Wandering around Kaunas' Old Town

  • 2008-11-26
  • By Justinas Vainilavicius

STARTING POINT: Most visitors start their tours of Kaunas' Old Town at the castle.

VILNIUS  -  Everyone knows how splendid and breath-taking the UNESCO-protected Vilnius Old Town is. And it is really worth seeing. But is it already too well known and explored? Are you in the mood to find a new Old Town?
Try the one in Kaunas, which is yet to rise from the ashes and enjoy its rightfully earned place as one of Lithuania's tourist attractions.

 Most Polish or German tourists start their tour of the Old Town from the ruins of the castle on the shores of the rivers Nemunas and Neris. You should probably do the same, as it is the oldest part of the whole city. Built in the 14th century as a stronghold against the Teutonic Knights 's who were obsessed with the idea of conquering their Lithuanian neighbor 's it was destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times. It was then almost entirely washed away by the flood, leaving only one tower for history lovers to enjoy today.

Do not miss gothic St. George church next to the castle. If you are lucky enough, you may pop into the middle of a choral concert or an exhibition of the archeological findings of the area. After leaving the church, turn toward the biggest cluster of towers. The narrow street will lead you straight to the City Hall Square, where the oldest residential buildings are located alongside the 15th century Kaunas Cathedral Basilica and City Hall.
Locals kindly call the Town Hall "White Swan" because of its elegant appearance and white color. This baroque building is also the place where civil marriages can be performed. The surroundings are commonly used for various city and holidays events. The place looks most beautiful in winter, when the city's main Christmas tree is lighted along with other festive installations.

The Jesuits Gymnasium is worth taking a picture of, as it is the oldest continuously working Kaunas school, established in 1649. Polish tourists are especially fond of this locale, as famous poet Adam Mickiewich was a teacher there and his classroom is still preserved.
Turn the corner around the school and you will see another brick gothic example 's the Perkunas house. Hanseatic Merchants built the Perkunas house in the 15th century, but it was named after ancient Baltic god Perkunas (thunder) later, after a statue of him was found buried there.
Keep walking and you will see yet another gothic church, unique in its composition, built in the year 1400 by Grand Duke Vytautas the Great. Here you are on the banks of Nemunas, where medieval-themed events, such as the days of Hansa, usually take place.

Then choose to go whatever way you feel like 's some side street of the Old Town, discovering a pub or two, or maybe an inner courtyard with a little garden inside. Alternatively, you could stroll down the oldest street of the city 's Vilniaus Gatve. Architecture, souvenirs and food lovers will find something for them on every few meters of the famous street.
Keep going and you will reach Laisves Aleja 's the main street of the city and the end of the Old Town. More recent architecture, from the 19th and 20th centuries, is prominent at the edge of the Old Town. However, have fun trying to find little gothic St. Gertrude church, hidden in one of the backyards of the alley not far from Vilniaus Gatve. Even most of the city residents find the small church by accident.

After scratching only a surface of the Old Town, those interested are free to explore further and find some of the many buried treasures in Kaunas' Old Town.