white painted town hall.

    Having seen the Nemunas riverside from up high, we now crossed over to reach the funicular railway leading up the steep hill on the opposite shore. It gave us a different perspective of the city. From here we could see the small university, the residential areas and the basketball painted on the bank, showing the country's enthusiasm for the sport. It was a hot day and we were both getting tired, so we swung back to the mainstreet and found a café serving icecream cones. Ahh, that was better.

    Back in the days when people first settled in this area, they chose the land where two major rivers joined, not least because of the natural protection these waterways offered in terms of defence. Wandering back towards Kaunas Castle, we strolled through a park on the tongue of land between the Nemunas and Neris, following a path right to the point where the two confluenced. Taking off our shoes, we cooled our feet in both, finding the Nemunas to be faster flowing, cooler and clearer than the Neris.

    Last stop in the city was the humble red brick and cobblestone castle, built back in the 14th century, its coat of arms flying proudly on a red flag. After admiring it from outside we returned to Martha. Kaunas is the first Lithuanian city we've explored on foot and it had been a good experience. The old town was compact but not crowded, the people we interacted with were friendly and happy to speak English, food and attractions were very affordable and there was a good mix of sights. It's a thumbs up for Kaunas!
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  • Day15

    Kinderheim Kaunas

    March 8, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    Bällebad24🚙💨 unser Bällebad für Litauen erreicht in Kaunas sein Ziel.

    Nach 6.748km aus Bautzen /Deutschland nach Kaunas /Litauen, einmal mit dem Uhrzeigersinn um die ganze Ostsee.

    Jetzt gut angekommen in der Sonderschule Kaunas. Eine Schule mit Internat für ca. 140 geistig und körperlich behinderte Kinder im Alter von 7-18 Jahren.

    .....hier ist unser Geschenk gut angekommen und gut aufgehoben !

    🚙💨. 😍
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  • Day13

    The baltics on a shoestring

    June 27, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Nach einer kurzweiligen Party Nacht starten wir Richtung Süden - Tallinn und Riga lassen wir aus und finden unser Etappenziel in Kaunas... kannten wir selbst auch nicht, ist aber ein kleines, feines Städtchen mit netter Fuzo in der Altstadt

  • Day13

    Tag 13

    June 27, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Nach einer Partynacht ging es für uns direkt bis kurz vor die polnische Grenze in die kleine beschauliche Stadt Kaunas. Die Strecke dorthin war nicht besonders Ereignisreich, aber zur Abwechslung gab es am Rand nicht nur Wälder sondern große, weite Felder und lange Straßen.
    In Kaunas angekommen, haben wir in der Nähe unserer Unterkunft ein georgisches Restaurant gefunden und sehr lecker zu Abend gegessen.Read more

  • Day2

    Übernachten in der Boulderhalle

    January 22 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 2 °C

    Am ersten Abend, bekamen wir das Angebot, dass wir in der Boulderhalle wo Sinja ihr freiwilliges Soziales Auslandsjahr absolviert übernachten dürfen.

    In dieser Nacht haben wir noch zwei Leute kennengelernt die von Deutschland nach China reisen und ebenfalls in der Halle übernachtet haben und wir hatten einen unvergesslichen Abend 😄👌🏻👍🏻

    Kurz darauf sah es dann so aus.😄
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  • Day113

    Kaunas

    July 29, 2017 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    It's KAUNASTIC!

    Thats what they say and it makes complete sense to me now. To find out for yourselves, you will just have to come here! A fab city with lots to do for tourists but very few tourists around.. perfect :)

    We are staying in the suburbs in a lovely cottage in someones garden. Stuart has won a fan already in the guise of the owners dog who is waiting for him each time he steps out of the door. Kaunas acted as the capital of Lithuania between 1920 and 1939. It is our first taste of Lithuania and is home to a castle, a very successful basketball team, a huge mix of architecture and a devil museum, amongst many other things.

    After a round the houses bus trip on a mini bus we arrived across the beautiful river Nemunas straight into the centre of the old town, past the Perkunas "Thunder" house, an impressive gothic building housing a jesuit museum. We found our way to the Baroque style Town Hall in a very attractive square to collect a mound of maps from the tourist information.

    Heading first to the Cathedral we were treated to lovely singing from the balcony accompanied by the organist and quickly realised that we were inadvertent guests at a wedding! Don't worry we weren't the only tourists there, but whilst Stuart scarpered I lingered a while to see the dress of course! She was one of three brides that we saw in Kaunas this morning, the weather was lovely - and not too warm! - 23 degrees, obviously a perfect day for a wedding!

