After what can only be described as an unpleasant bus ride overnight, we crossed the border into Lithuania. Our destination was Kaunas where we would be staying with my girlfriends brother. I’ve previously only been to Kaunas busstation, which is not a place where you wish to find yourself any time soon, so I had an obligation to fulfill to this city I think.
The bus ride was interesting and very, very slow. I spend most of the ride reading or listening to books if I wasn’t trying to in some clumsy way find a position to sleep in. Around 5.00 in the morning we did arive to a sleepy city. We were picked up by car and went towards the appartment to get some hard needed sleep. Around noon we picked up some breakfast, meaning egg, sausage, bread and coffee. From there we continued our trip by climbing to the top of a church in Kaunas, which served as a radio factory in Soviet times. Hey, atleast it was still sending signals up in the sky, right? From there we could see the whole city, from the oldest buildings around the ‘Boulevard of Liberty’ to the brand new Zalgiris basketball stadium (the most famous club from Lithuania).
From there on we took the funiculair railway down hill (yes, thats the word). Apparently this thing works forever and barely needs any maintenance. Below one finds the square on wich the war museum borders. There are various busts and symbols, with an eternal flame in memory of the independence struggle. According to populair legend, under the square lie the remains of one of the people that signed over Lithuania to the Soviet Union around 1940. The name elludes me, but the woman in question is considered the traitor of the nation due to it. The memorial itself is not pompous or grand in any way, it has the sober typicality of the Lithuanian nation to it, which makes it as impressive as it actually is. I put the picture up a bit higher.
One of the great sores in Kaunas is the fact that it used to be the Capital city of Lithuania. This was changed when the nation got the city of Vilnius back, which was it’s historic centre of rule. For a brief period Kaunas experienced growth and prowess due to its state as capital and afterwards it was easily forgotten. That is how the people feel about it and this is almost tangible in the atmosphere of the city. Similar graffiti concerning this can be found all over the city. That being said, the heart of the city is very beautifull and has it’s own sober identity, very distinct from Vilnius or Klaipeda (one much more Polish, the other German).
We continued all the way to the ‘House Of Thunder’, past the great market where the municipality hall is and various nice bars and restaurants. This house is famous for the rumoured pagan rituals that took place here. The indigenous religion had a few deities, of which one was the god of thunder, who was on equal footing with the supreme god. Perkunas was his name and apparently he was revered in secret here. Hence the name.
From there we crossed the bridge and climbed the hill to the district Aleksotas and overlooked the city, which looked much prettier from here. A bit run down, but still proud.
Then we had to go, because Aleksotas is not a happy place and people get shot there for no real reason. Living on the edge, you know! It was great seeing so much in one walk of this city. We continued past the old castle, where according to legend an army got missing and is waiting for the day Kaunas needs it again. I’m very grateful to our guide, who told us more than we could ever have figured out ourselves.