Tag Archives: Lithuania

Underground Sounds: Au-Dessus – End of Chapter

Label: Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions
Band: Au-Dessus
Origin: Lithuania

Au-Dessus from Lithuania

Au-Dessus is one of the new wave of bands that bring a new aspect to the realm of black metal. Some may call it post black metal, others may use the new term blackgaze for this. Formed in Vilnius in 2014, the band has members in its ranks from groups like Pergalė, Exile Into Suffery and Mangragora. Though they hail from Lithuania, the name translates to ‘Above’ in French.

What you immediately notice about this group is their whole aesthetic. No harsh logo’s, corpse paint or spikes, nothing traditional. The only thing that you might find connective is the black hoods, but even those are stylized and different. The cover with a child, carrying coins on its eyelids is heavy. It signifies a death. The subtlety and cold beauty are exemplary for the sound of the Lithuanian group.

The sleek and clean artwork is immediately tangible in the well-produced sound of the group. Polished riffs and a great balance in the sound makes listening to Au-Dessus a pleasure. The songs are numbered, and ‘VI’ plummets you instantly into the atmospheric black metal riffing. The continuous, blaring wall of sound creates an uncanny calm, with haunting spectres ever at the edge of the experience. Vocalist Mantas roars, growls and spits in pure harrowing anger over the ever pushing and progressing sound, which flows with the smoothness of a river.

By the time you hit track ‘IX’ it becomes sort of clear that there’s a good bit of rocking groove underneath all the mayhem. For brief moments the engine to the sound shows, which is really running smoothly and purring like a kitten, but screams a moment later when the pace increases for a dramatic climax. Au-Dessus is all about the build-up, the subtle shifts and sudden bursts of energy. Wave after wave of dissonant, wailing guitars hit you. You submerge in the cold sea of sound.

I’m quite certain that purists will have less appreciation for this band. Their sound moves you with layers upon layers of the atmosphere, crisp production and a sense of grandeur and emotional beauty. They make me think of groups like Harakiri For The Sky and maybe elements of Deafheaven, while holding that mysterious allure of more occult bands. They never seem to actually implement many symbols in their music, maybe to let the sound speak for itself more.

Au-Dessus can be tough and hard, but only when it serves the overall narrative. Most of their music has a dirge-like somberness to it, but harrowing, biting passages are there when they need to be. Losing yourself in this record is quite possible.

Underground Sounds: Apricity – Bipolar Shift Doctrine

Label: Independent
Band: Apricity
Origin: Lithuania

Apricity took their sweet time making this album. Most of it was recorded in 2014, but the whole vibe of the record fits the prevailing sound of that melodic death metal era a while earlier. Now, I’m not calling this a retro act. They sound great and the recent production is awesome. It just happens that they clearly take their inspiration from a very melodic corner of the metal scene.

The band originates in Klaipeda on the Lithuanian coast and should not be confused with their American counterpart in name.  The album was produced this year and finally unleashed on this world. I for one wish them a lot of luck and success with this release.

The style of Apricity fits best in something that is both technical and melodic, bearing with it influences from melodeath and metalcore alike. The way they implement this in their sound from ‘The Afterflow’ onwards creates a strong sound. The vibe is that of a narrative with gritty effects and interesting effects. As if we’re in a sci-fi horror film. When the riffs kick in a moment later, they sound smooth and clean. A very accessible sound for a metal band. This reminds me of the days when I’d listen to this endlessly while gaming. This is the kind of band that lures the kids in. That’s not a bad thing.

So with the grunted, roaring vocals, the particular arch they take, I have to think back to bands like Norther. Particularly on ‘Bridging The Infinite’. I’m less impressed by the vocals on ‘The Human Hive’, where they seem to try a bit too hard, even on the clean parts. The keys are ever so present by the way, which is noteworthy. This avenue of metal was sort of abandoned years ago, but Apricity picks it up on their album like it never left. It’s a dangerous sound, like on previously mentioned song, where the listener really surfs along on those clean waves. The catchy melodies, the production, it all promises way too much. That is what makes Apricity so damn nice to listen to. The catchy riffs, the smooth drums, this album is just super slick and a great lure for future metal fans.

Ūkanose: Out of the Fog

It’s a rainy day in Varniai and we’ve found a dry spot for a chat with Lithuanian folk-metallers Ūkanose at Kilkim Žaibu festival. The band has been around for a little while and released an absolutely great record with classic sounding songs. We’re sitting down with guitar players Robertas Turauskas and Linas Petrauskas to discuss the band.

