MAP OF KAUNAS ACCORDING TO GINTARĖ ADOMAITYTĖ
Do you have time to go? And strength? Are your shoes comfortable? Are you not afraid of October or maybe even November?
If you are not, then let’s go.
We can start from the Railway Station. Going from Vilnius to Kaunas is great. So, if you look from the railway bridge to the railway itself (if you face Vilnius), turn left and see Žaliakalnis.
But maybe it’s better the other way? I need to walk on Vytautas Avenue towards the bus station and stop by the market on my way. Just for a short while. Even if I don't need anything. Yet I needed something last fall. For a friend. I was looking for a cache-nez. And I found one and had options to choose from. To tell the truth, I like markets of Kaunas. It is a unique layer worthy of a careful look. Their loud voices, cleverness and politeness, their talents to guess the size of more intimate clothes... And they fit. And how they address you: “Dear lady”.
After passing the bus station, we turn to Bažnyčios (Church) Street. In the novel Raudonmedžio Rojus (Mahogany Heaven), its author Vytautas Sirijos Gira places the Toleikis family precisely there. In Bažnyčios Street, just think, the vodka factory sings its song for the entire day. If you pass it on an early morning (while it is still dark), you can see employees and conveyors... It means you are also passing Ramybės (Tranquillity) Park, former cemetery, and you cannot remember that the first grandchild of my grandmother who died at the age of five was buried there. And some time later, when the cemetery was destroyed, uncle Rimdvydas exhumed his son.
And then you approach the Frykas stairs. All white. The stairs of the architect. We will climb up. Let’s say it’s November. Dawn. Cosy houses in terraces, you can see blazing fireplaces inside through windows. Warmer. And it’s warm enough, when school children jumping down unexpectedly greet an unknown passer-by. We rest at the top. We see and hear Kaunas: you can still hear the clinking of those conveyors carrying intoxicating drinks. We walk around the streets, Putinas, Vaižgantas and... and... and... houses. So many stories...
Carousels at Vytauto Park are drowsing, and when they do, they are the most interesting. Let’s look at the white palace of Young Lithuanians, and then to the Oakwood Park, where I made my first steps. With my eyes closed, I will walk you to the Song Valley and tell you about the first Song Festivals. Or the ones taking place later, during the Soviet times, but still Lithuanian ones.
From the Song Valley we will cross the Oakwood Park and go towards the Zoo. In Radvilėnai Street, I always get scared: have I got lost? It is too active for me. And yet... Let’s walk in front of Šv. Antano (St. Anthony’s) Church and the fence around the Jewish Cemetery. And then the Institute for the Visually Impaired, where my father and his sister, both blind, started their path of life.
There is also the Savanorių and Tvirtovės avenues. My family used to live here in one of the houses. If we stepped to the left, we found a silent Algirdo Street. There was my green two-storey wooden school, gone without a trace. But... This is where Viktoras Rudžianskas and Donaldas Kajokas attended their classes.
We do not have to turn left. To the right. This is where the real Žaliakalnis is: in the streets of Kalniečių, Utenos, Molėtų, Širvintos. Let’s go to Žemaičių Street. To the left, and towards the Resurrection Church.
A wonderful church. Waited. Dreamed of. Turned into a radio factory. I don’t think that it is worth climbing on its roof: Kaunas opens from the hills. But the church itself... Dignified, modest, recovered...
Then we take the funicular down. And visit all museums or only some. The most important thing is to see Čiurlionis and... and... and... Laisvės Alėja, next to the Musical Theatre, to the Presidential Palace, which was the House of Teachers in my childhood. This is where I attended by first dance lessons. Next to it, there is the former Aušra high school. I would tell about a teacher that female students loved the most, his name was Juozas Ambrazevičius. He was the most favourite in all the senses of the word.
Then understandably we will reach the heart of Kaunas, Rotušės Square. What should I choose, descending from the old family of freethinkers? Not only Maironis Museum but also Vytautas church, stories of Vaižgantas. I would cycle around Kaunas Castle, reach the confluence of rivers and go back.
Do you think that’s all?
I have to go across the entire bridge and go up to Aleksotas in a funicular. Only from its peaks you will see my Kaunas, the real one.
I haven’t thought of how I am going to return back, descend the stairs and... When returning, we need to go along the entire Laisvės Alėja. And we will drop down on the stairs of Soboras...
This is my Kaunas.
From an interview with Gintarė Adomaitytė, interviewed by Justina Petrulionytė