Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania,
is 30 km from Vilnius. The unique landscape of Trakai, "the
town of lakes" as it often called, is comprised of numerous
picturesque lakes and hills. The main landmark of Tarkai is
the famous insular Trakai Castle.
In the 14 the century, on the shore
of the Lake Galve the first castle was erected and the construction
of the second had been started. The insular castle was within
the firing range from the first one. Grand Duke Vytautas finished
the construction and turned the castle into an unassailable
fortress which has never been conquered by the enemies. When
the capital was moved to Vilnius, Trakai lost its leading
role in the political life of the country but retained its
importance as the residence of the Dukes and a significant
administrative, political and economical center of Lithuania.
At this time both the town and the castle prospered. Luxurious
feasts were held for the foreign ambassadors and important
guests from all over Europe. By the end of 16th century, the
town had gradually lost its former political importance. It
was finally outgrown by Vilnius. Remoteness from the main
trade routes led to an economical decline. Soon the town became
a kind of a place of exile for disagreeable noblemen and the
castle turned into a political prison.
The Trakai Castle is an excellent
example of Gothic architecture. The center of the architectural
ensemble of the castle is the Duke's palace, surrounded by
the thick defensive wall and protected by the fore-castle.
The staterooms of the palace are decorated with stained-glass
and mural paintings, representing the scenes of the life of
Grand Duke and his family. The living quartets were connected
by wooden galleries. There was a secrete passage, leading
from the duke's bedroom to the treasury hall and to the courtyard.
The castle was equipped with the unique for that time system
of forced-air heating: the hot air went up pipes and warmed
the cold stonewalls. According to the Lithuanian chronicles,
fabulous treasures were kept in the castle. Even the saddles
on thoroughbred horses were made of gold. Some of the saddles
were presented to Russian prince Vasiliy I.
The first attempts to restore practically
ruined Trakai castle were made at the end of the 19th century.
The main restoration works were conducted during the time
of the soviet occupation. From 1962 the castle houses the
Trakai History Museum.
Address: Kestucio St., 4
Phone: 370-5-2858241, 370-5-2858240, 370-5-2858246