    Moving through old town streets mooching for souvenirs, we walked the length of "Laisves Aleja" (Freedom Avenue). It is reported to be the longest pedestrian street in Europe, so not surprisingly half way along we needed to stop for lunch. Our intended lunch stop was quite a distance away so we settled for Mexican. And boy it didn't disappoint! Food was delicious and Stuart had a skull drink. A cocktail in a skull shaped glass with food on cocktail sticks and a flaming sambuca in the centre.. this boy sure knows how to choose a drink! I meanwhile sampled a Lithuanian beer which apparently is the best in the World. Now where have I heard that before....

    On a majorly full stomach, and having been to quite a few historical museums recently, we decided to visit the Devils Museum. Basically it is collection of 2000+ devil statues housed in the house of the late collector, an artist named Antanas Zmuidzinavicius. Completely random but a bit of fun and interesting to read about the folklore from Lithuania and other countries regarding the devil, be he stupid or scary.

    To Stuart's delight we found another funicular, this one being the oldest in Lithuania Unlike the one in Prague - where we had to queue for 20 minutes - there was only one other guy riding it.
    At the top of the funicular we visited Christ's Resurrection Church. It was completed in 2005 and apparently is seen as an eyesore by some. It cost us 1.2 euro to walk the 165 steps to the top where you have great views of the city.

    Kaunas is also full of street art that they are obviously very proud of, so much so that they are all marked on the tourist maps.. We passed a lot on our travels, including an old man the size of a building with a pipe full of stars, a multi coloured shack and a space hedgehog.

    According to one of my many guides, we visited/saw 10 of the 15 top things to do in Kaunas today so all in all a good days sightseeing!
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  • Day8

    On the Road Again

    June 10, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Although our time in Warsaw and Vilnius has been very pleasant, we didn't come all this way to just wander about sightseeing. We are a cycling group after all, and we want to experience what it is like to pedal our way through the Baltic States.

    We knew that the day would begin with a bus transfer, but we had no idea of what type of bus would be provided for us. I had visions of all twenty of us jammed into some Soviet era minibus. This could not have been further from the truth. We emerged from our hotel to find a HUGE modern (and air conditioned) bus waiting for us across the road. If the bus itself was not of gigantic enough proportions, it was enlarged even further by the very impressive bike trailer mounted behind it.

    This was easily the biggest bus we have ever used on any previous Ghostrider adventure. The opulent size meant that our team members could spread out inside the bus and really enjoy the ride. We even found that the bus was so long that passengers in the front and rear seats were in different time zones. Our driver answered to the name of Vaidas, although it was a bit of a shame that he spoke almost no English.

    In spite of his lack of English, he was obviously a skilled driver and managed to manoeuvre the behemoth through the narrow streets with comparative ease. About an hour later we arrived at Trakai Castle. While we explored the large lakeside castle, Vaidas unloaded the bikes from the trailer. Once again the temperature started to soar towards 30C. All that cold weather clothing stayed securely hidden in my case.

    After a look around the castle we stopped at a lakeside restaurant for lunch, before finally getting on the bikes for the first time. We were relieved to discover that the bikes appeared to be brand new, although it was impossible to tell what brand they were as they had all been painted the same green. We spent a short time adjusting the seats and loading the panniers, but soon we were underway.

    We had been promised that the Baltic States were "flat and cool". That was obviously a lie. After a couple of kilometres we encountered the first climb,and it was progressively followed by a succession of others. That was not in the agenda, nor was the blazing sun and high temperatures. We quickly realised that this was not going to be an easy ride after all.

    Because of the large number of riders, we divided into two smaller groups, each one guided by a GPS equipped rider. From time to time we stopped to consolidate the groups and make sure that everyone was OK. The scenery was superb and the road was relatively quiet. The few vehicles that were there gave us a respectful separation.

    The rolling green hills reminded me of Finland and Sweden, but the dilapidated houses reminded me more of some of the old villages we had ridden through in Hungary. At one stage we rode into a tiny village and found a general store that sold ice creams and cold drinks. That really was a welcome discovery.

    At around 4 pm we were met by Vaidas and climbed back onto the bus for a transfer to Kaunas, the second largest town in Lithuania. It took about 90 minutes to reach our hotel - the Best Western Santaka. Judging by the enormous sizes of the rooms, this was probably once one of the finest hotels in the city, however it is now showing its age a little.

    When I tried to have a shower I discovered that the hot and cold taps were fitted back to front and the plug hole did not drain. I was soon standing in 10 cm of warm water. All part of the experience.

    Tomorrow we head off early for our second day of cycling. The weather forecast is for the weather to be even hotter. Sometimes the life of a Ghostrider is not as glamorous as you might think. On the other hand, it sure is a lot of fun.
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  • Day11

    Kaunas

    August 6, 2018 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌬 23 °C

    Kaunas is known as Lithuania’s city of museums,which made my choice to spend a Monday there somewhat ironic, luckily it is also another surprisingly charming and beautiful Eastern European city. Compact and easily walkable, it has a nicely preserved old town, a number of green parks and, due to it having been the first capital of the Republic of Lithuania from 1919-39 a number of very impressive administrative buildings and cathedrals. What drew me here was reading that it had just recently been announced as the European capital of culture 2022, which from past experience is always a good sign that somewhere is worth a visit.

