As we’ve previously included the annual Hanseatic days in the list of the most #kaunastic things this year, it’s time to tell you more about the festivities – one of the most significant events in Kaunas – scheduled for May 19-21th this year.
Picture by A. Aleksandravičius
But first, a short history lesson. On February 14, 1408, Kaunas was granted Magdeburg Law, which meant the city could govern itself. Kaunas immediately began to expand and became an increasingly important trading centre and port for Western Europe. In, 1398 traders’ guild with close ties to Hanseatic league, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns in 10 countries itself established in Lübeck in 1358, appeared in Kaunas. The with the league was signed in 1441 and its main office was located in House of Perkūnas, now an important historical monument, for a hundred years.
House of Perkūnas / Picture by R. Požerskis
By the late 16th century, the League had imploded and could no longer deal with internal and external struggles; it was finally demised in 1862. In 1980, the former Hanseatic League members established a ‘new Hanse’ in Zwolle. Kaunas is the member of the new international organisation consisting of 187 cities from 16 countries since 1991. We have discussed the topic with the Latvian tourism and Hanseatic history expert Artis Gustovskis, president of Kurzeme Tourism Association, in our blog – you’re welcome to read the article here.
Let’s see what’s on the menu for this year. The core of the festivities will of course be at the Kaunas castle – the area around it will be transformed into a medieval town and inhabited with knights, scholars, traders, craftsmen and artists. This is where the 10th International knight tournament will take place – you’re welcome to cheer for your favourite participants, try some armour or take part in a medieval gun handling competition. Nothing you could try at home, really! Make sure not to miss the workshop of traditional Lithuanian wood carving – a handful of skilled craftsmen will create wooden sculptures right in front of your eyes.
Picture from Travelinbaltics.com
A few grand concerts will be held at the valley of Kaunas castle – do catch the Medieval-themed performance of Corvus Corax (Germany), the best Lithuanian bands that follow the ethnic Baltic traditions, the soothing jazz-filled concert by DePhazz (Germany) and the internationally-acclaimed Lithuanian accordion prodigy Martynas Levickis.
A market will buzz in the Town Hall Square. Merchants from all around Lithuania will offer authentic traditional food, toys and accessories of all kinds (don’t forget to bargain!), accompanied by folk collectives performing right in front of the stands.
There’ll be plenty of different food items to choose from during the festivities, but if you really want to treat yourself in a Medieval manner, we suggest you visit Medžiotojų užeiga at the Town Hall Square, the oldest restaurant in Kaunas (we have blogged about it here). Even though it's a game restaurant in general one of the most interesting dishes on its menu is pickled mackerel with parsnip, once the delicacy of Old Hansa dock merchants. The pickled fish used to be transported from Bergen, Norway back in the days, hence the dish is called the Bergen Mackerel.
Picture by Medžiotojų užeiga
Families with kids are invited to enjoy Santaka park at the confluence of Nemunas and Neris rivers during the Hanseatic days. It’s a perfect spot for some quality time with your little ones – plenty of kid-friendly activities are planned there. Kite workshops, yoga classes, food trucks, football tournaments, carousels – you name it!
Picture from travelinbaltics.com
The rest of the Old town will be filled with sounds of jazz, rock, orchestra and folk music and performances of various kinds. To sum it all up, Kaunas will eat, breathe, drink and dance Hanseatic all through the third weekend of May. See you there!