21/03/2017

The Town of Lakes

Last weekend I embarked myself again in an adventure with ESN Riga, which never stops organizing trips for us, exchange students eager to hit the road as soon as the weekend begins. Destination? The only Baltic state missing: Lithuania!
After waking up at times I prefer not remembering, I got on the bus ready to face 5 hours of road trip - I swear I've never travelled in a coach as much as I do here - towards our first destination: Trakai.
Trakai Castle view
Situated about 30 km west of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, Trakai is also known as "the town of lakes", because it is literally built on water! In its region there are about 200 lakes, and the town is currently surrounded by 5 of them.
The city was founded in the 13th century by the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas (a medieval Lithuanian hero), and has been of primary importance for the whole Middle Ages - often considered the de facto capital of the Duchy.
Today, however, not more than 6000 people inhabit the place; Trakai has become famous mostly for its beautiful Island Castle.
Trakai Castle
Built around 1410 on a piece of land completely surrounded by water, the fortress served primarily for defence purposes. And it served well, considering that it is one of the few places which weren't conquered by Teutonic Knights!
Inside court of Trakai Castle
The castle slowly lost its strategic importance after the Lithuanian victory in the Battle of Grunwald, becoming firstly a residence, then a summer house, then a prison. From the 17th century on, it gradually fell into disrepair... 
Trakai Castle from the outside
It is only in the 19th century that the historical importance of the castle was understood, and plans for a reconstruction were started. The renovation of the castle finished as late as 1985 - but what you can admire now is a 15th-century style fortress at its best. It really feels like you're going back in time!
Stained glass in Trakai CastleStained glass in Trakai Castle
Hunting trophies
Medieval coins
The castle three main buildings are now filled with objects telling its story and that of those who inhabited it - from armors, to hundreds of ancient coins, to fully reconstructed bedrooms. I've visited a lot of medieval castles before (Italy is full of them) but this is the first time I actually feel like I've been thrown straight in another time. So if you're passionate about history, or even if you just enjoy watching historical TV series (like myself), come and enjoy one of the completest fortifications in Europe - and take in the beautiful view!


First picture by Worldfortravel.com, second picture by Expedia.ca. All other pictures are mine.


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