04 September 2016

We gathered downstairs at 11:30 for the bus to the train station. Made it there with enough time for a quick breakfast.

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Sat with the normal crew on the train, but was too entrenched in my guidebook to socialize.

We arrived at the Trakai station around 1:00. It was a fairly gloomy day. Trakai was briefly the capitol of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14the century before it was moved to Vilnius.

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Our first destination was ‘Island Castle’. Built in the 14th century by Kestutis (son of the famed King Gediminas), the castle was partially destroyed by Russians in the 17th century and then partially reconstructed by Russians in the mid-20th century.

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Surrounded by water, the interior complex reminded  me ‘Winterfell’ from Game of Thrones.

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I toured with Daniel, Kristiaan, Robbin and Jan.

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Kestutis’ son, Vytautas, died in the castle in 1430.

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The castle was frequently used to hold court and host foreign dignitaries.

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We had the opportunity for ‘target practice’ after our self-guided tour. It was my first time shooting a gun (albeit with a tiny pellet).

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Afterwards, I dragged the group to the Karaite Kenesa (synagogue), which was unfortunately under construction. The Karaites were a Turkic group that adopted a form of Judaism that does not acknowledge the oral torah.

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They were invited to Trakai in the 14th century to protect the castle, and their descendants still inhabit Trakai today.

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We sat down at a Karaite restaurant where we enjoyed a traditional cuisine- Kibinai (meat stuffed pastries).

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The crew graciously followed me to the ruins of another castle of lesser importance before heading back to the train station.

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Once back in Vilnius we picked up some food from the market. I still have not figured out how to navigate a Lithuanian grocery.

I spent the rest of the evening writing, talking with family, and watching Narcos.

 

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