This Spring I decided to embark on a trip to Lithuania to visit my boyfriend, Mindaugas Steponavicius 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 Lithuanian spirit is warm and inviting. They are often referred to as the Italians of the Baltics because of their hospitality and generosity. In Lithuania I was continually offered food, drink and gifts during my stay. In general, the Lithuanian people enjoy staying home and preparing meals from scratch. Irena was nice enough to educate me in the fine art of “Lithuanian Cuisine.” I learned how to make blynai su mesa (Potato pancakes with meat) and varskeciai (cheese dumplings.) Everything was very tasty!
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.
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. 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.
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.
Rumsiskes Open-air museum 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 also visited the Hill of Crosses, which is an incredible site! A must see for every traveler! Traditionally crosses were placed on the hill to commemorate a birth of a child, wedding, or death of a loved one. The Soviets tried unsuccessfully three times to demolish the hill, but the crosses kept appearing. It is a true testament of the faith, love, and perseverance of the Lithuanian spirit and people.
Vilnius is a charming city! Its meandering streets, numerous church spires, and red tile roofs are just waiting to be discovered! It has been described by many as having "southern" architecture under a northern sky! I was invited to the capital by Aage Myre, the editor of Vilnius. We enjoyed the pleasant weather, having drinks outside the Valentino Restaurant. He was particularly interested in my Lithuanian background and the Knights of Lithuania organization. I explained my high interest for Lithuanian history, traditions and culture. I also discussed Lithuanian-US relations and how the Knights of Lithuania aspire to keep alive an appreciation and understanding of the Lithuanian language, customs, and culture, while advancing the values and foundation of the Roman Catholic beliefs.
Trakai is only 30 km from Vilnius. The unique landscape of Trakai is comprised of numerous picturesque lakes and small hills. The main landmark is the breathtaking storybook island castle! It was constructed in the 14th century making it an excellent example of Gothic architecture. Mindaugas and I went a lovely boat ride around the castle for 60LT (About 21 USD.) It is truly a marvelous site and one of the most famous landmarks in Lithuania.
One evening Mindaugas made reservations for dinner at Seneji Rusiai, Old Cellar.” It is an European restaurant established in 17th century cellars located the heart of Kaunas old town. In one of the halls, there is a fresco depicting the Middle French Army crossing the river Nemunas on 24 June 1812 according to the lithography of De C. Montte. Guests included the former Lithuanian president, the Swedish ambassador and the NATO Committee. The atmosphere of the restaurant was positively romantic. The food is positively divine and the service, courteous. Plus it is where my boyfriend decided to propose! I said YES of course!
I had an exhilarating time in Lithuania. It is truly a destination worth seeing! I hope my article will inspire and motivate other Knights of Lithuania members to make a trip of a lifetime.