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Phespirit goes to Lithuania
Kaunas     October 2010

Phespirit is sitting in a gazebo at the botanical gardens of Kaunas. Behind him the low late-afternoon sun burns the back of his neck. The air chills his face and hands. He is wrapped in heavy clothes; not heavy enough for his previous rambles around the city, but way too heavy for the few minutes he'd spent in the humid orangery that is now stretched in front of him. The strong icy wind of yesterday has calmed to a gentle breeze. Even so, Phespirit is not warm, but after two days in Lithuania's second city he is beginning to warm to Kaunas.

Day one began well as his flight from London touched down twenty minutes early. A cold shower of rain was falling outside the airport terminal, so Phespirit was grateful to see the number 29 bus turn up on time. It took him through the city's centre to the S. Daukanto gatvė stop, just a stone's throw from Hotel Metropolis. Phespirit's arrival in the wood-panelled foyer was a bit premature for the receptionists but he was happy to go for a half-hour stroll up and down the city's main pedestrianised avenue, Laisvės alėja, while his room was being readied.

For the rest of his first afternoon in Kaunas he explored galleries and parks at the eastern end of the city. As cold rain continued to fall in sporadic showers, the repeated opening and closing of his little umbrella proved too much for it: two of its spokes snapped in half. This would prove unfortunate if downpours persisted throughout his stay. Happily though, the rain was confined to this first day. On his second day it was replaced by icy winds. Phespirit concentrated his efforts on visiting all of the city's sights between the grand Church of St. Michael the Archangel on Laisvės alėja, and Kaunas Castle by the confluence of the rivers Nemunas and Neris at the far western tip of the old city quarter. He was much happier indoors than out.

Day three, Saturday morning: Phespirit awoke to see brilliant sunshine and frozen puddles from his hotel windows. The weather had turned and would remain his friend for his last two days. He first took advantage by catching the number five trolleybus out to Pažaislis Monastery. The monastery is set in magnificent parkland on the shore of Kauno Marios (the 'Kaunas Sea'), a man-made water basin covering 63.5sq.km that was formed when a hydroelectric power plant was constructed in 1959. The autumnal colours here - yellow and green leaves tinged with orange, all sparkling with frost and sunshine - were glorious.

Returning from the monastery, Phespirit took a walk south of the Nemunas, down to the Lithuanian Aviation Museum and on to the botanical gardens. On his last day he walked even further, northwest across the Neris and way out to the Ninth Fort, which became infamous for atrocities committed during the second world war. He closed out his time in Kaunas by looking around a couple more museums back in the city's centre.

When Phespirit had first arrived in Kaunas he found a city apparently already on its way into a Baltic winter. He never imagined that halfway through his visit he could enjoy relaxing in an outdoor gazebo at a botanical garden. There's nothing like a change in the weather to change a mood, and a change for the better sent Phespirit away from Kaunas feeling better for having visited.

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