"My Last Day in Lithuania" Kaunas Travelogue by EasyMalc
Kaunas Travel Guide: 969 reviews and 1,712 photos
I was in two minds on what to do on my last day in Lithuania but a trip out to the 9th Fort won the day.
There's not too much information on how to get there but in the end it was quite easy once I found out. Although it's on the outskirts of Kaunas I had plenty of time because I had a late flight home.
On reaching the fort I made my way to the imposing Soviet Monument. The fort is one of many built around Kaunas by the Russians in the 19th c. and the open parkland today comprises three parts to it - The Fort, the Monument and the Museum. All three parts are worth exploration but of course it's the fort that took up most of my time. To see it you have to go to the concrete monstrosity that houses the museum to get a ticket which sounds easier than it actually is. Several 'Babushkas' seem to be in charge of everything around here but thankfully there are also some younger guides to help out, which seemed to be helping the Babushkas out in the charm school a bit. Not much, but it all helped. I'm still confused now as to what I paid to see and how much it cost and I'm not even sure what I saw was what I paid for. See what I mean about being confused?
Whatever I paid it wasn't a lot and worth every Lita. I started off in the museum which was full of interesting facts and memorabilia about the history of the fort. It doesn't make for comfortable reading though because even the Lithuanians used it as a camp for political prisoners between the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Next it was used by the Soviet NKVD for similar purposes before the Nazis took it over in 1941. During the next 4 years around 50,000 people perished here including some 30,000 Jews from the Kaunas Ghetto and surrounding area. The Fort wasn't a Gas Chamber but instead the prisoners were all lined up and shot. The trenches are still here to see but most of the bodies lie underneath the huge Russian Monument.
As I was wandering around the museum I was encouraged to leave and join another chap and a Babushka up to the Fort. When we arrived we were met by another 3 or 4 people who were waiting for us. The Fort can only be visited with a Guide and it didn't take me long to realise that nobody else spoke English. Fortunately I made myself understood and within a jiff an English speaking guide came to my rescue.
The Lithuanian guide took me on a personal tour around the Fort which lasted at least an hour and a half and she was brilliant. We went up and down corridors, through locked gates, up and down tunnels and into cells. I'm not sure I would have liked to have found my way around here on my own but she knew it like the back of her hand. All the time she was telling me about the history including the escape of 64 Jews which was quite some story. She even showed me where they got out from and how they done it. Quite unbelievable. To prove how desperate these people were some escaped to the Kaunas Ghetto. Yes! into the Ghetto and it seemed they made the right choice because the remainder escaped into the woods where they were captured and shot.
I keep coming to these sort of places for some reason. I don't know why. I swore I would stop doing it but every time I do it still sends shivers up my spine. At the end of the tour of the Fort there's another museum within some cells. There were so many things on display here but I didn't have the time, or the stomach, to take it all in. It was time to move on and so I took another look at the Monument and the surrounding post-Soviet memorials nearby before heading back across the parkland to the bus stop in Sargenai.
I caught the bus back into town and got off at the Military Museum. I wasn't going to have the time, or inclination, to go in here today. Instead I checked out the Monument nearby where an eternal flame seemed to add poignancy to where I had just been. I walked up around to the M.K. Ciurlionis Museum, which once again I didn't have time for, because I wanted to catch the Funicular up to the Church of the Resurrection - but guess what? - it wasn't running.
What I lost on the swings I gained on the roundabout though because I made my way back down to Freedom Avenue and spent a leisurely hour or more indulging in a platter of cheese, fried bread, ham and God knows what else over a couple of beers. I think I owed myself that and it was a nice way to end my stay here.
Whenever I've visited the Baltic countries before it's always been in the winter months, which has a special feel to it for me, but summer in Lithuania has been just as lovely in a way. For a start there's the long Summer evenings and we've had some beautiful weather. On top of that everything's gone well from the hotel to getting around and to top it all off I've met some lovely people along the way. What more could I have asked for?
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