On our journey back to Kaunas we did a detour to The Hill of Crosses; located 12km north of the city of Šiauliai in northern Lithuania. The origins of the place are unconfirmed however the original crosses were thought to have been placed during the November Uprising or the Polish – Russian war of 1830-1831.
Now the attraction is known as a peaceful celebration of Lithuanian Catholicism despite the threats in which it has faced over the years. It is a major site for pilgrimages in Lithuania.
After our trip to the Hill of Crosses, we then made the journey onto Kaunas. We booked a 2 bedroom apartment right the town centre which was fab and cost £40 per couple. After unpacking we headed out to see what Kaunas had to offer.
We were staying just off Kaunas Town Hall Square which was surrounded by bars, restaurants and funny enough the Town Hall. The building looks more like a church. It was really quite pretty in the square and we had the opportunity for a couple of photos. It was originally used as a market place of Kaunas. The end of the 16th century marks the beginning of construction of non-wooden buildings. The first main brick buildings were built after the Great fire in 1537 during which wooden houses were destroyed.
We went to a restaurant which was recommended by Jane and Vitalis called Bernelių Užeiga. It was a lovely restaurant with a great menu and it was reasonably priced and they had something for everyone. It was a really lovely ambience and we would definitely recommend it if you are visiting
That evening we did try a karaoke bar but due to our mature years, it was not quite to everyone’s tastes so we headed back to the main square and had cocktails in a bar called Baras Klimas. The cocktails really were quite moreish and feeling rather squiffy and a little tired from our day’s adventures we headed back for the night.
The next day Nigel and I headed out by ourselves to explore a bit more of Kaunas; Jane and Vitalis had been here several times before so we were happy to have a wander on our own. First stop was Kaunas Castle; which looks not too much like a castle but way more modern than we expected. It was only a short distance from the square. Archaeological evidence suggests that it was originally built during the mid-14th century, in the Gothic style. Its site is strategic – a rise on the banks of the Nemunas River near its confluence with the Neris River.
What we did spot right next to the castle were some electric scooters that you could hire from Bolt. Being a bit gammy with my knee I welcomed the chance to try an easier mode of transport and we decided to hire some. I don’t think either of us had been on a scooter since we were kids and they certainly do take some getting used to but off we went!
On our scoots, we explored Santaka Park, which is right next to the castle and is a lovely little spot for a picnic or for a walk. The gravel was a bit eye shaking in places but there were no major falls or disasters. At the end of the park, you can reach a spot where the rivers Nemunas and Neris meet. The Neris flows through Vilnius and meets with the Nemunas here.
Heading back up by the side of the river we came across a basketball court, an archeological dig, and even saw a wedding ceremony just starting! it was a really fun way to spend an afternoon.
Alas our time in Kaunas was coming to an end… would we say Kaunas was a picturesque city, no it is definitely not up there but there is something welcoming and unique about it, although it is difficult to put your finger on what. We enjoyed our brief stop in Kaunas and whilst not top of our list of favourite places it was interesting and well worth a visit.
That evening we stayed at Marijampole and visited Vitalis’s lovely Mum for an evening of food and drink. It was lovely to be made to feel so welcome and we had a great traditional Lithuanian evening with a BBQ.
The next day we headed back to Kaunas to get the train to Vilnius. We said goodbye to Jane and Vitalis and headed off on our own for the last part of our trip to Lithuania, exciting to see what this lovely country had to offer!
Carol & Nigel xx