The sound of the band is a complex matter. It’s not full on metal, but it also isn’t rock. The songs are almost purely folk though, which all the force and bombast merely support. It’s as if the band tries to make the songs more vitalic, more powerful, without losing any of their integrity.

The group has six members, who have all been active in some form in the metal scene. They’re currently changing drummer, so half their set at Kilkim Žaibu festival was played by Vilius Garba (who also plays in Sagittarius) instead of Vilius Panavas. It turns out it’s not the first shift in the band’s line-up since 2012.

Originally published on Echoes & Dust.

Ūkanose: Folk, Metal and Lithuania

I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach.  – Martynas Švedas

Q: Can you tell me a bit about the origin of Ūkanose?

Linas: Well, I started the band back then together with our accordion player Tadas (Survila red.). We both had a love for folk music and wanted to do something together. We wanted to be like folk music, but heavier and for that, we needed a drummer and so on. So we got a band together and played our first show in Trakai back in 2012.

Mind, back then we were a very different band, we had a girl on vocals next to the male vocals and the line-up was vastly different.

Robertas: When I joined the band 1,5 years ago, there were seven members. Some of those were dropped, it was simply not working. We also decided to not have any females in the band. No, I’m just kidding about that, but the singer was just not fitting in with the sound we wanted to attain. We wanted to play, as a band, a much heavier sound so some members left at that time. We were simply not on the same line and that showed in the productivity in songwriting. By that time the band had written 5 songs in 4,5 years. In just 1,5 year we wrote 6 songs now and we’re working on more.

At this moment singer Martynas joins.

Martynas: Songs that I actually can sing!

Singer Martynas in action at Kilkim Zaibu 2017

Q: It seems to me that this addition was very significant for the sound of Ūkanose?

R: The thing with Martynas is that he doesn/t play anything, but he listens very well and has a good overview of things. Het looks at it as an outsider.

M.: You really have to take your time for the songs to come together and keep an eye on the theme and topics. For example, we did a song about Viking raids and the Curonians, a tribe from current day Latvia.

R: We have to make the songs relevant to what we want to communicate. We take inspiration from the partisan songs during the Soviet occupation, we make resistance metal!

L: What we write about comes from the inside.

Q: What sort of reception did your music get at first?

R: A friend in Poland, named Leopold, said that we sound like an amazing folk punk band. I guess we have a mixture of punk, metal and folk going on. This is also because Tadas is the punkrock guy, so I think that also helps with a unique sound.
L: There’s something in there for everyone, even for the people in the small villages there’s something to be found in our sound.

M: We want to do a lot of things with our music, it has to be as Linas says something we truly feel like. For example. today I have three events to partake in. Participation is essential to feed the base. You have to be there to make it genuine. But we play only to please ourselves in the end.

R: We participated in a band contest a while ago, where everyone gets to play three songs. For some reason, the judge of that contest decided to say we were Nazis. That makes no sense at all. They decided that our music and message was in that spectrum somehow. That sort of crap comes easily if you try to be different.

Q: So how did that work out? That sort of accusation can really be damaging for a band.

R: It happens a lot here. Maybe itś something political, but there’s a lot of generalization involved with it. Folk metal would automatically be nazi, even though these bands, like ourselves, rarely have any political content.

L: We shouldn’t care about this, but it ruins our reputation.

R: What we did after that is share that information as a video online and asked people this: “These people think we are nazi’s, what do you think?”. No one agreed with the jury…
M: I think these were just very narrow-minded people, who have no clue about music. They are only focussed on that mechanical music and disrespect attempts at making something genuine. They miss the effort that goes in it, the lyrics and the message of a band.

Q: Since you guys sound so different, what sort of reception did you get from the metal crowd?

R: There was this German guy who kept writing to us to tell us that Martynas sucks, he made a whole study of why and how he sucked and kept telling us about it. Unfortunately, there’s always a bit of a negative response from the metal crowd.

Thereś a huge divide between the pop audience and metal crowd I suppose. Metal really resists societies norms, wants to be evil and about satSatand stuff… Though I think it is not as bad in Lithuania.

Q: So what I’m getting is that you guys are about the past in a sense, but is it to reinvoke or reimagine the past or to take from there and be in the now?

