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Unique places in Lithuania: Trakai and Kernave

Trakai and Kernave


During the Middle Ages, the town of Trakai was the capital of Lithuania (the Grand Duchy of Lithuania). The three castles standing here indicate the importance of this place to the country. Even when Trakai lost its military significance, this place had long been the residence of Lithuanian rulers. The two Trakai castles which have survived are the best examples of defensive constructions in Lithuania. The culture of the Karaites is an integral part of Trakai history. The Karaites – a Turkic speaking nation – came to Trakai at the end of the 14th century. Take a look at their houses which are easy to spot, as their back faces the street and they have three windows – one for God, one for Vytautas the Great, and one for the inhabitants of the house. In the wooden kenessa (Karaite church) you can listen to the old Karaite talking about this small nation’s religion and history.
The history of Lithuanian Tartars is also related to Trakai. Several Tartars came to Lithuania as early as during the reign of the Great Duke Gediminas, but the majority of them settled here in the 14th–15th centuries, after Vytautas the Great’s campaigns for Crimea. Try šimtalapis – the traditional Tartar layer cake with poppy and raisins. On the other side of Lake Galvė, in front of the Trakai Island Castle, stands the white Historic manor of Užutrakis which once belonged to Count Tiškevičius. It is surrounded by the famous French landscape architect Emile Andre’s English style park with ponds, parterres and sculptures. The restored manor serves as a place for various concerts, exhibitions, conferences, balls and other events. In August the Evenings of Chamber Music take place here. The Trakai Island Castle also hosts concerts, plays and operas. The Trakai Historical National Park may be the smallest in Lithuania but it contains the richest historical and cultural heritage. Take a brand new look at Trakai from a hot air balloon! The 14th century red brick castle, standing tall among the trees and surrounded by water, is the pride of Trakai and Lithuania. Located uniquely in Eastern Europe on a small island, the superb Gothic Trakai Island Castle dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and was once the summer residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

To go back to very very old times you have to visit Kernavė – the distinctive site, which traces back the unique and extinct cultural tradition and civilisation. It boasts the Baltic States’ only complex of five mounds. Moreover, Kernavė is Lithuania’s ancient capital. Back to the past 10,000 years before Christ. Traces of unique cultures from the tenth millennium BCE to early Middle Ages are found in Kernavė. During the early centuries after Christ, Pajauta Valley experienced formation of large settlements with mounds used for defence. Mounds, as the main type of the pro-historic settlement, functioned in Lithuania from the Bronze Age to late
fourteenth century. Live archaeology. Every year in early June, on the occasion of State Day, Kernavė hosts spectacular “Live Archaeology Days” featuring demonstrations of ancient crafts, performances by ancient music companies and fighting shows of soldiership clubs.

Source: Lithuanian State Department of Tourism under The Ministry of Economy

Here’s a sampling of major yearly recurring events in Trakai and Kernave:

Kernave St. John Feast

The St. John feast is a traditional Lithuanian midsummer day, marking the summer solstice. It is an evening party with songs, folk dances and fortune-telling.
Period: 23rd of June
For more info visit the official website www.kernave.org

International Festival of Experimental Archaeology „DAYS OF LIVE ARCHAEOLOGY IN KERNAVĖ“

An unique event with Archaic music concerts, cooking contests, medieval fights, craft demonstrations and much more.
Period: June
For more info visit the official website www.kernave.org

Trakai half Marathon

Start and finish of a half marathon will take place at the city centre – at the crossroad of Karaimai and Trakai streets. Route will go further through Trakai city and stretches along the coasts of Totoriškiai, Luka and Galvė lakes, where every step is filled with Lithuanian history. Those wishing to finish half marathon will need to run 4 circles of 5km. These circles for sure will not be boring as you will admire wonderful Trakai castle and other miraculous architectural monuments during the running. Freshness provided by lakes will also be felt in every step.
Period: May
For more info visit the official website www.sportorenginiai.lt

Trakai Town Feast “Trakai Summer”

In June, on the territory of the Peninsular Castle, guests may visit workshops temporarily set by craftsmen. Prime focus of this event is knights‘ fights with swords, bats and battleaxes. Gourmands have a chance to taste dishes, appreciated by people who lived in the Middle Ages.
Period: June
For more info visit the official website www.trakaimuziejus.lt

Days of Ancient Crafts in Trakai Island Castle

The Days of Ancient Crafts in Trakai Island Castle are being organised since 2005. August was selected not by accident – on 23 August 1495, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander approved the Statute in Trakai Island Castle and granted the privilege for the first guild in Lithuania – the Vilnius Goldsmiths. The origin of the event is the medieval Festival in the Peninsular Castle. Crafts, military displays and arts dating back to the 14th-16th centuries are presented during the event. Concerts, performances, educational activities and games are organised. There is a tavern, and culinary heritage enthusiasts of the Trakai History Museum prepare dishes according to medieval recipes. The Trakai island castle becomes a centre of medieval crafts
Period: August
For more info visit the official website www.trakaimuziejus.lt