Leisure in Trakai

1. TRAKAI ISLAND CASTLE AND MUSEUM

Trakai Island Castleis a Gothic castle, standing on one of the many islands in Lake Galvė. Studies show that before the construction of the castle there were three small islets and a waterlogged area between them.

Trakai Island Castleis a medieval Lithuanian defensive architectural masterpiece, the only water - borne castle in the entire Eastern Europe. A new modern brick Gothic castle was built during the reign of Duke Vytautas the Great and it originally combined the defensive and the residential uses. After the Battle of Grunwald (1410) upon defeating the Teutonic Order, the Island Castle became the residence of the Grand Dukes. At the beginning of the fifteenth century Trakai was a prosperous town, it was visited by many merchants, distinguished guests, foreign envoys, who were accepted in the representational hall of the Island Castle.

Vytautas the Great died in this castle on 27 October 1430.

In the sixteenth century, upon the loss of its military function, the residence role of the Castle diminished and the Lithuanian Metrica previously stored in the Castle was moved to Vilnius in 1511.

The island castle became a prison of noblemen.

All dukes of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy lived inTrakai Island Castle. Only Sigismund Augustus discontinued this tradition by building himself a palace in Vilnius, at the foot of Gediminas hill.

After the devastating Tsarist Russia's invasion in 1655 - 1661 Trakai town was pillaged and burned and the Island Castle destroyed and not rebuilt. Only in the nineteenth century the interest in the past of Lithuania began and the restoration started. Although not much work has been done, but it is very significant for the preservation of the Castle. After the Second World War the Trakai Castle conservation and restoration was continued by Lithuanian specialists. In 1953 the castle restoration again began.

In 1962 Trakai Island Castle was passed to the history museum. It features exhibitions, displays, hosts concerts, festivals and celebrations. Every year thousands of people visit the Castle.

 

2. TRAKAI PENINSULA CASTLE, AUKŲ HILL AND DOMINICAN MONASTERY

Trakai Peninsula Castle was first mentioned in written sources in 1387 - 1392, in the “Russian cities list”, which indicates that a castle with two brick walls and a wooden upper castle stands in Trakai at the lake. It is estimated that the Lithuanian Grand Duke Kęstutis began the construction of the Peninsula Castlein about 1350 - 1377 on the highest point on the peninsula – Aukų Hill. According to the legend, there was a place for pagan rites and sacrificial to the gods. In the second half of the twentieth century unfinished remains of the palace were found on Aukų Hill. The structures of this hill were included in theTrakai Peninsula Castle defence complex and the Teutonic chronicles call it the New Trakai Castle. In the fifteenth century the Castle’s earth and wood structural defences were replaced by masonry. The Castle was completed during the reign of Vytautas in 1414 - 1430. After the death of Vytautas, Švitrigaila and Žygimantas Kęstutaitis resided in it.

Trakai Peninsula Castle was a powerful defensive fortress and one of the largest castles in Lithuania, occupying an area of ​​4 hectares and with 11 different sizes of defensive towers. In the second half of the fourteenth century, during the attacks of the Crusaders, the castle was a key outpost of Vilnius.

Trakai Peninsula Castle was called the Great Castle and was one of the residences of the Grand Duke. After the loss of this role the castle was converted to a prison for noble statesmen or enemy prisoners of war.

After the devastating wars with Sweden and Russia in 1655 the castle was destroyed and not rebuilt. The concern about the condition of the castle was resumed only in the nineteenth century and the restoration began.

At the end of the eighteenth century the castle was given to the Dominican monks. Here they began to build a large three - nave church, but did not have enough funds to progress so equipped a single nave chapel in place of the church and a monastery on the other side. In the nineteenth century the tsarist authorities closed the monastery and the buildings were transferred to administrative institutions, while the castle area was turned into a park. Since 1990 the former Dominican monastery hosts the Trakai History Museum Administration.

The Dominican monastery complex consists of two two - storey rectangular housings, but the monastery buildings do not have significant style features.

Today, the castle peninsula area hosts a variety of events. One of the most impressive are medieval feasts, reviving the medieval life.

 

3. BLESSED  VIRGIN MARY VISITATION PARISH CHURCH

Trakai parish church was established by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas in 1409. The church was built in Gothic style. Is not known exactly when the construction was completed and the church was consecrated, but the pastor of the church was first mentioned in a document of 1479. It is believed that the same artisans worked in the construction of the church as in Trakai Island Castle and the same construction materials accumulated for the castle construction were used. It is therefore likely that the red - brick Gothic church was built in the end of the second decade or in the beginning of the third decade of the fifteenth century. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, taking into account the changes in the liturgy, the bishop of Vilnius Eustachy Valavičius rebuilt the church.

During the war with Moscow in 1655 - 1661 the church was plundered and devastated. Afterwards it was reconstructed in the Baroque style and the church interior gained Baroque features as well. During the 1794's uprising the church was on fire: the organ burned, the fire damaged the porch and the roof. In the twentieth century, the church building was damaged during the world wars and poor care was taken of it during the Soviet period. Currently the Trakai Church is being restored.