R: I think we are a modern band, we are a continuation of that past. There’s something to take and learn from that past. You see Martynas and Linas here, they are real. Let me explain, Martynas for example plays three shows today and takes part in the viking reenactments. Martynas makes things like this leather satchel he is wearing, because he learned how to craft that. Linas is a shieldcrafter and also a reenactor. They are living the things we sing about. Martynas can just live in a forest and be happy there, you know? That makes what they do come from a real place.
M: I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach.

Q: Are there any bands you look to as an inspiration for the sound of Ūkanose?

L: When I started shaping this band and its sound, I didn want to sound like anyone else really. I wanted to sound like Ūkanose. Something that wasn’t around at that time and I think that is what we are now. I guess there is some black metal inspiration in the sound though.
M: I wanted this band to sound like Martynas…

R: I think Skyforger would be an automatic inspiration for us, we even covered one of their songs. To me thereś even something of power metal in the music, which is partly the ideas and context it invokes, like Sabaton does.

Q: How do you create your songs as a band?

R: We really start with one idea that comes to the table. We get on top of that with the whole band as a team. In a band like ours, you sort of have to. For example, I can’t write the melodies for the accordeon. We can help eachother add things, change things that don’t work, but we have to work together on that. We make a lot of changes. An then we have to make the songs a lot shorter every time…

Q: Ok, so let us talk a bit about your album that came out last year, the self-titled release. What can you tell me about it, how was the response?

R; The overall response we got was quite positive. We were quite happy that it finally got released actually. The original line-up of Ūkanose couldn’t do all these songs, this one can. Martynas sings all the songs and they are some great songs. Unfortunately the mix was done by someone with a metal background, so the folk is a bit missing when you listen to it.

L: It’s a good start, I give it a 7.

R: I think the album gives a good picture of what we are about, what we try to express and is a great way of saying to the world ‘here we are’! This is us coming out of the mist, as a band and a message. This is what the word Ūkanose actually means; ‘out of the fog’. I also feel it shows artistic integrity, it feels like an honest record to me.

L: For me Ūkanose has a lot of meaning to it, it is about life and death, being between the sky and the earth, it is the connective tissue that binds all of this together. I think the album captures that.

All money was put into this record and it was released on a Russian label. That was not the best idea I think, we should have done that part different. I have nothing against Russia, but with everything going on it may not be such a good thing.

guitar player Linas at Kilkim Zaibu

Q: I just watched you guys play live. It’s a great experience with a sound, you can’t really compare to other bands. How would you describe your live show?

M: Well, I like to play as offten as possible actually… I want people to feel welcome at our shows. But now I have to go for the next act of the day. (red. Martynas plays later with Ukanose, a folk project and with Lithuanian black metal legends Obtest).

R: I think it’s a very genuine experience. Martynas is a great frontman for us live, he is just very authentic. I never was into this folk metal sound myself, but I think we sound very speial. Our music is different, it stays closer to something authentic, but it also has something spiritual to it for me.

L: I think we have a bit of a classic rock feel on stage, but itś also really metal to me.

R: The message is to express yourself, like we need to express this in Ūkanose. Don’t let the constraints of society stop you from sharing your message. Just play!

M: But make sure that you have a message!

Q: If you had to compare Ūkanose to a type of food, what would it be and why?

M: Mead…

R: Well, that is sort of cheating, but it fits. Mead can be sweet and spicy, but not too shy. We drink mead to Perkunas. We would be a good honey mead of 14,5% alcohol.

M; It’s a celebratory drink.

L: It’s a drink that expresses strong friendship and praise of the bees and honeys, that’s us.

 

Underground Sounds: Ūkanose – Ūkanose

Label:Soundage Productions
Band: Ūkanose
Origin: Lithuania

Folk metal ain’t dead, y’all! Sure, Finntroll has become a joke, Alestorm has descended into madness and I don’t even know what happened to Turisas, but there’s still hope. From countries you might not even know about great tunes are coming forth. Ūkanose is one of those bands from Lithuania who create some waves with the self-titled debut.

Lithuanian folk music is heavily characterised by ritualistic chanting and war songs, they have a special quality to them. They feel outlandish, magical and somewhat overwhelming at times. Ūkanose manages to incorporate that into their metal music. So we don’t have a band playing metal with some fiddles, but a genuine blend and that for me is the magic of folk metal.

