Vilnius, the secret city for travelers : Weekend getaway part 2
Find the first part here : https://steemit.com/photography/@haydae/vilnius-the-secret-city-for-travelers-weekend-getaway-part-1
DAY 3 –
Now that you’ve discovered the best of Vilnius, just expand your horizon further to the west where lies the island castle of Trakai, an alluring medieval fortress stretching out its red silhouette over the lake that surrounds it.
Trakai is only an hour away from Vilnius and pretty easily accessible with local transportation. Buses depart from Vilnius central bus station every 20 minutes and you can buy an inbound ticket from there at 5€. Know that the bus will leave you at the entrance of the town called Trakai, not right in front of the castle, but that’s for the best as the way that leads to the fortress is really bucolic and all the more so on a sunny day.
Favour the path facing the lake instead of the main road to get a glimpse of cute little decks and groves and then head back to the road when it becomes interesting, at the point where Vytauto street turns into Trakai street. At this point start the homes of the Karaite.
The cute path
The Karaites’ history is intrinsically linked to Trakai, and they practice a blend of Judaism that is pretty unique in the way that they adhere to the principles of the Ancient Testament but not to the Talmud. The local Karaite Ethnographic Museum is one of the ways you can learn more about this community but their traditions and culture is almost everywhere you look in Trakai, and it has obviously made its way to the table too.
One of the Karaite’s staple dish is the kibinai, a tasty hand pie filled with meat (lamb being the most sought after) or veggies, such as spinash and cabbage. Kibinai are shaped like a long leaf but are rather small so make sure you order a bunch, even though 3 should be enough to fill you up. Check out the Kybynlar restaurant, located right next to the museum and offering several varieties of Kibinai ranging from 1,80€ to 2,90€ per pie served by waiters in traditional Karaite outfits. We won’t pretend this place is a local gem though as it is constantly filled with groups of tourists but the food is tasty enough and the place comfy enough to make up for it.
We may have taken too much 😅
If you’ve stopped at Kybynlar, know that the Trakai castle will only be 5 minutes away but won’t deliver before you set foot on the bridge that leads it. It will somehow remain hidden until the last moment to impress you even more when its red towers finally reveal themselves out of the blue. There is a lush pathway circling around the castle but you don’t wanna miss the inside of the building in itself so that’s where you should start. Entrance to the compound costs 7€ but that’s a fair price considering there are a few exhibits within the castle and its rooms are not empty but showcase some artefacts dating back to the early days of the Trakai fortress. You’ll also find some more information on the history of the castle and will get acquainted with the achievements of Duke Vytautas, whose name you probably will have seen a dozen times so far without having the slightest idea who he is.
For a bit of mischief, be sure to allow some time in the main courtyard of the castle where former instruments of torture are being displayed and have quickly become tourists’ favourites. Who wouldn’t love to get trapped inside an iron cage where actual people used to get tortured, right…? Well, tourism must have its way.
As your visit ends, you can buy some raspberries to local vendors just outside the building and take a walk around the castle for a final look.
DAY 4 –
Depending on how many hours you have before your flight, you can try and visit some of the places you haven’t had time to get to, go on a shopping spree or decide to feast on one last lunch before you go home (which will probably consist of a big plate full of zeppelin, let’s be honest).
You can even do better and combine all the above, starting with a stroll on Gediminas avenue, Vilnius’ ultimate shopping avenue, that will ultimately lead you to the gates of the Museum of Genocide Victims for a much less light-hearted visit but one that is necessary to understand the scale of what Lithuanians went through in the past century, from Nazi occupation to the communist era. The location of the museum in itself is of strong interest as the building used to be a KGB prison and some of the cells can still be seen on the basement. You can then cross the Neris river and visit the National art gallery or visit the Center for Tolerance, exhibiting testimonies pertaining to the local Jewish community and its way of life before WW2 and glimpses of the life in the ghetto.
Before you know it, you’ll be back to the airport, ready to leave Vilnius but with a much more compelling idea of the greatness this city has to offer and a wish to share it with the world, or to keep it to yourself to make the magic last longer…
Plus, a yearning for zeppelin, we can bet on that.