Kaunas

Around 25 km to the south west of Vilnius, there’s a town called Trakai which is surrounded by lakes. We’d seen some photos of a medieval castle on an island in one of the lakes, so we stopped by to check it out.

The castle is built of red bricks, rather like the one at Malbork, though its much smaller than that. We walked across two bridges to reach the castle and peeked inside the courtyard. Whilst it was all very pretty, neither of us really fancied touring the castle interior, so we wandered around the outside wall instead and admired the views across the lakes.

Carol by Trakai castle
Inside the castle courtyard
A huge doorway
The red bricks remind me of the Victorian municipal buildings in places like Birmingham and Manchester
In what was the moat

Back in the van we continued on our way to Kaunas, now Lithuania’s second city, though it was once the capital when Vilnius was under Russian occupation (Lithuania has a complicated history!). The campsite has just opened for the season, and overlooks a beach on the huge Lake Lampedis. It’s located about 5 km from the old town, a 10 minute journey on the trolleybus.

The campsite is behind the beach
Many of the trolleybuses are rather dated, like this one

We spent a couple of days exploring the old town, with its pedestrianised cobbled streets. The main avenue in town, Laisvés Avenue, is being resurfaced and so there was lots of work going on, but I’m sure it will look great when it’s finished, and it’s good to see some investment going into the place.

Kaunas old town
The town hall square
We took a ride up one of the funiculars…
… and this was the view from the top
Kaunas has a castle too
The tulips are nearly finished here
Laisvés Avenue
St Michael the Archangel Church – it was lovely and cool inside!

Like Vilnius there’s a definite café culture here as well, with cafés everywhere. There are also quite a few art-deco buildings dotted around the place, built during the 1920’s and 1930’s, which have miraculously survived both WWII and the subsequent Soviet occupation. Some of them look a little worse for wear, but they’ll hopefully be refurbished at some point.

Art deco cinema
The post office from the outside…
… and inside – this building is definitely worth a refurb
We had plenty of time to admire the interior as it took 20 minutes to get a stamp
Another lovely art deco building that could do with some TLC
The Christ Resurrection Church was converted to a radio factory during the Soviet occupation, and returned to the Catholic church in 1990

There was some good street art here too:

In this place, on 11th May 2014, nothing in particular happened

I’ve learnt a handful of Lithuanian words whilst we’ve been here. Thank you is ačiū, pronounced A-choo, and I keep wanting to say ‘bless you’ when I hear it!

We now only have three days left in Lithuania, so tomorrow we will be heading north towards Latvia.

Mike

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