A weekend in Kaunas, Lithuania
Kaunas, once the capital of Lithuania (temporarily), is the second largest city in the country behind Vilnius (the capital).
Having previously travelled Europe quite extensively, I was keen to explore further east and the once described to me “wild west of Lithuania” was just a cheap flight from my local airport.
When I booked the trip at the end of summer 2012, I’ll admit I didn’t really know anything about Kaunas only that Lithuania was amongst the Baltic States, which are infamous for producing extremely attractive females. Ironically, I met a lovely Lithuanian girl in my hometown a few weeks after booking the trip, who eventually ended up coming with me.
My first impression of Kaunas, despite being particularly cold at that time of the year (November), was that it fitted the stereotypical communist landscape I’d pictured in my mind. On the drive into the centre from the airport there were lots of grey rundown buildings and old German cars driving around.
I was only in Kaunas for 3 nights so booked a nice hotel on Laisvės Alėja (Freedom Avenue), which is the central hub for anyone staying in Kaunas.
The first night was spent exploring the Old Town before being taken for some traditional Lithuanian food. I’ll admit, the ‘Cepelinai’ (potato dumplings filled with meat) didn’t float my boat, but I did enjoy a traditional Lithuanian beer served in a rather ornate mug.
The following day, I was taken out of Kaunas on a day trip to Trakai Castle, which I’d read about before I left. Trakai Castle is a castle built on an island and once had great strategic importance during the 14th Century.
Today, Trakai Castle is a museum that pulls in hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and is home to a large collection of antiques ranging from military weaponry to early coinage, 14th century art and the odd stuffed animal head!
Kaunas is a city worth visiting for those interested in military history. Having previously visited a number of iconic sites with military history, the next stop on my itinerary was the Ninth Fort.
The Ninth Fort was a part of a number of fortresses set up to protect Kaunas towards the end of the 19th century and was originally used as the city prison. However, what drew me to visit this site was the darker side of the fortress.
During the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, the Ninth Fort was used as a place of mass execution and at least 10,000 Jews were murdered there!
The final day in Kaunas I spent taking photos and checked out the local shopping mall, which contains one of the largest indoor aquariums in Europe!
Kaunas is a place I’d recommend for anyone who has an interest in military history or is looking for a day trip on a larger tour of the Baltic States. There’s not a great deal to do there, however it would be a shame not to visit if you are in the vicinity.
Oh and if you do visit Kaunas, be sure to check out possibly the highlight of my trip, ‘Charlie’s Pizza’ which is a bizarre but amazingly tasty pizza restaurant complete with Charlie Chaplin inspired décor!