Walking in a winter wonderland
Trip Start Jul 11, 2005
62Trip End Apr 04, 2006
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All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost
- J. R. R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
· Trakai, Lithuania
· Prague time +1hr
· Days to get to Prague - 4
Lakes, castles and snow. Loads of snow
We wanted to do a side trip from one of the Baltic state capitals and Vilnius was the one we chose. And for good reason. 28km west of the city is Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania and part of the Trakai Historical National Park, the only historical national park in Europe. The park was founded in April 1991 to preserve Trakai as a centre of Lithuanian statehood. It contains numerous forests and almost 200 lakes. But the areas biggest draw, and the primary reason we tramped out here from Vilnius, is undoubtedly Trakai Castle, a 14th century red-brick castle sitting in the middle of Lake Galvė. Sounds idyllic, eh? And it also sounds impressive, right?... a castle sitting in the middle of a lake in what, believe it or not, used to be the capital of quite a powerful empire? Well, Trakai obviously hides its past well, very well, and today it's nothing more than a sleepy one road village lined with karaim houses and churches. Which is good, because it makes it hard to get lost.
Myself and Henk were dropped off the bus from Vilnius at one end of town and we made a democratic decision to follow the aforementioned road to what looked like the business end of the village. We eventually stumbled across what we assumed was a frozen lake. Trust me when I say it was hard to tell for sure in the driving snow. But it was a lake, one we ventured out onto in the hopes of finding the thus far elusive castle. Thankfully it wasn't too far away. Having soldiered on over the lake (see the pictures for more) the castle slowly emerged from the haze of the falling snow and presented itself to us. As we approached the structure it was hard to tell it was actually on an island; the only hint was the bridge connecting the castle entrance to another nearby island. This, of course, would be the only way to get to the castle in the summer months. But that would be too boring; we much preferred the way we did it. It was a shame then that after all that the castle was closed and we were limited to taking a few pictures from the courtyard entrance before being kicked off the premises altogether. So we turned around and this time followed a more mundane path back to the village, where we stocked up on supplies for an evening meal in the hostel kitchen and the overnight trip to Warsaw. We just had to get back to Vilnius, a task that involved a wait in the bus station that neither of us was too impressed with. But musen't grumble. No no, musen't grumble. See you in Warsaw.