The songs of Ūkanose offer a specific sadness, a weariness of live and look to the past you also find in Slavic bands like Drudkh. An accordeon gives a bit of a jolly feel to some of the songs, but what really it does is create that continuous flow that is so important in the Baltic music. It makes it also very easy for a listener to jump into their music and feel the passage of time in a more calm and natural way. There’s a closeness to nature in the sound, to tradition and folklore. You don’t even need to understand the lyrics for that.

Ūkanose translates as fog, which is a good metaphor for the sound of the band. The pace is slow, but constantly progressing. The vocals are easy, chanted and often in multiple voices. All in all it’s an album that is much closer to the volky sound of Ugniavijas. A favorite track for me is ‘Skrenc bitela’. The calm repetition of the vocals on such a flat tone is hypnotizing but catching. The guitars merely serve as a heavy fundament to build up the song upon.

This record is one that takes you to a different time and age. It takes you to dancing around the fire in praise of forgotten gods. Noteworthy is the song ‘Gerkime’, a Corvax Corax cover. This music comes from a genuine place, not just one where you raise drinking horns wearing a kilt. Well worth a listen.

Underground Sounds: Forest of Trys – Frostburn

Label: –
Band: Forest of Trys
Origin: Lithuania

There’s  a joke in the name, because Trys just sounds like trees. The profile picture on bandcamp is a fat cat and you might start having doubts about the seriousness of Forest of Trys . Still the sound of the band is not one for light jokes and fun, but a grim affair indeed.

Forest of Trys only has one member listed on Metal Archives, namely Šmėkla. Another fact is that the band hails from Kaunas and did release a full lenght earlier in 2016, titled ‘Architect’.

‘Stars I’ is the opener, which starts with hazy, distorted noisy black metal. It feels like an industrial haze with the lecherous sound of Fat White Family somewhere hidden in the sonic fog (no clue how I take that from it). Then suddenly it merges into an old carnival tune, not dissimilar to the Eraserhead soundtrack by David Lynch. It all sounds just a bit of and wrong, which makes the vibe more slightly unnerving. Guided by martial drumming, the song moves back to the noisey dissonance. Shattering sampling and icy beats follow for the next part of the track, creating a noisy template of assault.

A more gritty sound can be heard on ‘Stars II’, where we seem to move away even further from the noisy black metal sound. Groaning noise pulsates in the air, while string elements create a semblance of style and class in sharp contrast to the colossal noise. Again, such a peculiar sound, but the final song, surprisingly titled ‘Starts III’ really takes the cake. Grim, desolate and full of industrial elements, it consists of more effects and samples of people speaking in an order that feels completely random. Pulsating, humming, squeeking the sont thunders on, with a seemingly random drum pattern offering a semblance of steadiness in the sound.

The record is an almost nightmarish trip. This is a peculiar album, with only black metal as a spirit present. Lithuania seems to have some interesting musicians out there. This record would go down well with noiseheads and experimental listeners too. Nice stuff!

Underground Sounds: Tuurngait – Untitled

Label: –
Band: Tuurngait
Origin: Lithuania

Tuurngait is a new band from Lithuania, that has just released their debut. Not that much else is known about the group from Vilnius, apart from the fact that they certainly don’t sound as if they come in peace. They did show up at the release show of the last Luctus album, so they might have been around for longer than I can see now.

This EP is noteworthy short with just 3 songs and an intro. It’s the bare minimum relaly for an EP, but the band does not disappoint soundwise on this. They’ve also admitted to be very antireligious. The blackened element in their sound gives them a bit of Behemoth, the grandeur I would say, though not as pronounced as the Poles do it.

Dissonant tones anounce the start of the nameless debut. It’s a jangling sound that forms the introduction, creating a moment of anticipation for when ‘Open Sanctum’ unleashes with some thick groovy riffs and powerful, guttural vocals. A bit of effect over the singing makes it sound as if it comes from really deep. A rolling, thunderous bit of death metal, the way you like and love it. Roaring vocals and thick slabs of guitar, hell yeah.

The opening of ‘Crave For The Vultures’ reminds me a little of Debauchery. A roaring, wild assault of battle lusty death metal once more is unleashed by the Lithuanians. It’s a thick, sla of sound that the band delivers, with some guitar weeping through the sonic mass. It just happens that Tuurngait does all of this pretty good. Final song ‘With Fire’ is another full on track, fitting in the more modern death metal tradition. It’s a shame that Tuurngait is such an unknown, mysterious phenomenon now. I would be keen to hear a full album by this energetic new group. Good stuff!

