Kaunas Off The Beaten Path Tips by leics Top 5 Page for this destination
Kaunas Off The Beaten Path: 80 reviews and 99 photos
Nike in all his glory
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.
Ghetto hospital memorial
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.
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