Located in a beautiful setting between the shores of five lakes Trakai is the most visited tourist attraction in Lithuania. There are a number of architectural, natural and cultural sites, therefore it is not possible to describe in words how beautiful this city is in reality. Every visitor from different countries around the world always find something amazing and incredible in this small city. It may be a unique Karaite culture and cuisine or interesting museums or beautiful nature. But most of tourists visit Trakai just because of its famous castle called the crown jewel of Lithuania.
Of course the most famous castles originate from a variety of fairy tales and legends. There are a lot of well known examples in Europe, and one of this is magic Trakai full of myths and secrets. According to one story, one day Gediminas, grand duke of Lithuania and one of the strongest medieval rulers of eastern Europe, decided to hunt near Kernave, a medieval capital of Lithuania. During this hunting party he saw a beautiful landscape with lakes and islands, and decided to build a castle in the middle of one of lakes.
Another legend is based on women’s whims. Trakai people are telling a lot of romantic stories about beautiful Birute, a wife of a local duke. She was born in Palanga near the Baltic Sea and missed her hometown. Birute was so unhappy in Old Trakai compared to her birthplace that her husband decided to make an unusual gift for he. He begun to build a castle surrounded by lakes.
As history has shown Trakai castle has been conquered, destroyed, and rebuilt. Construction of the stone castle on one of the larger islands of Galvė Lake began in the second half of the 14th century. The Grand Duke Kestutis decided to build an unassailable fortress, and as he wanted his fortress was never conquered by any raiders. In the beginning of 15th century, Vytautas the Great continued to strengthen castle´ security and as a result Trakai island castle was well fortified and sprawling for medieval time. Moreover according to the stories, Vytautas the Great brought the mysterious Karaite community from the Black sea. Even at present, walking on the streets of Trakai it is possible to see wooden Karaites houses with three windows facing the main street. The legend says that one window is for God, another one for Vytautas the Great, and the third one is for the people who live in that house. The kenese – original wooden Karaitian church built in the 18th century also reached our days. The only Karaite Museum in the world was established in Trakai in the first part of 20th century.
After death of Vytautas the Great, Trakai started loosing its significance. The castle was redecorated in a new style, and firstly served as the royal summer residence for a short period of time. Later the castle served as a prison and finally in the 17th century it was almost completely destroyed. In the 20th century Trakai castle was restored in an original medieval style.
Now it is known as a major tourist attraction in Lithuania. Trakai castle is the home to the history museum, often hosting Trakai medieval festivals, various concerts and craft days. Every season has an amazing events: there are a lot of colourful and exciting tournaments, scrumptious feasts, festivals with artists, musicians, buskers, artisans, archers and merchants. During these Trakai medieval festivals it is so easy to close the eyes and return to the past: tourists can visit workshops set by local craftsmen, get a boat, yachts or steam boat trip, swim, walk in the city or just sit near Galve lake.
So even if you are indifferent to history, a castle with a 300 m wooden bridge leading to the fortress, long channel connecting the halls and galleries of indescribable beauty, stained glass, frescoes, secret passageways will absolutely fascinate you. If you are tired from the daily routine, book a romantic and unforgettably impressive tour to Trakai.