Thursday, October 14, 2010


This small town about an hour west of Vilnius is notable for a few reasons. It was once a thriving centre in the middle ages, second in size and importance in Lithuania only to Vilnius. A magnificent castle that was partly destroyed and lay neglected for hundreds of years has been fully restored and now contains a museum. It's on an island in a lake connected to the mainland by a walkway. That's the castle in the photo above.

Trakai is also the home of a Turkic-speaking ethnic group called the Karaims, who were brought here from the Crimea as bodyguards in the fourteenth century. Apparently they've developed their own branch of christianity, one based on the old testament and especially the ten commandments. They spread out a bit through Lithuania but there are only about 250 of them left today and 65 of them are in Trakai. I don't think I met any of them except perhaps for the waitress in the Karaim restaurant I went to but she might've just been wearing a traditional-looking jacket for customers. I went to a museum about Karaim culture and history and was told I could go into their church, called a 'Kenessa', down the road but when I tried I couldn't get in.

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