We had the pleasure to host Michal Manor and Nofar Ronen, two visiting bloggers from Israel, in Kaunas earlier this Autumn. The two travel writers were among the first travellers on the new direct Ryanair route between Tel Aviv and Kaunas. What they brought home and have already shared with their readers were many different stories and discoveries, as well as pictures and travel tips.
Michal and Nofar found some time to tell us about the favourite parts of their four-day trip that coincided with a Žalgiris game and the All Saints’ Day. You can read more about their time in Kaunas on Nofar’s English-language blog here. She also made a video..! Manor’s Hebrew-language blog entry about Kaunas is right here.
Have you visited Lithuania before?
Nofar: No, this was my first time, but definitely not the last one.
Michal: It was my first time, too.
What keywords would come into your mind when thinking about Kaunas before your visit? Have the keywords changed now?
Nofar: Actually, I didn't know much about Kaunas so only a few keywords in my mind, like “a city in Lithuania”, “Leah Goldberg”. Now I have many more, like “the city of basketball”, “the 9th fort”, “culture and history”, “Kiemo galerija”, “culinary city”, “street art” etc.
Michal: Before, the word was “complicated”, and after my visit, I would add “gentle” and “revival”.
Nofar: We had the chance to see a lot of the city, but I would love to see more. , to spend some time by the lake. I felt that I didn't have enough time in the Ninth Fort, which was really interesting.
Michal: Agree – I wouldn’t mind to stay a few more days to investigate more.
What was the most unexpected thing you discovered?
Nofar: The Yard gallery (Kiemo galerija) was one of my favourite places. I had never seen such an exciting and unique gallery. Also, the basketball game in Žalgirio arena was much fun, and the atmosphere was awesome.
Michal: I was very excited to visit the Yard gallery and to meet its creator, Vytenis Jakas. Additionally, I hadn’t known almost anything about Kaunas history and about the Jewish past, so I think this is the most unexpected thing I discovered – especially the stories Linas, our guide, told us about the interwar period, the Soviet period and the story of Chiune Sugihara.
How would you rate your gastronomic experiences? Which places were your favourite, which dishes did you prefer?
Nofar: Wow!!! I loved the gastronomic experiences in Kaunas. I hadn’t expected the food to be that good. All the restaurants were good, with excellent service. I really liked DIA which serves modern food; the octopus dish was my favourite. I loved Monte Pacis restaurant in the Pažaislis monastery; their sweet potato soup was one of the best I have ever tried. Uoksas with its modern Lithuanian cuisine was really good, and their pumpkin brûlée dessert was very photogenic and delicious.
Michal: Kaunas is one of the best gastronomic places I have visited – I’d rate it 9.5. I really like Baltic food, and I like both the traditional food which reminds me of my grandmother and the modern interpretations. It is challenging to choose one dish because everything was so good, I liked all the fish meals and the desserts. The best restaurant was DIA, but all the other choices were delicious as well.
Did you bring home any souvenirs?
Nofar: Yes – a lavender pillow which I got as a gift from the art and linen shop Jaukūs namai. It is a lovely shop, and the owners were so nice.
How did you find the autumn weather? Was it comfortable enough for sightseeing?
Nofar: We had great weather. We felt so lucky because the temperature was around 16 degrees Celsius, which was perfect. The colours were so beautiful, I loved taking pictures of the leaves.
Michal: Agreed – 16 degree is ideal for me. I was pleased that there were still a lot of golden leaves on the trees, and my camera liked it...
How did you like the Žalgiris experience? Is a basketball game something you’d recommend for Israeli travellers?
Nofar: It was one of the highlights of our trip. I will definitely recommend Israeli travellers (actually, any travellers) to go to a basketball game if there is one when they come to Kaunas. Even if you are not a basketball lover, you will have a wonderful experience there. The atmosphere is incredible.
Michal: At first, I thought I’d be bored in the game, but when we came to the arena and saw all the fans I immersed into the enthusiasm and passion, and it felt as if I’m a part of the locals. Then, during the game, I understood what is so exciting in basketball. We joined the audience and cheered the group and were quite disappointed when they lost. I’ll definitely recommend Israelis to go to a basketball game in Kaunas.
As we saw on Instagram, you had the chance to see the River of Souls, a traditional Kaunas event held every November 1, by lighting thousands of candles to remember our loved ones. How would you describe this event to your Israeli readers? Did you find the event meaningful?
Nofar: I feel that we had special luck on this trip. With the weather, the basketball game, the River of Souls and by meeting Vytenis Jakas. So, yes, the river of souls was a special event. For me, it was significant because a week before someone really close to my heart passed away so I felt like the River of Souls was especially for him. I even lit a candle for him.
Michal: When I’m abroad, I like to feel local, so, if I have a chance to experience a tradition or a holiday, it upgrades my visit. The first night we saw young people with Halloween costumes than, the next day we saw the light of the River of Souls, and it was really touching and meaningful.
What did you talk about with Vytenis Jakas, when visiting the Yard Gallery? How did you find the concept of the gallery?
Nofar: Again, as I said, we were fortunate during this trip. We met Vytenis, and he was charming. He explained Linas, our outstanding tour guide, about some of the art. And Linas translated it to us. He told about a wall that he had just started to work on and described the vision of what it will look like. The gallery was one of my favourite places on this trip. It tells the tragic stories of the residents but also shows hope and a better future (at least this is how I saw it).
Michal: The meeting with Vytenis Jakas was a significant event in this visit. I think that Vytenis is a very talented person and very modest on as well. His stories helped us to understand and sincerely appreciate the concept of the gallery.
Follow the bloggers on Instagram, too! There are some great stories from Kaunas in their profiles...