Trakai Island Castle
Trakai Island Castle is a Gothic-style red brick castle built in 1410, mostly destroyed 400 years ago, and recently reconstructed. Trakai was the historical capital of Lithuania and the castle was once the home of the Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania. In a town of lakes, the castle sits in a storybook setting, surrounded by water.
The town of Trakai has a street of old Karaite houses, painted in various colors, all with the same delicate lace curtains. Grand Duke Witold brought the Karaites (Karaim) from Crimea to settle in Lithuania in 1392; their religion is based on Judaism’s five books of Moses and dates from 8th century Iraq. Their house of worship is called a Kenesa, and their original prayer books were written in Hebrew script. A tiny community of Karaites remain here; they observe the Sabbath on Saturday, and celebrate Passover, making their own matzah.
We had lunch at Kybynlar, a Karaite restaurant in the town, dining on a delicious soup made from kale, potatoes and vegetables. We also were served kybyn, a half-moon pastry (resembling a Cornish pasty according to our British tour members) typically stuffed with meat, but for us vegetarians a cabbage/vegetable filling was substituted.
I did not sample the Karaite national drink that resembles beer — krupnik, which is made from cloves, roots, spices and alcohol.