THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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KAUNAS IN FOCUS
24 NOV – 26 DEC 2012
Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city and former capital, is receiving much attention in VilNews now as 2012 is coming to an end. We focus on history, business, culture, innovation, tourism and more. We would also like to hear from you who have a personal Kaunas story.
Send us your Kaunas story!
Vilniaus gatve (above), the Kaunas Old Town’s main street, was back in the
13th century a highway linking the city with Vilnius.
KAUNAS OLD TOWN has a lot of surviving Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Many notable buildings and facilities are located here, such as the Kaunas Town Hall, the Kaunas Castle and the Historical Presidential Palace, House of Perkūnas, also the Kaunas Cathedral, the Church of St. Gertrude, Vytautas' church and many other churches. Great variety of museums, such as Museum of the History of Lithuanian Medicine and Pharmacy, Povilas Stulga Museum of Lithuanian Folk Instruments, Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum, Communication History Museum, Museum of Gemology and Kaunas City Museum. The largest seminary in Lithuania - Kaunas Priest Seminary is located at the westernmost part of the Old Town.
Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centras_(Kaunas)
Text and photos: Aage Myhre
It was in 1408 that Lithuania’s Grand Duke Vytautas the Great granted Magdeburg rights to Kaunas, and after that point in time this settlement at the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas rivers began to grow as an important centre and main port for Lithuanian trade with Western Europe.
The original settlement, where today’s Kaunas old town is located, was first mentioned by the chroniclers in 1361, and it was here in the old town the first brick castle was built by the end of the 14th century, to defend Kaunas from the Crusaders’ attacks.
Kaunas castle is the oldest masonry castle in Lithuania. It was first mentioned in documents in year 1361 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaunas_Castle
In 1441, Hansa merchants opened an office in Kaunas, and this marked the beginning of a very dynamic growth for the town. By the end of the 16th century, Kaunas had its first school, public hospital and chemist shop, and was fast becoming one of the most developed towns in all the huge Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
However, during the 17th and 18th centuries, Kaunas was to travel through a long period of hardship and hostility, not least because of attacks by the Russian army in 1655, the Swedish march to Russia in 1701, plagues in 1657 and 1708, as well as devastating fires in 1731 and 1732.
At the end of the 18th century, the fortunes of Kaunas revived a little but only until 1812, the year that saw Napoleon's army cross the Nemunas River in Kaunas on their path to Vilnius and later Russia. Heading towards the end of the 19th century, Kaunas experienced several major developments that helped it back onto a path of prosperity and growth; developments such as the opening of the Oginsky canal connecting the Nemunas and Dnieper rivers; the railway connecting the Russian Empire and Germany that was built in 1862, and the opening of the first power plant in 1898.
Napoleon's Army Crossing the Nemunas at Kaunas 24 June 1812
Wood carving. Artist: Dž. Bagetti. Carver: I. Klauberis
The First World War stemmed the further development of Kaunas mainly because of the Tsar occupation, which meant Kaunas lost its independence until 1919. With Vilnius occupied by Russia in the same year, the State Council and Cabinet of Ministers moved and established themselves in Kaunas. The following years, with Poland occupying Vilnius, Kaunas became the capital and the most important city of Lithuania governed by its first Burgomaster, Jonas Vileisis; a period considered by many as the golden age of the city. In 1920, the national parliament (Seimas) gathered in Kaunas and laid the basis for the country's legal and parliamentarian system. Over the next few years Kaunas once again experienced rapid economic and industrial growth and a significant increase in population. In 1924 the first buses appeared in Kaunas, and in 1928 plumbing was installed in most of the city's buildings.
After the Second World War, Kaunas suffered further during the forty years of Soviet occupation, as many buildings and signs of Lithuanian independence were demolished or removed. One of the world’s first public protests against the Soviet rule was in 1972, when a young man, Romas Kalanta, set himself on fire in the square in front of the Musical Theatre of Kaunas. In 1988, upon the rising of the liberation movement, many city sights were revived: streets and museum names were returned, and many monuments of independence times were restored.
One of the world’s first public protests against the Soviet rule was in 1972, when a young man, Romas Kalanta, set himself on fire in the square in front of the Musical Theatre of Kaunas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romas_Kalanta
Since independence, Kaunas has established close links to western countries and companies, and with Lithuania having one of the fastest economic growth rates of the new EU member states, Kaunas has most certainly been one of the powerhouses of industry that has helped produce such an impressive economic climate in the country today. Kaunas has come a long way and it shows no signs of slowing down!
The excellent location of Kaunas in the very centre of Lithuania is certainly one of its main advantages, situated as it is on the crossroad of the main Lithuanian transport flows. Two main highways cross the city - Via Baltica, which connects Helsinki and Warsaw, and the highway that connects Vilnius and the port city of Klaipeda. A more an more important international airport is contributing to Kaunas’ attractiveness as the point that connects Lithuania to the world.
The long traditions of higher education is today being actively utilised as a base for Kaunas new profile as “the intelligent city” with special focus on areas like IT and development of companies, research institutions and programmes that support a dynamic and innovative economy.
The basketball team Žalgiris with its famous player Arvydas Sabonis, as well as other baskeball and other sports have put Kaunas on the world map
Kaunas is the second biggest city in Lithuania with the total area of 155.5 sq. km. and a population of approximately four hundred thousand.
The today’s Kaunas old town is a fascinating combination of archaeology, architecture and history. Here one finds the remains of a castle dating back to the 13th to 16th centuries standing as evidence of the ancient battles between Lithuania and the knights of the Teutonic Order. Numerous other buildings crowd together in a stimulating mixture of the arts and architecture of different eras. The 15th century produced the church of Vytautas, Saint George's church and the reconstructed Cathedral. City Hall, dating from the 16th to 18th centuries, is surrounded by charming old houses; the Perkūnas (Thunder) House dates back to the 15th century. Some of the city's structures are recognized as representing a distinct variation of the Northern European Renaissance style, notably the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Masalskis Manor complex (16th to 18th century).
The most outstanding baroque monument is the Paxaislis monastery, a collection of buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. This is among the most lovely examples of ecclesiastical architecture in Northern Europe, unified architecturally by its hexagonal design and a majestic cupola, with its façade proportioned according to the principles of Italian baroque, and its interior decorated with subtly coloured frescoes and statues.
Kaunas is a city of very old and established cultural traditions and a place where generations of Lithuanian artists, composers and writers lived and have left their imprint. Their works are on display in various museums and galleries, of which two are especially notable. The Art Gallery of M. K. Čiurlionis displays the work of this great painter and composer, who earned his place in the history of art.
It is possible to review Lithuania's history from its prehistory to the present day, at the Military Museum of Vytautas the Great. Among the most interesting exhibits is a memento of an early transatlantic flight - a wreck of the "Lituanica." In this plane, two pioneering Lithuanian aviators, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas, flew non-stop from New York in 1933, sadly crashing in German territory, not far from their final destination in Lithuania.
Kaunas is Kaunas!
Some Kaunas images
Photos: Aage Myhre
The Town Hall of Kaunas (Lithuanian: Kauno rotušė) in the Town Hall Square, also called "The white swan". The structure dates from the 16th century. Today used for wedding ceremonies and official events.
Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_Hall,_Kaunas
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