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28 May 2017
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PENNSYLVANIA-LITHUANIA
It is said about Pennsylvania that it was like a Western Lithuania about a 100 years ago, after hordes of people had left their home country to work in the Pennsylvanian coal mines. Carol Luschas is one among thousands of their descendants now committed to restore the close contact between this U.S. state and Lithuania.

Read below her story about Kaunas.

Hordes of Lithuanians came to Pennsylvania to work in coal mines in the late 1800s
The Pennsylvanian “Knights of Lithuania” keep on fighting 
Movie Star Charles Bronson (1921-2003)
Son of a Lithuanian coal miner from Pennsylvania
 

Kaunas seen through
Pennsylvanian glasses

By: Carol A. Luschas, Kutztown, Pennsylvania

Lithuania is a remarkable country with a fascinating history! It is located in the geographical center of Europe. One can discover buildings from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Art Nouveau periods. There are unique museums, enchanting castles, specialty shops, quality restaurants, and affordable accommodations. The Lithuanian landscape is dotted with picturesque lakes, small rolling hills, and thick lush forests.  

I decided to embark on a trip to Lithuania to visit my boyfriend, Mindaugas, and his mother, Irena. I spent the majority of my time in Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. Senamiestas or the "Old Town" is small but cozy. Tourists can enjoy strolling clean, peaceful medieval cobblestone streets, while admiring beautiful buildings. Vilnius Street (Vilniaus Gatve) is the most popular street in the Old Town. It is filled with chic restaurants, cafes, art galleries and souvenir shops. I really enjoyed shopping and eating in the "Old Town!" The "Town Square" is the most picturesque area! During the spring and summer months wedding parties can be spotted outside the town hall. It is the BEST place in the "Old Town" for a Kodak moment!

The Kaunas Castle is the 13th century building, built by Kestutis to defend the road to Trakai. Today this small castle has been renovated and modernized. Inside the castle art exhibits can be seen. There is also a lovely bridge over the former moat. One will enjoy taking pictures of the beautiful and historic landmark. It is a very lovely spot

There are a countless number of stunning Churches in Kaunas. Christ's Resurrection Church is just one of them and is a breathtaking white beauty! The church was designed during Lithuania's independence when Kaunas was the capital. After the Soviets took control of the country the unfinished church was converted into a radio factory. It was later completed after independence. Great panoramic views of the city can be seen! Pazaislis Monastery Complex is the “Baroque Masterpiece of Kaunas.” It is a functioning monastery occupied by the Sisters of St. Casimir. It boarders the western tip of the Kaunas Sea or Kauno Marios. The interior of the church is jaw dropping, a true wonder of the world! There is a lovely new museum which traces the history of the church and the origin of the Sisters of St. Casimir and its founder, Mother Maria Kaupas.

Laisves Aleja is a lovely street in the “New Town” with cafes/restaurants and shops. I like the fact that is closed to traffic and can be enjoyed by foot. The street is lined with trees making it very green and beautiful during the spring and summer months. It needs some care and renovation, but it is still very nice!

You will never get hungry in Kaunas! Hundreds of cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to satisfy your hunger. Visitors can feast upon Lithuanian, Italian, French, German Chinese, and Japanese cuisine. The prices are pretty cheap compared to western and American cities. You will “eat like a king and pay like a pauper.” Berneliu Uzeiga is located in the cozy "Old Town" of Kaunas. Waiters and waitresses are dressed in beautiful traditional Lithuanian costumes. I had a mouthwatering chicken with cream sauce and apple pie with vanilla ice cream. I highly recommended this restaurant for a true taste of Lithuanian cuisine.

Shopping is simply a JOY in this city! The OLD TOWN is bursting with art galleries and unique specialty shops with souvenirs HANDMADE in Lithuanian, NOT China. The Kaunas Akropolis Shopping Centre is truly a shopping paradise and the nicest mall I have ever seen! This high-class multiplex has EVERYTHING your heart desires! Clothing, shoes, books, electronics, jewelry, perfume, restaurants, cafes, cinema and even an ice rink! The clothes are extremely fashionable and well designed.

Mega is another topnotch shopping center! It is not as large as the infamous "Akropolis" but it has a lovely array of shops and restaurants to choose from. Bajoru Kiemas and Charlie Pizza are my favorite restaurants in MEGA. 

There is also a lovely cinema with comfortable stadium seating. Guests can purchase sweet or buttered popcorn, beverages, and beer before they enter the theater. I was surprised because alcoholic beverages are usually NOT allowed in the US depending on the state you live in.  What a pleasant difference!

A gorgeous RIMI supermarket is also housed in the complex. It happened to be one of the nicest food markets I have seen! It would be hard to find anything comparable in the US. The market is clean and well-kept with an abundance of products that are displayed beautifully!

Rumsiskes Open-air museum outside of Kaunas is worth a visit. I was transported back in time and learned how Lithuanians lived in the 19th and 20th century. The museum is divided by the four major ethnic regions in Lithuania: Aukstaitija, Zemaitija. Dzukija, and Suvalkija.  It is best to visit in midsummer when the flower gardens are in bloom. During my visit I was able to stop in a shop that sold hand-made pottery. There is also an interesting amber shop as well. I highly suggest a guided tour.          

