Local spirit hovering in Kaunas 9

Laura Rimkutė
www.kamane.lt, 2016-04-08
Kaunas. Nikolaj avenue, currently Laisvės avenue. Intersection of Savanorių and Vilnius streets in the early 20th century. Photo from miestai.lt

In brief: The image of the city is shaped by a variety of symbols - such as architectural buildings or public city spaces: parks, cafes, restaurants, cultural sites. However, such material objects acquire meaning and a special atmosphere only because of the local population. In other words, these objects are provided with special meaning by genius loci.

First of all we should mention the largest urban area, which covers the slightly smaller ones - Laisvės avenue. This street has become the main artery of the city already in Tsarist Russia times. However, it has become an essential place for city's economic, social and cultural life only during the interwar period. Banks were located here, shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, cinemas and other public establishments.

In addition to Laisvės avenue, Kaunas residents had other important public places in the city. One of such places is Vytauto Park founded in the outskirts of Ąžuolynas. Although the beginning of the park goes back to the 19th century, it raises nostalgia to Kaunas residents because of the amusement park for children that was established there during the Soviet period, which is currently still operating.

Bohemian Kaunas could not have been imagined without cafes and restaurants with a distinctive culture. One of such restaurants (also a hotel) is the famous Versalis (Laisvės ave. 88). It was opened in the interwar period and was famous for being a bohemian place and having subtle entertainment (it was offering an evening cabaret program), thus it was loved by intelligentsia and other high-ranking guests.

Another important place beloved by Kaunas residents was Konrado cafe (in the Soviet period it was called Tulpė), which was located in Laisvės ave. 45. During the interwar period it was a meeting place for people with variety of views and professions - professors, artists, writers, lawyers and etc. At "Konradinė" people were discussing and sharing ideas.

While there were several larger department stores in Kaunas, most discussed were the demolition works of the famous Merkurijus that took place a few years ago. The building had nothing to do with interwar period, it was a typical example of late Soviet modernist architecture. However, people felt sorry for it.

Although the places mentioned here are not a part of historical heritage of national significance and often have no special architectural value, they are meaningful to the residents themselves. After all, the identity of the city is made up not only of specific places or events, but also of how people themselves value and perceive different places, what emotions they assign to them. Of course, it is not possible to preserve all the old favorite places of Kaunas residents; we need to come to terms with the inevitable change in the city.

Read comments
Write your comment