The 14th century town of Trakai was one of Lithuania’s first capitals, and has two lakeside castles. The peninsula castle was destroyed in the 17th century, and only ruins remain. The restored island castle was built in the style called Brick Gothic on a little island in Lake Galve. (Brick Gothic took root in places like the Baltics where there was little native stone to build with.) At the end of the 14th century, when Lithuania expanded its territories as far as the Black Sea this castle became the residence of the Lithuanian Grand Dukes. Grand Duke Vytautas brought some 400 families of Karaites (Turkic adherents of Karaite Judaism) from the Crimea to serve as his castle guards. An active kinessa – a Karaite house of prayer – is located here, as is the Ethnography Museum of Karaites.
PUBLISHED: July 19, 2013