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Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania situated 30 km from Vilnius. Trakai region features unique relief: the combination of numerous unbelievably pure lakes and moraine hills create a breathtaking sight. There are even ancient legends explaining the exceptional lucidity of the lakes. According to one of those legends, the Skaistis Lake ("Lucid") was made from a young maiden's tears. All her life the beautiful girl was waiting for her beloved worrier, who had been sent to war against Teutonic Knights, and never came back. The "town on the water", as Trakai usually called, is particularly rich in architectural and cultural monuments; there are more than 300 of them.
The main landmark of the town is the famous insular Trakai Castle, situated on the island in the Galve Lake. It should be mentioned that today it is the only insular castle in Eastern Europe. The construction of the castle was started in the second half of the 14th century and completed by Grand Duke Vytautas at the beginning of the 15th century. When the capital was moved to Vilnius, Trakai lost its leading role in the political life of the country but retained its importance as the residence of the Dukes and a significant administrative, political and economical center of Lithuania. At this time both the town and the castle prospered. By the end of the16th century, the town had gradually lost its former political importance. It was finally outgrown by Vilnius. Soon the town became a kind of a place of exile for disagreeable noblemen and the castle became a political prison.
The Trakai Castle is one of the largest Lithuanian medieval castles, it occupies the area of 1,8 ha. The castle comprises of the palace, defensive walls with massive towers and a fore-castle, that is separated from the walls by a water canal. To enter the castle, you have to cross an ancient draw-bridge. The Gothic Palace is situated in the very center of the castle. A 25-meter high donjon with shooting apertures dominates the front facade of the Palace. The staterooms of the palace are decorated with stained-glass and mural paintings, representing the scenes of the life of Grand Duke and his family. The interior of the palace was abundantly adorned with profiled bricks, stained glass and decorative tiles. The castle was equipped with the unique for that time system of forced-air heating: the hot air went up pipes and warmed the cold stonewalls.
The first attempts to restore practically ruined Trakai Castle were made at the end of the 19th century. In 1951, full-scale restoration and exploration works were started in the castle. Now the castle houses the ethnographic museum, which exposition covers the period from the oldest time to the middle of the 20th century and displays authentic furniture, porcelain, crockery, articles made of glass and bone, seals, hunting trophies and archeological findings discovered in the Trakai Castle.