Birštonas is a famous spa town located 30 kms located on the right bank of the Nemunas River.
My hosts took me there because the guy wanted to attend a music concert held there at night - which unfortunately got me a cold...
Anyway, Birštonas is a pleasant town to stroll around and breathe some clean air.
Pažaislis monastery and church is a great example of Lithuanian baroque and it is also the largest monastery complex in the country: to get there you’ll need a car, as it is located quite far from the city, on a peninsula in the Kaunas Reservoir near the Kaunas Yacht Club.
It was founded in 1662 by the Grand Duchy of Lithania Great Chancellor K.Z. Pac and it was named Mons Pacis (Mountain of Peace) because of the assonance with Pac’s name. The church was designed by Pietro Puttini and Giovanni Battista Frediani, but for pargeting and fresco works, sculptors from Lombardy (Italy) and Ticino (Switzerland) were invited.
In 1832 the church taken over by the Russians who first closed it and later converted into an Orthodox church.
A curious fact: Alexei Lvov - the author of the Imperial Russian national anthem – is buried there.
Tatars were taken to Lithuania (together whith the Karaites) by Duke Vytautas, about 14th century. They preserved their Muslim faith, but lost their language. They switched to the state administrative idiom, which was Bielorussian. It is just in the last years that they start to learn Tataric or Turkish again. Before they spoke just that old Bielorussian besides Lithuanian (Russian/ Polish).
The building is of the 19th century.
Another mosque is to be found in Alytus, in the South of Lithuania.
I'd say it's more a must see, thus it's out of the "center". Pazaislis cloister is a wonderful masterpiece of barocco, built by italian architects in XVII th century, situated in wonderful green surroundings at the Kaunas Lagoon. Sisters of congregation of St. Kazimier live there now, but it's open for visitors tue-fri from 11am to 5pm, in winter it closes a little bit earlier. You can get there by taking a minivan no.27 from the Alley of freedoom (in Donelaits street) and go till the end of this minivan route.
If you're there already and have some time, take a walk to a Yacth club too.
There was Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius Memorial Exposition in this house (the Kaunas Palace of Bishops), on my picture. There were pictures and writings by the famous Lithuanian displayed in rooms where he lived till his death in 2000. It could be interesting exhibition but exclusively for fans of Lithuanian history, in my opinion. Hmm... it was closed in a weekend when I was in Kaunas.
The museum wasn't mentioned in any travel book I read on Kaunas (including "up-to-date" Kaunas/Klaipeda guide from series "In your pocket") and easy to skip as the building was hidden behind huge structure of Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
M. Valanciaus gatve 6, Kaunas, 3000 Lithuania.
From northeastern corner of the Town Hall Square (Rotuses aikste) walk northwards Valanciaus gatve, the building on your right when you pass Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
Tuesday - Friday 10.00 am - 5.00 pm
Mon, Sat, Sun - closed.
Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius (1920 - 2000) Memorial Board was put up on southern wall of the Kaunas Palace of Bishops where he lived. He became the first Lithuanian cardinal for 400 years in 1988 and played important role in struggle for Lithuanian independence.
The memorial was nothing special but I found biography of the cardinal very interesting. It was typical story of Lithuanian priest persecuted for convictions by Soviet authorities. Read more here, please.
You may wish to seek out this rather bold statue of the Greek god Nike by Petras Mozuras. I know Nike was a goddess...I am writing what I was told by the guidebook. I'd like to know who he really is (or perhaps he's a male version of Nike?).
It apparently became quite a point of discussion amongst the citizens of Kaunas when it was first unveiled in 1989. :-)
You'll find it at the side of the Mykolas Zilinskas Art Museum, on the side which faces Nepriklausombyes Square (where the Church of St Michael the Archangel is, at the end of alisves Aleja).
I c noticed the surrounding wall and entrance to this church first of all....the two cherubs posed above the doorway.
When I walked through I found myself in a Benedictine convent. The sisters there have posted one or two bits of information about the history of the church and the convent.
The original St Nicholas Church was built at the end of the 1400s, although what you see today is largely the reconstruction of the 19th century. The church was given to the Benedictine sisters in 1621, when a new convent house was built.
In 1938 'eternal adoration' began (a sister is praying within the church at almost all times), to mark the 550th anniversary of Lithuanian Christianity and the 20th anniversary of Lithuanian independence.
