Kaunas – the heart of Lithuania or how many capitals we will count
Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania. Itcan be described as the temporary capital, the capital of basketball, the European culture capital of Culture 2022.
We will start our tour from Kaunas Castle. It is the oldest surviving castle in Lithuania from, 14th century. A settlement developed around this castle, which grew into the present city. According to a legend, the army of Queen Bona Sforza is mysteriously under the ground here. Today, the Kaunas City Museum is located in the castle, where we will get acquainted with the history of the castle and the city. In the stylized castle prison we will try on the medieval chains, take a photo of being imprisoned at the “pillar of shame” used to punish criminals in Western Europe in 16–19 c. In the basement of the castle, there is a ghost. These are not all the secrets of the castle!
We continue our way to Kaunas City Hall, sometimes called the White Swan because of its ornate, white facade. Here is a journey through the history of Kaunas in the City Hall from the 15th century until these days. We will visit the mayor’s residence, get acquainted with the archeological finds of Kaunas Old Town and the daily life of Hanseatic merchants, and see the cornerstone of the Town Hall.
On Vilniaus Street, leading to the Vilnius, we will see the 16th century. buildings. This street is probably always bustling, because there are many cozy restaurants and cafes, souvenir shop. Various events and fairs are held here.
We continue our walk on Vilnius Street towards the historical presidential palace. As you know, the temporary capital of Lithuania was Kaunas and all political, economic and cultural life moved here in 1919-1939. All three former Presidents of the Republic of Lithuania worked and lived in the Presidenctial palace: Antanas Smetona, Aleksandras Stulginskis and Kazys Grinius. Today, this building houses the museum. In the courtyard of the palace you can see the sculptures of the presidents of the Republic of Lithuania who worked there.
Let’s also visit the Gothic, cozy St. Gertrude Church. The greatest sacral value of this sanctuary is the cross with the sculpture of the Crucifix, which has long been famous for the graces experienced by believers. After descending to the basement of the church we will find here the so-called candle shrine. Anyone can light a candle that does not go out for 7 days. The prayers, faith and love of the believers are symbolized by this unquenchable flame in the sanctuary.
It is also worth seeing a regular yard of one Kaunas apartment building. It has been different for more than a decade. On the walls of the house we will see photos of Jews who once lived here, their families; other various abstractions by artists, drawings such as a yard cat squatting in a window with yellow shutters.
Kaunas cannot be imagined without one of its symbols – Laisvės Alley. Let’s go and we are on this 1.7 km long one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe. This alley is like a gem of interwar Kaunas architecture. Going here, we see the exceptional and rich legacy of Kaunas interwar modernist architecture, which is a reflection of the intelligentsia, industry, government and diplomatic institutions that once moved here. Until now, Kaunas remains probably the only city in the world where so many modernist, Bauhaus-style buildings have been built and have survived to this day. Kaunas modernist buildings are included in the list of the European Heritage Label and Kaunas has been given the name of a UNESCO city of design.
We continue our acquaintance with Kaunas at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art. It is one of the oldest and largest art museums in Lithuania. And here is the only place in the world where almost all the creative legacy of the most famous Lithuanian artist, composer, writer and public figure Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis has been collected. As we walk, we will see the most famous works of art he painted, and our steps will be accompanied by unique music created by the composer.
We will take a ride Kaunas by one of the symbols of this city – the Žaliakalnis funicular. It is one of the oldest operating lifts in Europe since 1931.
We will end the unforgettable day by admiring the unique views of the city from the observation deck of Kaunas Christ the Resurrection Basilica.