    My hunch wasn’t wrong, despite the huge amount of renovations going on to spruce the city up and make it look the part, the place proved to be very cool and relaxing after the craziness of Riga. It also helped that the hostel was very chill, which allowed me some early nights and some planning time for the next legs of my trip.

    Monday was spent exploring its nooks and crannies, wandering the old town, crossing the river to take the furnicular to a view point looking over the city from the opposite bank and exploring the parks, one of which contained an old soviet theme park. The theme park is still somewhat functioning, with a surreal mix of rusted, broken down or dilapidated rides and more recent, but by no means more impressive, add ons. My favourite had to be repurposed electric wheelchairs, which had been converted into bumper cars with kids careening around the paths barely being able to reach the handlebars.

    I had a choice on Tuesday to either stay in the City and hit up the museums or to head out of town to the Ninth Fort. I took the second option, which I’m very glad I did. The Ninth Fort is located an hours bus trip away and is one of a circle of forts that were built prior to WW1 by the Russians at the cost of $500 million in todays dollars and, which collectively made up the Kaunas Fortress. Seeing as it subsequently took the Germans a total of 11 days to take the city, the money may have been better spent elsewhere. However, what it is most famous for is being the site of a succession of brutal prisons and concentration camps, first by the Lithuanian Republic, then the Soviets and finally the Nazi’s who used it as an extermination camp, mainly for political prisoners, but also Jews and Russian POW’s. This was not a concentration camp, the only reason for people being taken there was to be killed. In total over 50,000 people were murdered in less than 3 years by being shot, stabbed or beaten, unlike other camps where gas chambers were built to ‘sanitise’ the operation. A single breakout of 62 prisoners in 1944, before the final liquidation, where the only survivors and witnesses to the horrors inflicted within. Once the Soviets were back it was once again used as a prison camp and staging post for the deportation of ethnic Lithuanians to Siberia. Today, it forms the basis for a spectacular, beautiful and very moving museum and is towered over by a fantastic 40m high brutalist communist sculpture erected in 1984, which is an appropriately awe inspiring and amazing sight.

    Right next to the sculpture is a large green field, which is where 50,000 people are still buried and is marked by a simple memorial and a number of simple plaques from European cities where some of the murdered originally came from. One of my favourite rooms in the museum though was one devoted to those who harboured and protected enemies of the Nazi regime. Hundreds of portraits and a sentence describing their heroics, it was incredible moving and, surrounded by so much misery and horror, a fantastic and uplifting reminder of the personal courage and fortitude displayed by so many in the face of such overwhelming fear and brutality.
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  • Day30

    Kaunas

    August 19, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Mein Navi sagte: fahre Richtung Klaipeda, dann nimm die Autobahn.
    Ich dachte: fahren wir direkter und über Land zur Autobahn - falsch gedacht: die Strecke war eine einzige Baustelle mit Ampelverkehr und somit kam ich zuerst auf einen Schnitt von 35 km/h!
    Danach lief es besser und auf der Autobahn kamen wir Kaunas schnell näher. Unterwegs brauchte unser Magen noch etwas und wir fanden ein einfaches Lokal, in dem wir gut bewirtet wurden.
    Gegen 15 kamen wir auf dem Campingplatz am Stadtrand von Kaunas an, bauten dann schnell,auf und fuhren anschließend die 6 km in die Innenstadt. Selten haben wir Montag Abends eine belebtere Innenstadt gesehen. Viele Lokale und Cafés waren gut besucht und in der Fußgängerzone war Hochbetrieb. Über dem Fluß stiegen wir in den einzigen Schrägaufzug des Baltikums und wurden für 0,35 €/ Person auf einen Hügel transportiert, von dem wir einen schönen Blick auf die Altstadt hatten.
    In der Neustadt wurde eine neuen Fußgängerzone angelegt, die dazu passenden hochpreisigen Geschäfte waren schon da.
    Nach einer kleinen Mahlzeit in einem der Restaurants fuhren wir wieder zum Campingplatz. Selbst der einsetzende Nieselregen konnte unseren guten Eindruck von der Stadt nicht trüben
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Kaunas, Kauen, كاوناس, Kawnas, Горад Каўнас, Каунас, Κάουνας, Kaŭno, کاوناس, קובנה, KUN, ᑯᓇᔅ/kunas, カウナス, კაუნასი, 카우나스, Couna, Kauņa, कॉनास, Kowno, کاؤناس, Kauns, เคานัส, קאוונע, 考那斯

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