Reached via two walkways across Lake Galve the island castle of Trakai is the greatest symbol of Lithuanian nationalism. Situated in an area of lakes and forests roughly 15 miles west of Vilnius, the red-brick turrets, watchtowers, and tall keep were restored in 1962 by the Lithuanian government much to the chagrin of then Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev.
At first view from the lakeside the castle appeared to be more than the official 500 metres away across the lake. However, I was soon distracted by sail boats, people thrashing about in small green rowing boats and picnickers by the path. There were vendors selling amber jewellery, ice creams, and postcards.
Inside the castle there are many exhibitions to see, most of them in the keep. In the large courtyard people were taking photos of each other in the stocks and inside a rusty iron cage. The keep exhibits evoked what life would have been like in the medieval castle and also showed traditional Lithuanian garb. The most interesting piece was the interactive exhibit which showed how the castle evolved over the centuries and how little of it was left before restoration began – probably only 10% of the original castle remained. The castle is the most visited site in Lithuania and on summer weekends can attract as many as 10,000 people. These visitors not only benefit Trakai they also subsidise other places that aren’t as well visited because Lithuania’s museums are run as a whole entity. This helps places such as the Ciurlionis Museum in Druskininkai, which has 50 customers on its best day and sometimes none for days in the winter.
Julian has written articles on Middle Eastern and European architecture for the US magazine Skipping Stones. He has written travel articles that were published in The Toronto Globe and Mail, Fate Magazine, National Catholic Register, and Northwest Travel. Julian has also written articles for the In The Know Traveler, Go Nomad, InTravelmag, and Go World Travel websites. He has also taken many photographs that have appeared in travel guides by National Geographic, Thomas Cook and The Rough Guides. Examples of his work can be found at http://www.photographersdirect.com/sellers/details.asp?portfolio=13734