LT2. Part 3b Semeliskes-Punia-Birstonas-Kaunas
Semeliškės –13km – Čižiūnai – 4– Aukštadvaris –4– Totoriškės –4– Vaickūniškės –20– Butrimonys –10,5– Punia –5– Šilėnai –3,5– Nemajūnai –9– Birštonas –6,5– Prienai –4,5– Bagrėnas –4– Ašminta –8– Pakuonis –8– Piliuona –23– Vaišvydava –7,5– Pažaislis – Kaunas(Pažaislis)- –11– Kaunas center
Birštonas- cross the river – 10 – Prienai- 16 – Balbieriskis-–11– Kaunas center
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Southern Route: Semeliskes-Punia-Birstonas-Kaunas
Regional Park Aukštadvaris
It was founded in 1992 for the purposes of protection of valuable Verksnė and Streva rivers’ landscape. The park takes up a territory of 15350 hectares, the bigger part of which are forests. There are 72 lakes; the biggest is called Vikoksnis.
The 257-metre Gedanonys Hill near the town of Aukštadvaris is the highest on the Dzūkai plateau. The fast-flowing rivers Verknė and Strėva both start in Auktadvaris. Almost the entire Auktadvaris ridge, one of the most picturesque places in Lithuania, lies in the basins of the two rivers.
River valleys, over 200 hills, and 77 lakes – all this can be found in the Aukštadvaris Regional Park. Archaeological findings in the burial mounds suggest that people lived here several thousand years B.C.
Aukštadvaris town is located on the right shore of the River Verknė, near lakes on the hilly surroundings. About 250 beautiful hills surround the village. Aukštadvaris is about 58 km away from Vilnius and 250 km away from the Baltic Sea. The transition road Vilnius-Suvalkai crosses this village in the east-west direction. Aukštadvaris is a plane of landscape, urban values, known since the 15th century and in now it is the village centre with a population of 1100 of population. In this village there are secondary and agricultural schools, the church built in the beginning of the 20th century, the noble estate with a park and ponds full of trout’s, natural monument-A.Mickevičius oak, Domininkonai monastery, and other sights. The place is loved by tourists and is often called “Lithuanian Switzerland”. Auktadvaris mound. In 1957-1960 it was investigated by Lithuanian archaeologists (V.Daugudis). It was defined that early buildings could be built in the II-I century B.C. The rest of the former settlements were found at the foot of the mound. Arrows released from the rampart inform about the nomad attack, while the lancers – about the mound’s defence. Later, when the castle lost it’s defensive purpose, the estate of the Grand Duke was established here and it seems that the name of Aukštadvaris village originated from this estate.
The town is situated on the right Verkne river’s shore, not far form the lakes of Marcius and Skreblius.
The town is announced an urban reserve, the purpose of which is to preserve the planned and spatial structure of Aukštadvaris and its nature’s and cultural values. It is surrounded by a kind of crown of 250 hills with a multitude of lakes and thick forests. The town of Aukštadvaris was mentioned already in XV cent. as a grand duke’s estate situated near the historical royal road joining the castles of Vilnius, Trakai, and Birštonas. The town protects a former St. Dominique monastery built in the first half of the XVII cent., but later rebuilt a few times. Also, it protects neogothic elements of the Church of the Christ’s Change, built in 1913. The farmstead of Auštadvaris is also left form the older times. Further, its park guards a huge oak tree, now called the oak of Adam Mickevičius.
Velnio duobė (“devil’s pit”) (4 km N). 40 m deep whole
Historical and archaelogical monuments
Mounds of Aukštadvaris, Lavariškės, Pamiškės, Moša, Strėva, Žuklijai;
Grave hills Drabužininkai, Strėva, Moša, Akmenių, Lavariškes u.a.
Pagan holy stones Mikroniai, Mergiškės und Žalioji alka
Places of former manor house in Valdislava, Kamarava, Tolkiškės, Alešiškės, Jankovicai, Modestava, Mergiškės;
Dammed lakes at the lakes and rivers Verknė and Strėva: formerly here were mills and timber working factories
Is a local center with about 2700 inhabitants. It has a post office, a kindergarden, school, cultural house, pharmacy and a horse race track (!). It was founded somewhere 15 km northeast of Alytus, named after a person. In written sourced it was first mentioned in 1699, in 1720 is was called a town at the importing crossing from Vilnius to Alytus and Punia. So a market and handicraft started to florish here. 1787 were 58 lithuanian, jewish and tatar families living here – 58 were occupied with handicraft. In the same year fire destroyed 2/3 of the place. In 1812 Napoleon’s “Grande Armée” crossed the place. 1842/43 the new wooden church was build. In the riot of 1863 some rebel army was build in this region as well. During the two fires of 1869 only 22 bad old houses remained in the nowadays Totorių gatvės. It also remained a places of traders and in 1892-97 was build the stone synagogue. In the Manor of Butrimonys the Church of the Holy Saviour was started to build in 1906 but finished due to the beginning WW I on in 1926. In WW II is suffered: it was destroyed and 700 Jews murdered. Still, it’s old city plan was declared urban monument. The church of Holy Trinity is it’s special value.
The city’s history is not only the history of a resort. In the crusaders’ chronicles, Birštonas is mentioned form 14 cent. On a high hill of Vytautas, there stood a wooden castle – one of the castles’ chains which protected the land form the crusaders’ attacks. After the battle of Žalgiris when the crusaders stopped attacking Lithuania, the castles lost their defense purposes. Later, all the animals were driven to the grand loop of Nemunas near Birštonas from the nearby woods and being hunted there. The history of the resort is not that long. Although the spurring salty springs are mentioned already in the 15 cent., only in 1846 people started to use their healing qualities. This year is considered the date of the resort’s foundation.
