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Day 1: Home to Kaunas

We've got some expensive holidays coming up later this year - most notably Iceland in September - so we didn't want to spend too much money on our Bank Holiday breaks. When we were browsing flights for Spring Bank Holiday and saw cheap flights to Kaunas from Luton, it therefore seemed like a really good idea to book. We'd had a fantastic week travelling around Lithuania in 2015 and decided that it was both a very beautiful country and a very cheap one :)

It almost turned out to have been a dreadful idea, however, when a few weeks ago I read a news article saying that there were multiple strike actions planned at Luton airport over the course of the Bank Holiday weekend, which were expected to cause significant disruption. We've hardly flown from Luton at all over the past couple of years, and so it seemed like extremely bad luck that the one time we did book a Luton flight there was going to be a strike. Happily, it all blew over in the end and the strikes were, if not completely cancelled, at least postponed until after the Bank Holiday. Phew! 

Compared to our trip to Malta from Gatwick at the start of May, the flight to Kaunas was at the rather civilised time of 9am, which meant that we didn't have to leave home until 5am this morning. The drive to Luton was fine, although I was slightly concerned when we got to the long stay carpark that we weren't going to be able to find a place to park in because it was so busy! The airport itself didn't seem outrageously busy, though; security was a bit chaotic, but we were soon through and having breakfast in one of the few eating establishments in the departures hall.

Our flight ended up being slightly delayed, perhaps because it was so misty outside, and so that, combined with the two-hour time difference between the UK and Lithuania, meant that it was around 2pm local time when we finally landed. Kaunas airport is one of the smallest we've ever been to, and Tim observed that our plane was nearly as long as the airport was wide. I certainly didn't get the impression that they had many flights landing per day, as they let us all get off the plane and walk across the tarmac any way we felt like, rather than having to keep to strictly marked-out pedestrian paths like at most airports!

The benefit of it being a small airport was that it didn't take us long to get through passport control and out the other side. There is a direct bus which runs from the airport into the centre of Kaunas (bus 29), but it only runs once per hour and the next one was due at 14.25. If our flight had been on time then we would actually have had to spend quite a lot of time sitting around waiting for it, but as it was we pretty much walked straight out the door of the airport, found the bus stop and got on the bus.

I thought Malta's buses were good value for money, but Kaunas definitely wins the prize for the cheapest airport bus; a single from the airport into the town was a mere €1 each, despite the fact that the journey took approximately 40 minutes.

The bus actually terminates at Kaunas train station, which is a couple of kilometres from where we are staying, so we'd decided to try to be clever and get off the bus partway along the route, as some studying of Lithuanian bus timetables last weekend had revealed there was actually a stop on the same road as our apartment. I was a little bit dubious as to whether we were actually going to manage it, but it turned out that the bus had a helpful visual display announcing the next stop, and so we succeeded :)

We'd notified that apartment owner that we would arrive some time between 3 and 4, so we set out to find the apartment. Lithuanian addresses can be a bit confusing, and the address of the place we were staying in was given as 16/10 on this particular road. A bit of googling revealed that this meant building 16, flat 10. We found building 16 quite easily, but it looked like there were some sort of local government offices on the ground floor so we didn't really want to go wandering around. Tim called the apartment owner instead and she said she would be with us in a minute. She was true to her word, showing us up some steps to a pleasant little apartment on the first floor.

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It wasn't the biggest apartment in the world but it looked fine for one night, and it was great value for money at only €36 :)

The only thing which was slightly odd was the bathroom, with the toilet somehow being located in the middle of the floor rather than up against a wall!

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Oh, and the fact that we had no running water! The lady explained that the water had been turned off for the whole area between 9 and 3 today for some sort of work, but that it should be coming back on soon. We had seen some men doing roadworks as we walked up the road from the bus stop, so it looked like the work was running over a bit! She offered to bring us a bottle of water, but there was a shop just round the corner so we set off to get our own supplies.

Once we'd stocked up on the essentials, we headed back out for a stroll around Kaunas. 


It was a beautiful sunny day here, and we enjoyed walking around the pretty little streets of the old town. There was one street in particular which we remember from our visit in 2015.


This was L. Zamenhofo gatve, named after the creator of Esperanto, who apparently lived on this street at some point.


It had taken us completely by surprise in 2015, because we had no idea it existed, but it was less of a surprise today :) Once we'd taken some Zamenhof photos, we continued on our way towards the main square.


We soon found ourselves outside Kaunas' cathedral, which is rather unusual being completely made out of red brick.


The main square is just across from there, with the town hall on the right and another, arguably more impressive, church on the left which we had initially assumed was the cathedral itself on our previous visit.


We walked across the square and around the back of it, trying to find our way to Kaunas castle, which we were sure we had found somewhere around here on our previous trip.


We soon came across this slightly scary statue, which definitely looked familiar...


...and then we were there.


We didn't go into the castle itself, but followed a pleasant path around the edge of it, which leads through a park alongside the river.


There were some lovely views back towards the centre of town...


...and we also found the place where the rivers Nemunas and Neris converge.


It was getting towards 6pm by this point, so we decided to walk back into the city centre in search of something to eat.  We found the long pedestrianised avenue which we remembered from last time we were here, where there are plenty of cafes and restaurants :)


I had a nice pizza and Tim had a burger, though he wasn't entirely happy about the ratio of burger to salad/gherkins!

We were feeling pretty tired by this point so walked back to the apartment to cool down and have an early night. Happily, by the time we got back we found the water had come back on and was running normally! We are travelling to Vilnius tomorrow, but our train isn't until 13.46, so we will have some more time to explore Kaunas in the morning :) 

Edited by Clare

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