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It is as if a princess could throw open the shutters at any moment and let down her long golden locks outside the window – Trakai Castle would not be out of place in a book of fairy tales. The rest of the medieval town also appeals to the imagination. Trakai is only an hour-and-a-half by car from Vilnius and therefore an excellent destination for a day trip.
It may seem hard to believe today, but this charming little town was once the capital of the grand duchy of Lithuania. The fairy tale castle on the water was the centre of its power. Trakai is thus of great historic significance. However, there is more than just culture to enjoy here; Trakai’s beautiful environment also attracts plenty of visitors. The woods and hills surely make a long hike appealing and you can sail and surf to your heart’s content on the surrounding lakes – or even go for a lovely swim.
The town of Trakai is surrounded by water on 3 sides: Lake Totoriškių in the west, Lake Luka in the east and Lake Galvė with its 21 islands in the north. The strategic location of the peninsula has attracted numerous groups of people throughout the centuries, but the most memorable inhabitants were the grand dukes, who ran the show in the Middle Ages. The 14th-century grand duke Gediminas made Trakai Lithuania’s capital and his successors built the famous gothic castle as their seat of power.
The castle is by far the most popular attraction in Trakai. You can also visit the museum on Lithuanian history and culture within the thick fortress walls. The castle’s inner garden serves as a venue for concerts and national festivals, like the Trakai Medieval Festival each June. The impressive structure with its red towers can be reached from the mainland via 2 footbridges, as well as by sailboat or canoe.
Not only the architecture, but also the people of Trakai have a long and colourful history. Trakai is famous for the Karaites, who originated from Turkish-speaking Jews that made their way to the Crimea from Mesopotamia hundreds of years ago. In the 14th century, they ended up in Trakai at the invitation of grand duke Vytautas, who choose his bodyguards from this ethnic minority. A number of Karaitic families still live in Trakai and traces of their unique culture can still be found, such as the Kenesa, the traditional place of worship of the Karaites. There is also the Kybynlar restaurant, where you can order traditional Karaitic delicacies.