Essential Kaunas Tour with Lunch and Pazaislis Monastery Visit
Tour Participation Requirements
It's been a town for a thousand years, and was a capital for 20 of them. Today, Kaunas is both a free, vibrant metropolis and a time capsule of medieval and Renaissance architecture. This tour samples it all, along with some authentic Lithuanian fare.
Over the centuries, a tag team of Lithuanian dukes, Teutonic Knights, Russians, Prussians, Poles, Bolsheviks, Nazis, and Soviets have taken turns being in charge, each leaving their mark on the city's array of landmarks.
Monasteries became technical schools. Town Hall went from archive to prison to czar's roadhouse. Churches became ammunition depots and movie theaters. A 15th-century Hanseatic traders' building became a Jesuit school, then a Soviet warehouse, then a gymnasium. Yet somehow, almost everything survived reasonably intact.
Nowhere is that pattern of repurposing and survival more impressive than at magnificent Pazaislis Church Monastery, on a lagoon east of town, atop aptly named Peace Hill. It took an army of 17th-century Italian master craftsmen 60 years to build and decorate this late-Baroque showplace, the gift of an art-loving Lithuanian patron to the Benedictine monks it housed for its first century. With 140 ethereal frescoes adorning their vaulted church, they must have felt very close to heaven itself.
But when Napoleon arrived on his ill-fated 1812 Russian romp, the peace on Peace Hill was shattered. The French troops pillaged and plundered and stabled their horses on the monastery's fragile marble floors. The monks managed to hang in until Napoleon cleared out, but Czar Alexander I evicted them for good in 1831 – and had Pazaislis converted into a Russian Orthodox sanctuary, even down to changing white monks' robes to black in the wall paintings.
During World War I, the monastery was again sacked – this time by Germans, who turned it into a field hospital. In 1920, it was turned over to a sect of Lithuanian nuns for restoration, but they got kicked out in 1944 by the Soviets, who used Pazaislis as a mental hospital, then an art gallery. Finally, once Lithuania gained independence in 1990, the monastery was returned to the loving care of the Sisters of St. Casimir.
You'll be bowled over by the amazing beauty that endured here – especially those masterful frescoes – and by the peace that now prevails on Peace Hill.
In 1920, with Bolsheviks and then Poles in control of its traditional capital city of Vilnius, the embattled but independent-minded Republic of Lithuania named Kaunas as its acting capital. Over the next 20 years, the town prospered as never before, ballooning into the country's largest city. But that growth was soon to falter. Germany invaded in 1941, and over the next three years, one quarter of Kaunas' population (including almost all of its Jews) would perish at the hands of the Nazis.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.