Underground Sounds: Vėlių Namai – Laumių Šokis

Label: P3lican Partisans
Band: Vėlių Namai
Origin: Lithuania

Ambient music is like most electronic music genres quite a thing in the Baltics. It’s fairly easy to acquire the means to make it and I suppose it fits in the nouveau hip state of the countries, which you find in the capitals mostly. Still, ambient can also turn back and look at the past or nature, which is exactly what Vėlių Namai is doing on this record ‘Laumių Šokis’.

This one man project is done by Julius Mité, who is a Lithuanian that appears to travel a lot. Still, his music or art (I feel that ambient often drifts in that direction more) is firmly rooted in his motherland. The album is dedicated to Laima, the goddess of earth and pictures of him in ethnic clothing can be found on the Facebook page. This immediately draws me even closer to the music, having just undergone a Romuva wedding in Lithuania myself, this feels close to the heart (yes, my own wedding indeed).

‘Migla’ sounds like what it means, misty with drops falling and gentle piano play piercing the hazy air. It feels a little like some of the ’90s postrock bands.  The sound shifts after a good 7 minutes when we shift into ‘Prabundu’ (I’m waking up). The music is introverted, maximizing only the elements it needs to achieve its purpose. Carefully crafted drones fill the lower sound regions and convey the voice of the earthy, while the cobwebs are still lingering in the fuzzy sounds.

The music lends itself for silent contemplation and introspection, it’s slow progressions and eerie soundscapes seem to be of the darker sort, but so is the mind. The listener is suddenly awoken from those thoughts by the vocals on ‘Mudu du, pilkume’ (us, in grey), by Hannah Knowles. Easy going, it breaks the solitude of the songs and breaks the cycle for the listener. After this we get back tot the solemnnity of the drones, synths and rare guitar line, as we find on ‘Laumių šokis (The dance of laumės). The record is not a very open one, the sounds are cavernous even and therefor the earth feels like the surrounding element.

Also there’s a sense of feeling forlorn, drifting through this undeground world and its wide expanses by yourself, weightless with just the mesmerizing drones accompanying you and painting the sight that fails in darkness. Slowly buts surely, all the other stuff falls away and just the elements remain on a minimal song with lamenting tones like ‘Vėlių takais visi mes eisim (The home beyond)’. Graceful and with a natural beauty.

This album is an experience, possibly best enjoyed with the Baltic landscape in view. Get closer to the essence and to the self and this is your soundtrack.

Sounds of the Underground #13

This is the second sound of the Underground of 2015, with bands like Inquisitor, Odota, An Autumn For Crippled Children and Baptists. So much good stuff left over from last year.

Inquisitor – Clinamen | Episteme

Source: Inquisitor Bandcamp

The Lithuanian scene is a truly hidden gem and the band Inquisitor was recommended to me for listening. The band has been around for 12 years already and makes a dense combination of hard riffing and passionate melodies in what can be perceived as an organic whole. Funky, hectic grooves lace the song ‘Hearken, Memmius!’ that opens their new record. Soaring guitars. That playful weird sound is apparently their schtick, also the semi-clean vocals offer a new persective. ‘Hence The Mouthful of Time’ is full of progressive piano elements and peculiar elements.

Though progressive and embracing avant-garde, there is nothing tame about the groups sound. The album shows much variation, but also sheer brutality and grim atmospheres to the listener. The strenght however, is the detailed extremes the band seems to play with in their music, going from typical black metal to a form of jazz or funk and back again. The sound is always bleak and all you would expect from a band that labels as black metal. The intelligent sound of these guys is definitely worth the attention of the avid metal fan though and I cannot wait to hear more from them.

An Autumn For Crippled Children – try not to love everything you destroy EP

Source: Bandcam AAFCC

With probably the must fucked-up bandname in a long time of fucked-up bandnames, this group does make an extremely beautiful sort of post-black metal. Soaring film score elements accompany a layered, atmospheric barrage of guitar and sonic effects on the titletrack. There’s a warmth in the sound of this mysterious group from the Netherlands that has no equal. It’s the warmth of embracing a certain fatalism. Fun fact is the reference of the title to previous full lenght ‘Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love’.

