From Klaipeda to Joniškis

Day 5 of our journey through Lithuania. After a rest day by the sea, my friends and I continued on 6 April towards the border with Latvia. Kretinga, Salantai, Plungė, Alsėdžiai, Telšiai, Seda, Tirkšliai and Žagarė were on the way. Žagarė turned out to be a remarkable time capsule.

Yuliya, Anna and I had taken a break the day before. We had walked through Klaipeda harbour, gone out onto the Curonian Spit, walked on the beach and visited Thomas Mann’s holiday home. As was to be expected, the Lithuanian weather service had been right with its storm warning. The wind was blowing hard and there was hail in between. We enjoyed it nevertheless, or perhaps because of the wild power of nature.

On the morning of 6 April we continued our journey. Slowly we moved towards northwest almost to the Latvian border. Among many other Jewish places of remembrance, we would again get to see wooden synagogues today – one of them in Alsėdžiai, the second in Tirkšliai.

We had a first interesting encounter in Telšiai. The place is rich in Jewish cultural monuments, including a remarkable large cemetery. Among the outstanding buildings is a former yeshiva. We found the doors locked, but we were lucky, a woman on her way to work opened the door and willingly let us in too. The yeshiva has only recently been restored. The interior is still being worked on. In the future, it will be used for all kinds of cultural purposes and an exhibition about Jewish Telšiai will also be shown there one day.

One place that immediately fascinated us was Žagarė. There are two Jewish cemeteries there, two synagogues and a mikva. That is remarkable enough, but what really fascinated us was the impression of a time capsule. You hardly see any new or renovated buildings. Many streets were deserted, many houses abandoned. We felt like we were travelling through time and decided to return the next morning to see more of the place.

In the evening we reached Joniškis. Our hotel was directly opposite the synagogue complex. Although the place is relatively large, we couldn’t find a single open restaurant or café. We bought something to eat at the supermarket and ended the day with a corridor party.

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2 thoughts on “From Klaipeda to Joniškis

  1. Very moving images and writing. My grandfather was born in Zagare, I only recently discovered this. So your blog is very timely and interesting to me. Thank you for sharing. Shalom, Constance

  2. Remarkable work. These towns had some of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the diaspora. To see them now, deserted of Jews, is a significant experience.

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