October 20th is the World Statistics Day as declared by the United Nations Statistical Commision. It’s always nice to have something to celebrate, so we’ve decided to throw together some figures. Kaunas is quite often presented as ‘the second city’ in Lithuania, and numbers actually are a convenient method of describing its features, tricks and qualities, that is, all things kaunastic. We don’t want to brag about ‘singles’ and ‘onlies’, so let’s start with something a bit longer than that and leave ‘1’ to the poetic title.
1,7 is the length of Laisvės avenue, one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe. If you consider the fact that it seamlessly blends with Vilniaus street which comfortably dives under the busy Birštono street, the total distance one can walk without ever having to stop at a red light is 3 kilometres, starting from the Town Hall and stopping just behind the Garrison Church.
Laisvės alėja; Photo by AMDstudija
18 times out of 23 the champion title of Lithuanian Basketball League was won by Kaunas’s very own BC Žalgiris. By the way, the Žalgiris Arena has also beaten a few Euroleague game attendance records; the fact that the arena (also known as the Mecca of basketball!) is the biggest and most modern in the Baltic States has definitely helped to achieve that.
In 2016, our team became the LKL champions for the 6th time in a row; Photo by E. Ovčarenko/15min.lt
44 buildings in Kaunas were awarded the European Heritage Label in 2015. All of them were built in the period of 1919-1940. The modernist ideas were brought to Kaunas by Lithuanian architects that studied abroad but were asked to come back as the city became the temporary capital of Lithuania when Poland occupied Vilnius region. The most marvellous examples of the Kaunas school of architecture that are now included in the European Heritage Label List (and have also helped Kaunas to achieve the UNESCO Design City status!) are the Central Post Office, Romuva Cinema, Sports Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Trades and numerous residential houses in the New Town and Žaliakalnis.
Central Post Office
62 sets of stairs can be found in the hilly town of Kaunas, most of them joining downtown, also known as the New Town, with Žaliakalnis. Before 1926, all of the stairs were wooden; many noteworthy architectural decisions were implemented in the interim period and later, of course, quite a few of them have aged with time. As ‘Žaliakalnis’ means ‘Green Hill’, a bunch of local characters have started an urban regeneration initiative called ‘Let’s make the Žaliakalnis stairs green again’. An alternative means of transportation straight up the hill can be used, too, as Kaunas operates two vintage funiculars. They are one of the oldest in Europe and are speeding all the way up at 2 m/s.
Žaliakalnis funicular; Photo by Creative/Wikimedia Commons
93.6% of Kaunas residents are Lithuanian, according to the 2011 census. The statistics makes it a very homogenous city – in fact, the most homogenous in the Baltic States. The reality is in fact much more vivid. Many Erasmus students or members of academic society choose Kaunas as their home for a semester or two; the EU membership has made it easier to resettle and international relationships are now common. All of it instantly reflects in the cultural scene, making, for example, the AURA dance theatre a truly international one.
140 frescoes of various sizes can be gazed at the ensemble of Pažaislis church and monastery. The ensemble itself is one of the most astounding masterpieces of late baroque architecture in North Eastern Europe. You can find out more at the local museum; be sure to round off the experience in the hospitality complex Monte Pacis situated right there at the monastery by tasting historical dishes once prepared by nuns and now interpreted by aspiring chefs.
Photo by pazaislis.org
400 and beyond musical works were written by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, a globally renowned Lithuanian composer and painter – and one of the first true multidisciplinary artists. His paintings list lasts beyond 300 and his ideas include those of neo-romanticism, symbolism and art nouveau. The M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art was established in 1921 and will be fully renovated by the end of 2016. Before the grand re-opening, you can still visit the museum and get to know one of Lithuania’s greatest artists not only by seeing his paintings but also by listening to his music in a specially designed hall.
'Sonnet of the Pyramids. Andante', 1909; Courtesy of ciurlionis.lt
440 square meters is the area of one of the largest murals in Lithuania called ‘The Master’. In 2013, it was painted by Gyva Grafika (Edgaras Stanišauskas and Tadas Šimkus) on the wall of an old shoe factory that was successfully yet temporarily converted into an art incubator called ‘Fluxus Ministerija’ (yes, fluxus art movement indeed hails from Kaunas). After closing down the incubator the artists wanted to get rid of the mural as well; it was also considered a tobacco ad that should be banned but the Master and his pipe still reside near the Kaunas Castle and has become one of the true symbols of the city.
1000 Litas are depicted on the facade of a business centre built on the intersection of Taikos and Pramonės prospects in 2008. The stained glass facade is officially the largest in Lithuania and boasts 2821 square meters. It also won the silver medal in the TOP11 of the most unusual buildings of Europe by CNN.com and was listed among 300 world’s best office buildings in the prestigious album ‘Collection:Offices’.
Photo by Renatorius/Reno
2022 is the year when the title of the European Capital of Culture will be granted to one of the candidate cities of Lithuania. Six have applied and Kaunas, together with Klaipėda, has made it to the final stage. We do hope to update you with some #kaunastic results in 2017 as the project team and their ambitions are insanely strong. Check the progress at www.kaunas2022.eu.