In 1940 the church was closed and in 1948 it became a library storehouse.
The sisters were given back their church in 1989, restored and reconsecrated. It celebrated its own 500th anniversary in 1995.
A lovely, calm and quiet spot within a busy city. Well worth a visit.
You'll find it on Sv. Gertrudos, near the Old Town and the bridge across the Neris.
To the rear of the synagogue (and you will have to enter the gated area to see it ) stands a memorial to the children of the Holocaust.
Its sculptor, Robertas Antini, also created the monument to Romas Kalanta (see tip below).
Difficult to take a clear photograph on such a gloomy grey day, I'm afraid.
I wouldn't have spotted this memorial in the City Garden if it hadn't been mentioned in my guidebook.
Romas Kalanta was a 19-year-old student. On May 14th 1972 he set himself on fire as a protest against Soviet rule.
I can remember seeing this type of thing, more than once and in more than one country, and for more than one reason. I am horrified that things should be so bad that anyone should feel strongly enough to do this, and amazed by their courage.
The memorial is by sculptor Robertas Antini. 19 rust-red slabs lie across the grass, one for each year of Kalanta's life.
There is still a synagogue in Kaunas, and it is still used by the Kaunas Jewish community.
It was closed when I visited, so I could only see the outside. According to my guidebook, opening hours are Saturday 10-12 and 6-6.30, Sunday and Friday 6-6.30 but I have no evidence that this is still accurate.
The Choral Synagogue dates from the 1800s, and stands at Osekienes 17 to the north of Laisves Aleja.
Vilijampole was a Jewish area long, long before the Nazis created the ghetto.
So it is not surprising that there is a fairly large Jewish cemetery on the edges of the district.
It is overgrown now, with only two memorials to be seen. The other stones (I assume) are hidden underneath 50 + years of nature.......it is almost a wildflower meadow, surrounded by trees, its grasses blowing in the wind.
No stones here either. A silent place.
I don't know what the memorials say. One is in Hebrew only, one is in Hebrew and Lithuanian.
Again, I cannot give you exact directions. There is a signpost off ?Tilzes Gatve? and the small road which accesses the cemetery is called Lopselio Gatve (just on the NW edge of the streetmap from the Tourist Office).
I managed to find it.
In the 1930s, Kaunas has a large and quite prosperous Jewish population. Jews had been in the city since the 1400s, originally settling in Vilijampole but moving into the city centre over the centuries (despite being expelled several times in the interim period).
By 1939 there were about 35000 Jews in Kaunas.
In 1941, all were moved into the ghetto which had been created, in Vilijampole. They were regularly rounded-up (in 'actions') and taken away to be shot.
Later, large numbers (10 000+) were taken to the Ninth Fort (outside the city) and shot there. I didn't visit, but know there is a small museum and a large Soviet-style memorial there.
The remaining 8000 or so were finally sent to concentration camps.
There are perhaps 1000 Jews in Kaunas today.
I walked Vilijampole to see the few memorials which exist.
I shall make a tip for each.
Walking Vilijampole is interesting because of the large numbers of wooden houses there. It is even more interesting, and poignant, when one knows a little more of its history.
So very easy to walk past and ignore. At knee-height on an ordinary street.
This memorial marks the spot where the ghetto hospital stood. The Nazis burned it down in 1941. The staff and patients were still inside.
No stones here, so I left one.
The memorial is on Gostautu, outside a small block of apartments See photo). I can't give you directions from the first memorial, it's too complicated. But if you have a streetmap (the Tourist Office on Laisves Aleja has good ones) it is a simple matter of wandering through the residential streets...perhaps 15 minutes walk away (I took longer, because I was taking photos of the wooden houses).
The first memorial one comes to in Vilijampoole is a granite stone, set at the corner of Linkuvos and Krisciukaicio. The inscription (according to my guidebook, for the words are in Hebrew and Lithuanian) states 'on this spot stood the gates of the Kaunas ghetto 1941-44'.
There were only a few stones on top of the monument.
From the Vilijampole end of the bridge across the Nevis (Jurbarko Gatve) turn left along Linkuvos Gatve. Keep bearing to the left at the first junction (some tall modern apartment blocks). The monument will appear in front of you. It is easily missed, especially on a grey, wet day.