We weren’t finished with Lithuania just yet.
A reasonable bus trip from Vilnius made Trakai Island Castle an ideal day trip, and a great chance to escape the “seen the capital city, seen the whole country” travel mentality.
For a predominantly land-locked country, why build a castle on an island?
Well in the 14th century the ruler of medieval Lithuania, Grand Duke Kestutis, began construction of this stone castle on the largest of three islands in Lake Galve.
It was built in several phases over the next hundred years, no thanks to sieges by Teutonic Knights. It eventually lost strategic importance when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s enemy was defeated by the Lithuanian-Polish Army in 1410.
Nowadays, Trakai Island Castle is a major tourist attraction and a big boost for the local lake town. The waterfront is dotted with cafes and stalls with views that can’t be beat.
A wide wooden walkway connects the lakeshore with the castle’s island. Although today’s castle is a 19th century reconstruction of it’s 15th century style.
The red Gothic Brick is a clear standout, built upon stone wall foundations. Much of the stone is original, but obviously much brick and timber inside is not.
The inner yard is massive! You can imagine medieval markets and army parades taking place within these walls, while generals and such watched on from the balconies. A “follow the arrows” tour took us inside some of the rooms, which house the museum with relics and other items of interest. But the best part was the freedom to roam around the grounds.
Can a castle on an island have a moat? Isn’t the lake it’s own moat?
Once upon a time, this castle DID have it’s own moat! But the water levels of the connected lake have dropped much since then.
The Ducal Palace is what was separated by this moat from the rest of the forecastle. To get a better view of it, we took to the waters that were still there.
Andrew loves a good paddle-boat.
So off we went a-paddling. It seems the view on the lake and from the other side of it are pretty worthy.
Trakai Island Castle. A unique place in a unique country in a unique part of the world.
Back in Vilnius for our last evening, we only needed to look out our hostel window to realise one thing that we would take with us from our whirlwind tour of the three Baltic countries…
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were definitely worthwhile places to visit.
Because they’re all unique.
Visited 21st September 2014.