Thursday, September 12, 2013

On The Road to Klaipėda.

At Panemunė Castle with its distinctive gray and white striped tower.

Our road trip today took us from Kaunas to the the port city of Klaipėda, which will be base from which we will be exploring the Curonian Spit.


It was a beautiful day for a drive and we drove through a very beautiful stretch of Lithuanian countryside, alongside the Nemunas River.

Raudondvaris Manor

Our first stop of the morning was just a short drive from the outskirts of Kaunas - Raudondvaris Manor, located in the town of the same name.

It is indeed a manor though supposedly it was first mentioned as a pagan keep by Teutonic chroniclers in 1392. The Teutons built a small castle this spot, housing 80 knights and 400 soldiers.  Over the centuries, it changed ownership multiple times and was often reconstructed and refurbished.  It was last rebuilt between 1962-1975 and currently houses the Lithuanian Institute of Melioration as well as a small museum.

That's our car. It looked like this building, on the grounds of the manor, was being renovated to be conference space.

There was a large group of women touring the house. We decided to not go inside, just walk about the grounds for a bit.  After having already visited Rundāle Palace (in Latvia) and Palmse Manor (in Estonia), neither of us was interested in seeing another manor estate.



We continued our drive.  We followed the course of the river.  Bro was behind the wheel today so I could enjoy taking photos from the passenger seat :-)


As we drove along, we saw a set of wooden steps leading up to the top of a hill.  It looked like a good viewpoint over the farmland and the river so we left the main road and checked it out.  We drove slowly  along the main street of a small town until we saw the bottom of the steps.  We parked our car near another car that had a couple of men, looked to be locals, sitting inside.  I think they wondered what we were doing there - we don't exactly fade into the background with our Asian looks.  We were wondering whether or not we should go up the stairs when I saw a young couple, who looked to be tourists, coming down.

Bro scampered up the steps but I took it slowly so I could enjoy the pretty view. IIt is awfully flat landscape here.




Our drive took us off the beaten path into the heart of Lithuania and we took a few short detours here and there.  There were many stretches of road where we were the only car for as far as we could see.  It was a really pleasant drive.


Our next destination was Panemunė Castle.  Ironically, the castle was not built as part of a defensive fortification.  It was built in 1610 by a Hungarian nobleman as his luxurious residence and was held as private property until 1925. Owners of the castle changed many times and its appearance reflects each of their tastes - it's a mish mash of styles.  The most recognizable feature of the castle is its gray and white striped tower so whichever owner made that decision made a wise one. 


 In 1935, Panemunė Castle and its surroundings fell under the auspices of the Lithuanian Culture Department and in 1961 the castle was inscribed on Lithuania's list of national culturally valuable monuments.  Currently, the castle belongs to Vilnius Art Academy.

The castle wasn't opened so we were only able to walk around the courtyard and grounds.

The courtyard.

Cute door and window.

Side façade of the castle.

There are five ponds on the castle grounds.

Quick raspberry break before getting back into the driver's seat :-)

It was a long drive today.  It didn't take long of us to be so absorbed in conversation that we lost track of the world whizzing by us.  Of course, I still had my eyes on the map and road signs so we weren't physically lost.

We passed through a few small towns.  Very quiet streets.

About an hour and a half after we left Panemunė Castle, Bro was getting hungry. We decided to pull over and find a place for our picnic lunch.  Don't ask me why but I took video as we looked for a parking space so I had to post it up.



Our trusty Hyundai.  Small town means plenty of places to park and no meters either.

We found a pretty little park to have our lunch in. 

Breaking into our picnic *basket*.  A simple meal of smoked fish, bread, and fruit.

From here, we had another two and half hours of driving before reaching Klaipėda.