The church is famous of the painting of the Trakai Mother of God. It is believed that the painting was made in 1123 in Constantinople and in 1390 Emperor Emmanuel II Palaeologus gave it to Vytautas. In the beginning of the eighteenth century Pope Clement XI crowned the painting with a golden crown. It was the second crowned painting in the state of Poland and Lithuania. The first one is in Czestochowa, Poland. This church preserves Trakai Our Lady's painting crowns, which now can be seen in Vilnius Museum of Applied Arts.

 

4. BLESSED OUR LADY’S BIRTH ORTHODOX CHURCH

Trakai Orthodox Church of the Birth of Holy Mother of God is in Trakai town centre. This church has one tower, in addition to the bell tower.

Although the Orthodox community settled in Trakai in 1844, yet it was decided to build a church in Trakai only in 1863. Russian Empress Maria Alexandrovna donated 6,000 rubles for the construction and 50 thousand bricks were given by G. Adelson, the builder of Kaunas and Paneriai railway tunnel.

Construction of the church began in 1862. It was managed by the engineer A. Polozov, who adapted the typical church building project for the chosen location. Brick building had a structure and shapes standard for Orthodox worship buildings without any specific individual features. The church had no bell.

In 1863 the church was consecrated, giving it the name of the former Holy Mother of God - the same as the church that was formerly standing in the end of the town.

The church was built in 1863 to commemorate the repression of the Lithuanian uprising against the Russian Empire government.

The Orthodox church was damaged during the First World War, when the church towers and the roof were demolished during the shootings to Russian positions in the town. For this reason, for a long time the masses were held in private homes. Only in 1938 the church was completely renovated and mass moved back to it.

The Orthodox Church is the Orthodox community property.

 

5. KARAITE KENESA

New Trakai became a homeland to Karaites who were brought here from Crimea by Vytautas the Great in the end of the 14th century and settled in part of the town, situated between the two castles - the Peninsula and the Islands.

The first kenesa is believed to have been built in the times of Vytautas, while Karaites were settling in this town. In the first half of the sixteenth century kenesa burned in a town fire and was restored in 1533. In 1655 during the war it was destroyed with the rest of the town and rebuilt only later, as the town was emptied and the community had no money. In 1794 the building again burned during the town fire. Karaites from Luck and Crimea helped to restore it with their funds. The work has not yet been completed when in 1812 the kenesa was burned again, this time by French troops. In 1824 Trakai Karaites applied to the Central Board of other spiritual beliefs of Petersburg, asking for funds to build a stone kenesa. In the absence of money a wooden kenesa was built, but the interior and the exterior was bricked. In the same year the kenesa was consecrated. Last major repairs were performed in 1903 - 1904. Since then, the appearance of kenesa little changed.

 

6. ST. NEPOMUK’S WAYSIDE SHRINE

An important highlight of Trakai town is St. Nepomuk’s wayside shrine. It is believed that it was built in the seventeenth century on the Market Square as an advertisement pole. Only later a statue of a saint was built on it and it became known after the name of a patron of fishermen and the town surrounded with waters – St. John Nepomuk’s wayside shrine. A legend says that it was built by an Užutrakis steward who was caught in a storm on the lake. The statue was torn down after the rebellion in 1863 and later rebuilt. The wayside shrine was also party destroyed during the First World War. In autumn of 1961, following the order of the Soviet government, St. John Nepomuk’s statue was removed and thrown into the lake. However, the personnel Trakai History Museum found and preserved the statue. On 16 may 1990 St. John Nepomuk’s statue was restored and consecrated and solemnly returned to the former place.

The holy image is used in Trakai town coat of arms, so it definitely is an important symbol of the town of Trakai.

 

7. UŽUTRAKIS MANOR AND PARK

The peninsula between Galvė and Skaistis lakes is often mentioned in historical sources since the fourteenth century. Then it was called the Algirdas Island and belonged to the Tatar nobles, later it changed hands for a number of times until in the second half of the nineteenth century was purchased by Count Joseph Tyszkiewicz. After his death the estate was inherited by the youngest son Joseph with his wife, the Polish princess Jadwiga Svetopolk - Četvertinska. Here they founded Užutrakis manor, known today, which holdings stretched to 800 ha and 80 ha were dedicated for the family residence.

Užutrakis Manor and Park are located in Trakai Historical National Park, on the peninsula between Galvė and Skaistis lakes. This is a neoclassicism style two - story palace with a terrace, a regular shape building with four monumental facades, designed by a famous Polish architect Jozef Hus, who became the compositional centre of the estate.

