Not sure what to do with myself, I asked the hostel staff for suggestions and they recommended a visit to the nearby Trakai Island Castle. This required a bus ride to Trakai, and despite not having any maps or fully knowing where I was going, I was up for the adventure.
When I arrived at Vilnius bus station, it was easy to find the correct bus because of the huge signs as well as the other tourist-like people waiting around. The bus arrived and we paid the driver as we boarded. It was a nice drive through town and out into the beginnings of the countryside.
When the bus pulled into a station in the middle of nowhere, the driver said something in what I thought was Lithuania. Everyone on the bus looked at one another like, “Is this the place?” The driver indicated we should get off, so most of the passengers disembarked. I found a map nearby and Trakai Island Castle was a fair walk into town. Even if I didn’t find it, the town seemed like a good place to explore.
I passed many churches, a few restaurants and a couple of schools along the way. It didn’t seem like there were a lot of people here, even though Trakai is a big tourist resort town these days. I continued along and finally spotted a pathway down toward the lake that revealed Trakai Island Castle in all its glory.
From across the lake, the castle looked very impressive with its red-brick construction. The dark clouds created an ominous feeling around the place as I crossed the wooden bridge from the mainland. The closer I got to the structure, the more I entered the Medieval period.
The castle functions as a museum in which visitors can learn about Trakai and Lithuanian history. Many of the rooms contain chain mail, swords, helmets, tapestry, gold and other remnants of a time long past. With admission, you’re allowed inside the castle and climb century-old steps (although I’m sure the castle has been refurbished throughout the years) and walk through age-old doorways.
As I wandered from room to room, I avoided the rowdy groups of children on school trips with their tour guides and tried to find pockets of solitude. It felt like the castle could talk to you if it was given the chance. Maybe it’s the ghosts from battles fought in the surrounding regions?
I spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits and trying to picture what it would be like to live in a place like this. Of course, only Lithuanian leaders called this home. Normal people lived in normal houses as they do all around the world. But still, it’s a wonder that these cold, brick walls housed real families and servants, soldiers and cooks, stablehands and ironworkers. It boggles the mind.
As the day went on, the weather didn’t let up. The wind was cold as it blew across the water. It was definitely time to go. I headed back to the bus station and made my way back to my temporary home in Vilnius.