Trakai

Trakai Castle

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Sat splendidly on a diminutive Lake Galvė island at the northern end of the town, construction began on Trakai Castle in the 14th century at the behest of the then ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Kęstutis, and was completed at the start of the 15th century by his son Vytautas the Great. Built as part of an expansion programme of the neighbouring Peninsular Castle, its completion came at more or less the same time that its military importance came to an end after the victory of the combined Polish-Lithuanian armies led by Vytautas against the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. Its second life as a residential palace saw it enter a golden age, with the castle visited and admired by many foreign dignitaries including the Flemish diplomat Guillebert de Lannoy (1386-1462), who mentioned it favourably in his memoirs. The castle’s demise came with the vicious war with Muscovy in 1655, which saw it seriously damaged and eventually abandoned. Attempts to rebuild it have been ongoing since the 19th century, with wars and border shifts complicating each new project as it arose. Ironically it was during the Soviet occupation that it was eventually restored to its former glory, with work beginning soon after the end of the Second World War. Reached by crossing two footbridges and one island, Trakai Castle is essentially two structures, namely the defensive outer section and the Ducal Palace. Entrance to the island and lakeshore around the castle is free, although an entry fee is required to visit the Trakai History Museum which is located inside the building.

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