As someone who grew up playing Barbie and watching Disney Princess movies, it’s pretty obvious that I dreamt about a castle, like the ones in fairytales and a life that begins with “once upon a time” and ends with “happily ever after”. Also let it be known I was also dreaming about prince on a white horse too. Hmmm… no, maybe not, the horse was not necessary.When I got older I realised that life is not a fairytale and also that the maintenance of the castle would cost a fortune! And there is also one more thing. Not many castles look like the Disney ones!Trakai Castle is not one of these Disney-like castles however it is still extremely popular with the residents of Lithuania and foreign guests alike. This place has an old history. Trakai Castle is situated on a small island, with two wooden bridges leading up to it, in Lake Galve and is one of the most photographed sites in Lithuania. Perhaps, even in all the Baltic Countries. It commands the whole island in a splendid style. However, what you actually see now is not exactly what was here during the reign of Vytautas the Great. The whole castle has been rebuilt more or less recently and so you do not really get that epic feeling of visiting a building which is hundreds of years old. It just looks a little like it.
At first I was quite impressed by the castle that Lonely Planet deem significant enough to have put on the cover of its „Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania” guide book. First few looks made me whisper „wow” but then we entered it. The castle itself is quite ok. You may find here a few rooms with cabinets displaying medieval armour and big swords that aren’t sharp anymore, and honestly, they look like they have never been!
There are few more rooms filled with period furniture which come most likely from the XXI century. They look a bit like ordered from IKEA. There are some paintings on the walls, but all of them are new. How new? Well, like brand new! The first painting the guide shows to people visitng this place is from … 2013! Not a thing that you would expect in a medieval castle, no? In one room there is a display of coins. Polish coins! „The Crown of the Kingdom of Poland” is engraved on most of them! But at least they are old.
Finally there is a place where the obligatory figures in big coats stand, however, these coats are not Lithuanian; they are Crimean coats! In addition, there is a huge sketch of the Malbork Castle, which is Polish. Visitors that don’t know that it is the Malbork Castle may think that the Trakai Castle looked like that in its past years. I can’t resist the temptation of saying that most of things you can find in Lithuania’s grandest castle are not even Lithuanian.
After leaving the castle we were given 40 minutes to wander around and enjoy the surroundings. And then came the real „wow”. The setting of the castle makes from it a special place. I guess that in the winter when the lake is completely frozen you can walk across the ice, but it might be risky. In the summer this place looks almost like a summer resort with all the boats floating on the surface. In the fall, autumn colours of the trees that surround the castle give an irresitible impression that the castle is on the fire. Gosh, what a great place to live in that must have been! Who wouldn’t want to live in such a castle, if they had the chance?
Trakai doesn’t look like a castle taken from a big screen but this little fact doesn’t make from it a less fairytale-like palce. It’s location makes it a treasure trove of fairytales. After all, fantasy doesn’t have to end behind the brick walls.