Stories

A city can be seen as a complex organism in which each element has its own seemingly official purpose and rules: residential areas, commercial and industrial territories, recreational areas, streets and sidewalks, power lines, and railway tracks. All of these elements act as components of a common urban system, while also creating the social environment around us. However, in every city, it is possible to find “gray urban areas”, as they were no man’s land with no defined purpose, and also difficult to access. These territories usually exist on the outskirts of the urban environment, as if cities ignore their presence. They are often disguised with trees, fences, and garages, thus being hidden from the eyes of the people.

One of such areas is the city’s streams. The riverbeds, their valleys, and the outline of the landscape are still a little-known element of the city. Although there are factories, garages, apartment buildings, cultural heritage sites in the vicinity of these streams, buses are running nearby and people going to work, but few would imagine that these areas could also be found deep inside residential areas.

There are more than 15 small streams in Kaunas (excluding many smaller springs and brooks). They did not establish themselves in the urban network of the city, became untapped and underestimated natural resources, although you can observe social, ecological, and cultural factors interacting in these areas with natural and urban elements bordering each other. As the city grew and became industrialized, stream beds were drained, landscapes changed, and the valleys became ditches. These areas, which do not have their own identity, were directly allocated for residents and industrial enterprises, without taking into account the social value of these areas. Riverbeds were changed, banks were fenced, landscapes littered with construction waste.

In the autumn of 2020, Kaunas residents were invited to natural exploration expeditions along the small streams to get acquainted with these urban corners of the city. In total, six expeditions were organized within the city limits, which stretched along the riverbeds and their valleys. During the hikes, the participants not only admired the wild and little-seen views of the city but also collected various natural and human activity objects (artifacts) found in the rivers, which reveal the relationship between the city, people, and nature.

Veršva

2020 09 27

The last stream visited this year was both the cleanest and most wild. From Linkuva manor, the team descended down the stream, detecting not only car parts and other debris, but also many signs of animals: various footprints, abandoned nests, skeletons, and small animals. During the expedition, both homemade architectural works, floating exotic fruits, and lost cyclists were discovered.

Photos by Rasa Chmieliauskaitė and Tadas Saržickas

Girstupis

2020 09 23

Probably the most famous stream in Kaunas is Girstupis. Well known in historical context, but not that familiar up close. On September 23, a very diverse team of expeditors started the trip in the Mickevičius Valley, followed the stream through Kaunas Zoo, crossed the campus of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), and visited probably the most abandoned Kaunas park – Girstupis Park.

Photos by Rasa Chmieliauskaitė

Amalė

2020 09 20

The fourth team of expeditors was exploring a stream in Petrašiūnai district. The warm and sunny autumn only made the hike along the Amalė stream a lot easier. Almost half of the stream is canalized and runs inside a pipe under Petrašiūnai district to the Nemunas river. As a result, the research team traveled in an open section of the furrow through garden communities and industrial areas. The locals met said that after a good rain, the stream sometimes floods so much that it covers even the ground floors of the buildings.

Photos by Rasa Chmieliauskaitė

 

Sėmena

2020 09 16

Every stream visited by the expedition teams is different. On September 16, we marched along the Sėmena stream in the Panemunė district. This stream runs not only in the natural environment but also between residential sites, is crossed by more than one bridge, stopped by many small “DIY” dams.

Photos by Renata Kilinskaitė

Bevardis Šančių upelis

2020 09 13

On September 13, the expedition explored the unnamed stream running right next to the Šančiai mound. The impression was left by steep slopes, strong currents, and natural tree bridges. The team found traces not only of humans but also of various animals.

Photos by Rasa Chmieliauskaitė

Svirbė

2020 09 12

On September 12, a freshly gathered team of explorers embarked on the first Kaunas city stream expedition. Svirbė is a unique Kaunas stream running down the steep slopes of the Aleksotas district and surrounded by two unique Kaunas objects: the only Jewish cemetery still operating in the city and the railway tracks that connect the lower and upper terraces of Kaunas.

Photos by Rasa Chmieliauskaitė

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