Kaunas has a perfect geographical location. It is a geographical centre of Lithuania, a crossroad of the Eastern Europe. There are approximately 415 thousand people living in Kaunas. The city is an industrial, academic, cultural and religious centre.
The Kaunas industry produces about one-fourth of all Lithuanian products. The University of Kaunas was opened in 1922. Vytautas Magnus University was re-opened in 1989.
There are three theatres – the Drama Theatre, the Musical Theatre and the Puppet Theatre in Kaunas. There are many museums such as the Vytautas Magnus War museum, the M.K.Ciurlionis Art Museum, the Literary Museum, the K.Petrauskas Memorial Museum and the T.Ivanauskas Zoological Museum.
Archaeologists have determinited that people were living at the crossing of the Nemunas and the Neris rivers in the 3rd and 4th century. The name of the city was referred to in 1361 in the Vygandas Marburgietis Chronicles of the reconnaissance marches of the Crusaders into Lithuania. The chronicler of the invaders later boasted that in 1362 the Crusaders destroyed the Lithuanian castle, which was standing near the Nemunas and Neris. However, the castle was quickly rebuilt and was never again invaded by the Crusaders, although their attacked in Lithuania ceased only in the 15th century after the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410. It was then that Kaunas began to grow rapidly: trade developed and artisans prospered. However, in the 17th and 18th centuries, fires, plague, the Swedish military and the invasion of Napoleon’s army in 1812 comlpetely exhausted the city. It was only in the middle of the 19th century when Kaunas became a provincial centre of Tsarist Russia that the city began to revive again.
From 1920 to 1939 when Vilnius was occupied by Polish army, Kaunas served as the provisional capital of Lithuania. During this period, Kaunas developed quite considerably – the population increased to 150 thousand and many buildings of great architectural significance were built.
Kaunas is situated at the confluence of two rivers – the Nemunas and the Neris. In the Old town of Kaunas nearly all of the most significant old architectural monuments of the city are concentrated. These monuments have been restored and adapted to modern day needs.
Town Hall Square which began to form in the 16th century, was the nucleus of Kaunas in the Middle Ages. It was the place where markets and various festivals took place, and where criminals used to be punished. Originaly the territory was built up with wooden buildings, but nearly all of them burned down during one of the biggest fires. It was then resolved to build stone buildings, starting with Town Hall, for which the corner stone was laid in 1542.
Today the city offers a pretty Old Town, including the ruins of Kaunas Castle and the Vytautas Church – built by Grand Duke Vytautas in the 14th century. There is the fascinating Devil’s museum, which houses a collection of various devils and devil figures. Kaunas is also home to the M.K. Ciurlionis Art Gallery, a museum dedicated to the great Lithuanian painter and composer.
The Pazaislis ensemble consisting of a church and a monastery is considered to be one of the most significant baroque monuments in Eastern Europe. The ensemble stands in a picturesque peninsula of Kauno Marios water reservoir as a pearl shining among the water and forest elements.
The church started to be built in 1667 by Camalduli monks who were invited from Italy by Chancellor of Grand Duchy of Lithuania Kristupas Pacas. The church was beatified and decorated up to the middle of the 18th century. The most striking part of the ensemble is a hexagonal dome of the church and two protruding towers covered as if they were with helmets. The interior of the church is lined with reddish and black marble, decorated with frescoes. Several generations of Italian and Lithuanian masters worked here. The first architect of the ensemble was Lodovico Fredo.
In the 19th century when Lithuania was ruled by Russia the ensemble of Catholic Church and monastery was adopted for Russian orthodox church. Many valuable art things were destroyed. From 1920 up to Soviet occupation St.Casimirus congregation nuns owned Pazaislis, as it is now.
Museums: Rumsiskes, Ninth Fort, Vytautas War Museum, M.K.Ciurlionis Museum, M.Zilinskas Art Gallery, Devil’s Museum.
Tours: Kaunas, Rumsiskes, Vilnius-Trakai-Druskininkai-Kaunas, Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipeda, Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipeda-Nida, Baltic Cities.