Legend has it that Kaunas was founded by the son of tragic young lovers. Beautiful maiden Milda let the Holy Eternal Flame go out while caring for her lover Daugerutis; sentenced to death by vengeful gods they fled to a cave, where Milda gave birth to Kaunas.
Archaeologists believe the city dates from the 13th century and until the 15th century was in the front line against the Teutonic Order in Lithuania’s west. Kaunas became a successful river port in the 15th and 16th centuries. German merchants were influential here, and there was a Hanseatic League office. During the interwar period it became the capital of Lithuania, as Vilnius lay in Polish hands. Its strategic position is the main reason it was destroyed 13 times before WWII – when it once again received a battering.