This is a town of a well-known historical past – the reserve of historical landscape. The sight of Punia – the mound that is frequently called the hill of Margis. It is one of the biggest ones in Lithuania (in the 16-17 cent, the place of the castle and the battle with the crusaders). It is situated in the junction of the rivers Nemunas and Punele. The name of Punia became known due to the historical tradition to connect the place with the mentioned in 1336 in the writings Pilenia, whose leader was a brave hero Margiris. It is thought that there stood a famous castle of Pilėnai on a mound. Its defenders burnt themselves because they did not want to surrender to the crusaders.
In the written sources of the 15 cent, Punia was a well-known settlement with the castle and a market square. Punia’s district was also mentioned. The first church was built in 1425.
During the 16-17 cent, it became one of the most important ethnographical centers of Lithuania. On Punia’s mound, on the place of the former wooden castle, there is a magnificent palace now, the residence of the Punia’s authorities. In 1503, Punia got the rights to be called Madgeburg.
Punia was destroyed during the Northern war. The town and the palace on the mound were burnt. In 1857, Punia’s church was built. Its sculptures of the 17-19 cent are ones of the most well-known cultural monuments.
Nemunas Loops Regional Park
The most valuable place of Punia’s loop is the unique landscape of Punia’s pinewood that preserved the features of the first primitive Lithuanian woods. These murmuring 100-yer-old trees are priceless treasures not only to scholars. This is one of the most valuable woods in Lithuania, the biggest Lithuanian wood in the river’s valley (more than 2700 ha). Foresters say that having come to Alytus and not visiting Punia’s wood is the same as going to Rome and not seeing the Pope.
Prienai’s estate was first mentioned in 1502 in the writings of the grand duke Alexander. In 1609, the settlement got the town’s rights. In 1785, a paper workshop (one of the biggest in Lithuania at that time) was founded. Its building is the industrial historical monument now.
One of the places of cultural heritage is the water mill. In 1997, international tree carvers’ symposium took place. The whole row of wooden sculptures on the topic of “Nature – the Spring of Culture” was left after it. Prienai’s church is attributed to the most interesting wooden churches of the Latin cross style in Lithuania.
Places to visit:
The forest of Žverinčius is spreading on the loop of Nemunas-Prienai. It is unique due to the Scotch pine. There are nature’s cognitive and bicycle paths .
Kaunas lagoon Regional Park
It was established in 1992 in order to preserve Kaunas lagoon’s natural ecosystem and values of the cultural heritage. The waters are 44 m above the sea level; the highest place is in the forest of Pastrevis with 93 m above the sea level. The deepest place of the lagoon reaches 22 m. the park is especially interesting for the variety of dendro-flora; foresters have moved many unique trees and bushes from their dendropark to the coast of the lagoon. Due to erosion, there are many various vivid precipices and rock exposures. Places of interests:
Arlaviškiai juniper bushes
It is strongly recommended to visit the barn pulled up from the bottom of the lagoon. The remains of the poet Jonas Aistis rest here.
The oak tree of Pažaislis. This is the thickest oak in the region of Kaunas. Its size is 6.7 m, height – 23 m, age – about 800 years. The tree grows near the gates of the monastery of Pažaislis.
The twins of Dubrava. Near the park, there grow an oak and a pine-tree stuck together. The pine-tree is 32 m and an oak is 28 m height. The trees are announced the nature’s object of the State’s protection.
The grove of cork trees. In the foot of the Samylai mound, in the 10th plot, there grow two different groups of 25 trees. The cork trees impress with their soft and uneven crust, which was used to make corks.
The grove of firs. It is situated 800m away from the Samyliai mound in the 1st plot. For an unknown reason, the trees form a few tops.
The spring of Duobakalnis. Near the arbor of Duobakalnis’ resting place, there is a water reservoir that never dries. Its streams separate into two brooks. One of these brooks goes into the prepared cascade where one can have some drinking water.
It is settled on both sides of Kuonė river. It got its name from the river.
Pakuonis is known from the 18 cent.. It was mentioned in the list of the parish’s villages in 1744. In 1794, Juozapas Osipovskis, Lithuania’s general major, and the monitor of Pagermuonis built the church.
When the church got old, the dean Kazimieras Jasiuliavičius – Jasulaitis with the congregation built a small stone chapel in 1883. During WWI, the Russians blew the church’s tower that was never rebuilt.
During the times of press prohibition, Pakuonis was one of the biggest press spreading centers.
In the south – western coast of Dubrava forest, on the right Nemunas’ shore, there is Guogai village, and 3 km to the north from it, is Piliuona village. On the junction of the two villages, on the steep Nemunas’ shore (that used to be as much as 8-10 m high); there was a mound here that was guarded in the North and South by Nemunas.
Accoding to archeologists, Guogai – Piliuona mound and the settlement date back to the 3-4 cent. AB.
The ancient people that took up industry and animal breeding lived here until the 13 cent.
The ensemble of the monastery of Pažaislis
This is a unique building ensemble of 17-18 cent., one of the most valuable monuments of baroque style not only in Lithuania, but in the whole north-eastern Europe. It has the status of the landscape architectural reserve. The complex of the buildings is made up of the baroque church, monasteries, big gate arches, forestry, a well, a tower, and other assisting buildings. The harmony of impressive surrounding and beautiful architecture will inspire everyone who will visit this place. About 140 different-size frescoes decorate the ensemble of the buildings.
From the old times, the monastery is famous for the respected picture of the believers. After 50 years, in July the 15th, 2000, one of the most precious relics of the 17 cent., the picture of God’s mother was returned to its historical place once again. Before, this picture was called “The mother of beautiful love with the baby”.