I chose to go to Kaunas instead of Vilnius. I made a bad decision.
This isn’t intended to annoy anyone from Kaunas. Most places I’ve visited I’ve found something I like but I struggled here. The only other place I had visited in Lithuania before then was Klaipėda, which had set the bar high. Kaunas started off badly and didn’t get any better.
The bus into Kaunas passed through the eastern part of the city and then by a concrete-lined, stagnant river next to multi-storey car park, past abandoned/half-built high rises and a shopping centre. I walked by it all again to get back into town.
My hotel was actually quite nice but was in a courtyard, off an alley, off a side street, off a main street which had all the charm of Kirkcaldy town centre on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The first thing I did after checking in was to look at options for flights out of Kaunas that evening, while I cursed the city’s tourist board for being good at their job in making it look like a place worth visiting.
No flights. No luck.
I arranged to leave the following evening and figured out how to make the most of my time there.
Most European cities have some charm with an old town – the bit where the tourists typically end up. The stretch between the aforementioned main street and the old town felt grim, with the older part of the city not offering much to see or much in terms of bars and restaurants. The cathedral, which bookends the other side of the main shopping street from the old town, was looking run down and had various levels of metal barriers up around it.
The town was quiet. I resorted to a few drinks to pass the evening.
Escape from Kaunas was mid afternoon the following day, which gave me a few hours in the morning to get out and about. I tried to visit a couple of museums. They were closed. Instead, I took a lengthy walk to Seventh Fort, which is an abandoned fortification and army barracks, and highly rated (going by TripAdvisor, which I had scoured for hours over beers the previous evening to find something to do).
There were two people at Seventh Fort. A workman, who spoke no English (can’t complain, I don’t speak any Lithuanian), who pointed me to someone who I think was a museum curator. She was confused at anyone turning up here and gave the impression that it isn’t ever open, or hasn’t been for a long time, but did let me take a look at old military memorabilia which killed a few minutes. Then I had a wander around the grounds before heading off. It seems even one of the highest-rated tourist attractions in Kaunas is a let down.
I’ve been to many places where there’s some effort needed to see the best of it. Maybe there is a great side to Kaunas that passed me by completely. In the end I was glad to leave.
If you do go, Ninth Fort looks quite interesting.
Kaunas – the good
Kaunas – the bad
I’m loathe to post these photos because I want to like every place I visit but as an introduction to a city this is grim. And since I mentioned that above, I’ll include the photos.
It was a foggy day when I visited Seventh Fort, making it seem quite atmospheric. Some of rooms and tunnels descend into darkness. I didn’t go further.