Not less famous is the Užutrakis Manor Park, designed by the world famous French landscape architect and botanist E.F. Andre. The park was conceived as a water park. Užutrakis peninsula was equipped with a complex pond system, consisting of more than twenty ponds intersecting with one another and at least one of the Great Lakes. Užutrakis Park features a unique variety of vegetation. It has an extraordinary collection of herbs, rich in both native and foreign trees and shrubs proposed by the park architect E.F. Andre. The old park is home to bats.

Užutrakis manor and the park are being further restored. Currently Užutrakis manor and the park are used for various events.

 

8. ANGEL HILL

In 2010 near Užutrakis manor, the Angels Hill was founded at Būdos village. The prayers of people visiting this picturesque location are listened by 25 magnificent oak angels, symbolizing Love, Faith, Hope, and Peace of Mind, Strength of the Spirit, Health and other Christian values.

The first 17 angel sculptures ​​ nearly 5 meters tall representing Christian values, were created by a group of artists brought together by the famous Lithuanian folk artist Algimantas Sakalauskas and later carvers from all over Lithuania joined this project.

However, not only the well - known artists from all over Lithuania and guest countries, but also some ordinary people or organizations wanted to settle their angels on this hill to commemorate them important values ​​in life. Here you can even find the Seniors Angel, carved out of the old Eržvilkas oak, under which once the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas overnighted. In Soviet times, the oak tree was regarded as a symbol of the national esteem, thus the government of occupants attempted to destroy it. However, people cut down the tree and hid it. After many years the oak owner found out about the Hill of Angels, and decided to resurrect it by creating an angel from the old oak.

Now, every visitor of the Hill of Angels can bring his angel to this hill. They like to hang smaller angels of their desires on specially constructed metal “daisies”. Others settle their guardian angel right under the most appealing oak sculpture of an angel.

 

9. THE WAY OF VYTAUTAS THE GREAT

A unique project was conceived and implemented while commemorating the 570th anniversary of the death of the famous Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas - while driving from Vilnius along the road to Old Trakai you can see the wooden sculptures. Wood carvers created nine sculptures that embody historical facts meaningful or related to the duke.

The first sculpture is Vytautas the Great himself. His victories are symbolised by the St. George sculpture. Two horse - mounted Karaites remind that 600 years ago Trakai became their home. In the face of Mary, the Mother of God, you can recognise Vytautas mother Birutė. In addition to the Vytautas the Great and St. George's sculptures, until the very end of the authentic Old Trakai village, with the Castle Hill and the Benedictine monastery buildings, gardens and the neo - Gothic church, by the roadside you will find the sculptures of St. Casimir, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Kęstutis and Birutė, St. Benedict, St. Mary with the Child, the pieta and the escape from Egypt.

 

10. OLD TRAKAI ANNUNCIATION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY AND ST. BENEDICT'S CHURCH AND MONASTERY

Old Trakai is the whole place of the Gediminas dynasty, the old capital city. For the first time, this place was mentioned in 1337 in V. Marburg’s Chronicle. It is said that in the first half of the fourteenth century the current Grand Duke Gediminas built a castle in Old Trakai village of Trakai district, while moving the capital city here from Kernavė. In 1345 - 1382 the castle was ruled by Kęstutis, son of Gediminas, and in about 1350 the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas was born here. In 1375 Kęstutis moved his capital city from Old Trakai to New Trakai protected by the lake.

After the assassination of Kęstutis, Skirgaila then reigned the castle, and while the armies of the Order were approaching, he burned the castle and retreated. So in 1391 the Old Trakai Castle was destroyed and was no longer rebuilt. In 1405 the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas gave the castle to the Benedictine monastery and built a Gothic church, which at the end of the nineteenth century was rebuilt.

 

11. COGNITIVE TRIAL OF VARNIKAI BOTANICAL - ZOOLOGICAL RESERVE

One of the particularly interesting tourist destinations in Trakai district is the cognitive trail Varnikai botanical - zoological reserve with a length of 3.5 km. Of these, 1.3 km is a plank - covered trail leading across Ilgelis swamp.

The total cognitive trail area is ​​611.3 hectares, of which has many as 450 ha is covered by a natural mixed forest 100 - 130 years old, with 130 - 150 - year - old oaks. The reserve has 600 species of higher plants, 16 of which are included in the Red Book of Lithuania. It also has 118 species of moss (4 protected while another 3 are found for the first time in Lithuania), 204 lichen species (4 reserved). The reserve area is a home for 441 taxa of plankton algae and 15 protected species of insects.

The cognitive trail includes two types of terrain and landscape: a hilly terrain formed during the ice age, with the old forest, and a young man -planted forest, and the organogenic relief with residual lakes (Ilgelis swamp).

Varnikai cognitive trail route consists of 10 information stops where you can see the most beautiful and hard to reach places of the reserve, providing visitors with formation about the nature and the local landscape. The special place of the trail is the 8th station where you can see three ecotopes of the reserve close to each other, arising from the terrain and ground water moisture: oaks at the top of the hill, mixed forest on the slopes and the swamp at the foot.