When we last left our heroes.... we were about to get on a train to Lithuania. I am happy to say we got to the Central Train Station in Warsaw on time and took the 9 hour journey in stride. Well, as much stride as can be. About 6.5 hours in they switched us to buses because there was track work before the border. Then we got on the Lithuanian train which was waiting for us (I guess on purpose?). It was a nice long journey through the countryside with some GREAT views of farmland. I think I understand where most of the oxygen in the world comes from now - the rich, green farmland of Poland and Lithuania.
In Lithuania we spent time in two cities: Kaunas
. I'll give you about a paragraph on each just to make it simple.
Kaunas is cute and easy to navigate. A small city of about 300,000, there are nice buses (even electric ones) that go all over the place, and a main pedestrian thoroughfare with free wifi throughout! There used to be a strong Jewish community but all that's left is a museum and a synagogue. I actually got a chance to go to shul on Friday night with the 10 other Jewish men (and the 12-year old boy) who still live there. The second day in the city we got a chance to rent a car and visit the hometown of some of my ancestors: Krekenava. It was about an hour away by car and in the middle of nowhere. We eventually did get a chance to see the old cemetery and on our way back stopped off another town called Kedainai for some more Jewish visits. The end of the journey led us to the Ninth Fort
, a WWI defensive position around Kaunas that was used by the Nazis to kill more than 30,000 Jews.
Vilnius has an amazing history dating back 700 years. The Jewish community has always had some kind of vibrancy, sometimes being kicked out, sometimes being asked back in. The Vilna Gaon, an amazingly intelligent Jewish man lived here and had much influence on the Jews across the globe. In fact, when Hassidism, a sect of Judaism less concerned with traditional learning and more concerned with activating secular Jews in their religion, he fought back. My kinda guy. I got a chance to go to the historic synagogue, a structure built in 1903 and very well kept. The whole city is walkable with SO much history - I highly recommend checking it out.
If you would like to take a look at any of my other pictures, please check out this link
. There are comments below the pictures as well!