I had an exhilarating time in Lithuania and was pleasantly surprised with Kaunas. It is definitely a city worth seeing! There are plenty, museums, restaurants and cafes to keep everyone on your list happy. Plus the prices are extremely reasonable and less expensive than the capital, Vilnius. The Old Town is cozier and walkable making it easy to explore.  I loved strolling from the Old Town to Laisves Alelija. Kaunas is slowly being renovated and is blossoming into a stunning city that is just waiting to be discovered!  

 
ABOVE AND BELOW: Pazaislis Monastery Complex is the “Baroque Masterpiece of Kaunas

 

 

 
Vilnius Street (Vilniaus Gatve) is the most popular street in the Old Town 

 

 
Berneliu Uzeiga is located in the cozy "Old Town" of Kaunas

 


Mega is another topnotch shopping center!


The Kaunas Castle is the 13th century building, built by Kestutis to defend the road to Trakai 


Rumsiskes Open-air museum outside of Kaunas is worth a visit!

Category : The world in Lithuania

  • LABAS CAROL,
    VERY INTERESTING ARTICLE. BRINGS BACK NICE MEMORIES OF MY VISITS TO LITHUANIA. I GREW UP IN A SMALL MINING TOWN IN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA CALLED MUSE. THERE WERE MANY LITHUANIAN-AMERICAN FAMILIES FROM THE FIRST IMMIGRATION WAVE OF THE LATE 1800'S. AFTER HIGH SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY I JOINED THE U.S. ARMY AS A NUCLEAR WEAPONS OFFICER AND WAS STATION IN WEST GERMANY DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD WAR. I RECALL THAT SEVERAL SOVIET MILITARY BASES IN LITHUANIA WERE ON OUR TARGET LISTS. AS A YOUNG LIEUTENANT I LAUGHED AS PRESIDENT RONALD REGAN REQUESTED THE WALL TO BE TORN DOWN. A FEW MONTHS LATER THE WALL FELL AND ARMY OFFICERS WERE RECEIVING PINK SLIPS AS WE REDUCED OUR COLD WAR FORCES IN EUROPE. AFTER TRANSFERRING TO THE ARMY RESERVES I RECEIVED AN INTERESTING ASSIGNMENT TO AID LITHUANIA INTO NATO. AS I ENTERED LITHUANIA AFTER INDEPENDENCE THE LAST SOVIET TROOPS WERE LEAVING. THE SAME COUNTRY THAT I WAS POINTING NUCLEAR WEAPONS AT EARLIER I WAS NOW HELPING TO INTEGRATE INTO NATO. AS LITHUANIA WAS ACCEPTED INTO NATO ANOTHER MISSION ENDED AS I COMPLETED MY MILITARY OBLIGATION. AS A CIVILIAN I STARTED A SMALL BUSINESS EXPORTING AMERICAN AUTOMOBILES, BOATS, AND AIRCRAFT TO LITHUANIA. SEEMS EASTERN EUROPE HAD A BIG APPETITE
    FOR AMERICAN GOODS. FIVE YEARS AGO I WAS READY TO NUC THEM NOW I AM SELLING THEM CORVETTES AND HUMMERS.
    THROUGH THE YEARS I TRAVELED ABOUT HUNDRED TIMES TO LITHUANIA, BOUGHT A SMALL FARM THERE AND MADE DOZENS OF FRIENDS. I HOPE THAT MY SMALL PART HELPED IN MAKING LITHUANIA AND AMERICA FRIENDS FOREVER! IKI, BILL

    December 15 2012
    CommentsLike

    • Labas Rimas!

      I am glad you enjoyed my article about Kaunas. I come from simple Eastern European roots. My ancestors settled in the Coal Mines of Eastern PA at the turn of the 20th century. My Lithuanian heritage was something I always identified with. I grew up listening to my grandmother and her sister speak in Lithuanian and consuming Lithuanian cuisine. My interest in Lithuania culture and history started when I decided to present an oral report on Lithuanian Easter Customs. After that my interest mushroom!

      I joined the Knights of Lithuania #144, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Lithuanian Culture and celebrating its history. I majored in history and minored in International Studies at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. I had my heart on fan Eastern European Studies degree, but the university retired the program in 2001. In 2006 I was accepted into a Summer Language program which was hosted by Indiana University of Indiana. I spoke Lithuanian continually for the next three months! Around that time I started corresponding with Mindaugas. We stared a pen-pal relationship, thanks to the Internet sending e-mails. I would correct his English and he would correct my Lithuanian. We also correspond using snail mail. He would send post cards of Kaunas and his excursions to the UK and Ireland along with little souvenirs from his travels. Nest we started corresponding by telephone and video chat using Skype.

      December 15 2012
      CommentsLike
      • Rimantas Aukstuolis

        Carol
        Your piece on Kaunas viewed through American Lithuanian eyes was interesting. Especially the shopping mall comparison. Many of us know the historical side of Lithuania and Kaunas so your perspective is fresh. I would however, like to know a little more about you. How far back your family goes in the US, how you came to rekindle (?) your interest in Lithuania to the point of having a boyfriend named Mindaugas? Not to pry but this "roots" thing is something which tugs at many of us. Lietuva often doesn't let go. My grandparents on my mother's side arrived in 1906 and wound up in Omaha, where I was born. Dziedukas didn't like the coal mines in eastern PA and the steel mills of Pittsburgh even less so he wound up loading beef on to trains for the packing houses of Omaha. What's your story?
        Rimas

        December 14 2012
        CommentsLike



        

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