The second song is ‘post war’, which has fierce guitar structures that even with their smooth effects sound like typical black metal riffing. The sound is rich and reminds the listener of obvious names like Deafheaven and Liturgy, but with a weird twist of their own. This is a band that has done amazing work this far and is worth recommending to anyone who is into this music, but also those outside of it.

Baptists – Bloodmines

Source: Baptists Bandcamp

Luckily, there are still good hardcore records coming out now and then and this new one by Vancouver residents Baptists is a true blistering masterpiece of what hardcore should be. A lot of squeeking guitar work and gritty rhythm combinations makes the sound of the Canadians agressive and controlled. Their aesthetic is something with man versus nature, which is displayed in the beautiful cover that expresses a dark perspective on this struggle. That darkness is taken into the sound of songs like  ‘Vistas’ and ‘Harm Introduction’.

Grinding guitars and hectic breaks form the base of the raging songs the band keeps chugging out. The furious vocals are spat out at break-neck speed, furious at the world and followed by pounding drums. The sound is coherent and organic though, there is little artfical about this band and I guess that is one of their main charms. Hopefully they cross the ocean soon, so we can admire their live antics as well.

Odota – Fever Marshall

source: Odota bandcamp

Jarmo Nuutre is a peculiar dude, who does fantastic tattoo’s and used to make mammoth-stomping sludge with Talbot. This is his new project and it is filled with a lot of awesome. Slow creeping sound, filled with strange atmospheric effects accompany the searing guitarwork. Black metal inspired, industrial tinged noise on a slow, doomy pace is what best captures the sound on this first release.  The heavy distorted vocals and rest of the sound offer a sound that envelopes the listener. Tracks like ‘Bad Medicine’ stand out due to their dark and frightening atmosphere.

Strangely, a song like ‘Half Eagle’ feels more like a video game soundtrack mixed with an evil EBM song that you have to dance to in the intro. The sound samples Nuutre choses, betray an eclectic sound and a creative mind that is free of boundaries. Closer ‘Rattlesnakes Unfold’ is a tidal wave that keeps pushing you under in a dense rattling, drumming sound, waves of distorted guitar wafting over you, while vocals seem to just scream at the sky. This debut of Odota is an unholy experience of awesome and for those who like a little bit of experiment and doom in their blackened noise metal. Did I capture it there?

Panevėžys #1

We enjoyed a good evening with family in Panevėžys. The next day we took a walk around town. The unofficial capital of the region has been here since around 1500. It doesn’t look grand and lacks the so called ‘Old Town’, but Panevezys is nonetheles very neat and clean.

The lake in the centre of Panevezys
The lake in the centre of Panevezys

The town is named after the river that flows through it, the Nevezys. We wandered around town and a lot of information about the city was provided by our host. This was after watching some interesting training footage from the Lithuanian airforce, I have to mention. Interesting is one particular beer bar, where the owners nailed hundreds of keys to the tree in front of it. The place used to be abandoned and bums took over. They restored it though and now it sells local brews (which there are a lot of!).  We also visited an international exposition of ceramic art, which I think failed to impress.

The Bison says hi
The Bison says hi

Later we drove out of the city to see some views around. We visited a place of preservation of the European Bisons. A bunch of the big fellows were walking around here and one came up to greet us. They are magnificent creatures and amazing to see them in the wild. After this we also visisted a place were the partizans used to hide out in the forest. It was one of the biggest groups hiding out at this location, but eventually they were captured. The partizans were the ones to fight the soviets after World War II had been concluded. Something that rarely makes it into the history books, but this form of resistance lasted up to 1955 (some places longer).

reconstructed bunker
reconstructed bunker

After this it was time to have some food, which we did in the restaurant Cincinskas. Originally started as a beer bar for Soviet soldiers, it later became a restaurant that has been a succes the last 30 years. The menu is practically as unchanged as the decor and that still pulls the punters in. Not that strange though, with a main course for 3,- euro and a pint of beer for 1,20 euro. Visit this place if you ever end up in Panevėžys!

After that we enjoyed the town celebrations, with some live music and a lot of people around. A visit to the beer bar with the tree, mentioned earlier, was ofcourse also part of the plan. It was another long evening.

Kaunas #1

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.

Memorial in Kaunas
Memorial in Kaunas

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).

'Funny'culair railway of Kaunas
‘Funny’culair railway of Kaunas

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.

The presidential palace when Kaunas was the capital
The presidential palace when Kaunas was the capital

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).

House of Thunder
House of Thunder

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.