Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kaunas.

Buying bread at the central market in Kaunas.

Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania. We arrived yesterday around 2pm, after about two hours of driving, from Trakai.


From cnn.com
We had a bit of a challenge finding the street our hotel was on. Bro stopped the car nearby and I got out to find the place which turned out to be located on a pedestrian only street filled with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and bakeries. I'm happy. I went back to the car to tell Bro the news that I had found the place but then came the question of where to park the car. I didn't see a lot for the hotel so we parked in a metered spot and put a few coins in to start with. When I checked us in and asked the receptionist about the car, he told us to drive by the back of the hotel where there was a secured lot. I'm now even happier. Nice to have free parking!


We parked the car and settled into our room. Wow! I thought the hotel in Vilnius was nicer but this one was even nicer with all the room amenities one could ask for.

We took a few minutes to settle in and decide how to spend the rest of our day. I have to confess. I knew nothing about Kaunas before arriving except that there is a very unusual building here which I learned about from a CNN article titled, "11 of Europe's most bizarre buildings". The building is simply called the *Banknote Building* because its entire glass front is etched with the image of a 1000 Litas note.  I am sure there is more to Kaunas than the BankNote building.

There was a Visitor's Guide in the room and what was good was the map inside identified points of interest within easy walking distance.  The one thing that immediately caught my eye was Žmuidzinavičius Museum, commonly known as the Devils' Museum.

The Devils' Museum.  What could that be?  I was intriged so I read more. The musuem houses a collection of culptures and carvings of devils from all over the world.  The devils, collected from different cultures, are diverse: some are just works of art, while others are incorporated into useful objects, some represent folk myths, while others express modern political ideas.  The collection was started by painter Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (1876–1966) and currently holds about 3,000 objects.  We had to go see this so we left the hotel and headed for the museum which was just located about 3 blocks from the hotel.

The museum is a very small building - there's just three one room galleries, each on a separate floor. There we scary looking devils, cheeky looking devils, cute looking devils and this pair, which I think were my favorite....two very happy and probably drunk, devils :-) 


There was a lot of whimsy to the collection.  The Devil's not so scary after all....at least not here!


We were in and out of the museum in about half an hour.  Got a bit of a chuckle seeing some of the items but after a while, how many more devils can a person see?

From what we could tell, the Devils' Museum is located in the neighborhood of Kaunas University.  We found ourselves wandering through the campus.....a bit lost but enjoying the stroll.

Pretty little sculpture park located across the street from the Devils Museum.

Our stroll eventually led us back to the Laisvės alėja (literally Liberty Boulevard or Liberty Avenue), the pedestrian only street our hotel was located on.  The street is several blocks long and flanked with commercial establishments as well as apartment buildings.



Our first stop was the Information Center where we got a brochure and a map.  Of course, they suggested that since we had a car, we should go see the BankNote building at night because it's all lit up and there's a bit of a color show.

I have to admit, I think we were both a bit worn out from our all day sighseeing, the day before, in Vilnius.  We were really dragging our feet.  We used just about every excuse that we could to find a seat.  We only went into two stores - one to get ice cream and the other was a bakery.  Exhausted and not interested at all in sightseeing but we can always eat :-)

Perhaps an ice cream break would perk me up?

St. Michael the Archangel's church, anchors one end of Laisvės alėja.  The church was closed but we sat on the steps
and watched the world go by.

Nice area for a stroll.

A few small parks here and there with playgrounds for the kids.

At the other end of Laisvės alėjais is the Post Office and a short distance from there, a street that leads into Old Town.  I know both of us would have really enjoyed walking about Old Town, especially after having seen photos of it on the web but we were just sooooo tired.  So, sadly, this is all we saw of Old Town.  This was another one of those moments when I wished we had had an extra day.

Looking towards Old Town.

Looking back towards Laisvės alėjais.

By now, it was late afternoon and hunger pangs had set in.  We decided to go for an early dinner. Ideally, we would have headed into Old Town and found a place for a traditional Lithuanian meal but we settled for a small eatery back on Laisvės alėja where we had pasta and salad for dinner....a bit of change from the heavy meals we've had since being in Lithuania.

I think the sun had barely set over the horizon when my head hit the pillow. I was beat!

After a solid night's rest, we woke up ready to tackle the world!  First it was another awesome breakfast buffet in the hotel.  Then, we checked out and left the hotel.

For a few minutes, we debated whether or not to head to Old Town but after seeing how long a drive we had ahead of us, we opted to skip it.  Instead, we decided to stop at Kaunas Central Market which we would (conveniently) pass on our way out of town.  

The main market is huge and it's all organized under two roofs; the space is divided into 2 pavilions of 24 sections.  We had to remember which section we parked in front of so we could find our car!  Each section or sections focus on particular goods with the sections in the second pavilion dedicated to produce, meat, fish and other food items.   Adjacent to the main market were smaller shopping plazas filled with more shops, markets, and restaurants.  You could shop and eat yourself to death here.

A row of real train cars line one side of the market.  They serve as vendor stalls.

The main market on the left and separate shopping plazas on the right.

As we drove towards the entry road to the central market, we passed by the BankNote Building so we decided to check it out before going to the market.

It is a very unusual looking indeed!

We were curious if the image of the 1000 Litas note was painted on or not.  Turns out it's etched.


Back to the central market.  We found out that the food part of the market was on the opposite side to where we had parked.  First thing we saw was this covered wagon which was a bakery.


Before I could even say, "Hey, it's a bakery", Bro was already inside checking out the goods.

Everything was just coming out of the oven. 

I had to take a picture of their sign.  I appreciated how they used numbers to indicate dates so even if you can't read
Lithuanian, you have the information you need.  Simple but effective communications.

Bro bought some bread.  Getting ready for a picnic meal :-)

From here, we had to walk over to the second pavilion to get to the food market. Along the way, we passed by a few sections where it looked like wholesalers were set up to do business.  I think this place is basically a combination of wholesale and retail sales.

The produce and meat section was not as large as I had anticipated it would but it still offered a large variety of
food items for sale.

  The place was spotlessly clean.

Lot of smoked meat for sale. 

The smoked meat looked really good as well, particularly the mackeral.

The meat and fish section.

Plenty of fresh fish for sale.  There were just a few tanks with live fish.

Back to the meats.  Lithuanians are definitely a meat and potato cuisine culture.  Hearty food!

Bro was in heaven wandering through the fruit stands.

Beautiful produce.  See the chanterelles and the cranberries?  So Baltic!

It's raspberry season here and they were so cheap.  Bro could never resist.

Smoked meat.  Now you're talking my language!

Sausage inspiration.  Someday, I will learn how to make these.

Those smoked mackerels.....seriously tempting us.

We finally gave in to our drooling.  Buying a whole smoked mackeral for our picnic lunch.

With our picnic *basket* filled, we decided hit the road. It would be a long day's drive before we would reach our final destination for the day, the port city of Klaipeida.

Bye bye, Kaunas!