If you’re in Vilnius and want to get out of town for a bit, historic and picturesque Trakai is an easy day-trip and a pleasant place to spend a Saturday. Well, any day really, but Saturdays offer a quirky little extra: brides.
As we amble along Trakai’s main street, several wedding-decorated cars drive past, horns blasting. Weddings are important in Lithuania. For historic reasons, says Karolina, our guide on this lovely August day. ‘Family has always been an important structure of the community,’ she continues. ‘At one time essential to its survival.’ A bride and groom then, is a symbol of optimism.
Weddings are steeped in traditions – old and new. One such tradition is that a groom must carry his bride across at least nine bridges. Hence Trakai’s appeal: during our few hours in town, we spotted lots of brides being carried across the bridges between Trakai and its restored Gothic island castle.
What’s a fairy-tale island castle without an enchanted lake? Lake Galvé has a whopping 21 islands and numerous myths associated with it. About mermaids. About love and loss and tragedy. And Lake Galvé is of course haunted. As is the castle.
Mermaids or not, Lake Galvé is a lovely place to while away a few hours. Pedalos or rowing boats are for rent:
The Karaite of Trakai
Trakai was founded by Grand Duke Gediminas in 1337. At least, that’s the year it’s first mentioned in the chronicles of the Teutonic Knights. Later that century, another grand duke relocated an ethnic group from Crimea to Trakai: the Karaite (also known as Karaim).
Arriving in town, you can’t help but notice the colourful wooden houses lining the street. Green, yellow, red, orange – and, oddly, all with three windows facing the street.
Nothing odd about it, says Karolina. These are Karaite houses, and the windows have a purpose: one is for God, one is for the Grand Duke, and one is for family and friends.
The Karaite have kept their unique traditions, religion and language.
The language is Turkic (not Turkish, although Turkish is also a Turkic language), and sounds like this:
Quite melodious, I think – and sadly, on the verge of extinction.
Haha, that’s such a cool tradition! I’d be exhausted if I were the groom!
I know! 9 bridges…
So I guess that when choosing a bride, size does matter! I watched the video but my speakers are not working – now I have a reason to get B.H. to fix them, but hey I did get to see the making of the traditional lamb and pastry dish. The houses look cute with their vibrant colours and three windows.
You have a point. A case for choosing light-weight brides 🙂
Love the colourful boats and houses! A very pretty day out indeed!
Yes, definitely a colourful little town.
Excellent! When I went to Trakai in March we had a sudden blizzard! Hardly saw the castle at all through the snow, but did take refuge in the Karaim museum
Oh, blizzard. Must have been a different – but no less interesting – experience. Although I think summer suits Trakai very well.
How does one get to Trakai? I’d never heard of it before. Great photos.
You just reminded me I should add a little practical information.
Just take a train from Vilnius 🙂
That is one cool, charming and beautiful town! The castle, lake and colorful houses look like they jumped off the fairy tale pages. It’s such an interesting tradition but the poor groom – he must be exhausted on his wedding day. Carrying brides over the thresholds as a tradition in some countries doesn’t sound so bad anymore compared to this.
I love colorful houses 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, Muza-chan 🙂
Nine bridges? He better make sure he’s strong.
Did they say what happens if he doesn’t make it?
This is quite a beautiful town — love the colorful houses.
No, I didn’t hear anything about unsuccessful attempts by weaklings 🙂
Now that is definitely a different sort of thing to do on a Saturday – bride carrying. I wonder why nine bridges. You’d think one would do it. And what happens if you fail? Hmmm. What a lovely looking town and such beautiful colourful houses. I’d like to visit.
An interesting and easy day out if you’re in Vilnius.
I love all of the vibrant colors! I don’t think I’ve ever seen or read anything about Lithuania…very interesting!
Thanks. Yes, I think Estonia and Latvia get more attention.
Wow that’s beautiful! We had hoped to go to Lithuania after Estonia but did not have enough time to do it justice. I hope to visit someday.
Vilnius is just a 1.5 hr flight from Oslo; a bit more roundabout from Stavanger, but not too bad 🙂
The first photo is beautiful, I love that red!
It’s quite the beautiful castle.
What a beautiful town. I love your last photo of the house. Those window boxes are gorgeous. Let’s hope the grooms eat something for energy before they start all of that lifting ! 🙂
Yeah, I suppose they have to practice a bit. Although most Lithuanians I’ve seen (many work and/or live in Norway) look quite strong.
Thank you for writing about my country. And 9 bridges are not necessary, just choose a really long one 🙂
Happy to, it’s a nice country 🙂 So it’s more about the carrying distance then…?
Nine bridges! I’d be buggered 😀
Bit of an effort 🙂
How interesting about the Turkic language. Enjoyed listening to it being spoken. Love the colorful buildings and bridges, too.
Thanks, Cathy 🙂
Would love to spend more time in Lithuania as we only got to see Vilnius. Those houses are so pretty. Interesting about the language and the theory is, if you know Turkish, you should be able to communicate at least on some level with people who speak other Turkiç languages. That video has just blown that theory out of the water! 🙂
It’s a small country with lots of interesting towns and villages. Interesting about the language. I want to listen to Turkish now.
Great insights into a part of the world that I do not know — at least, not yet. I love those colourful houses, and the boats, too. The video clip is most interesting. Their language has such a beautifully graceful sound to it.
It is quite a pretty language, isn’t it…
That place looks very cool to visit. And I realized that your 1st and 4th pictures are the same..but you just used a different filter. 😛
Same castle, from different vantage points and using different filters 🙂
NINE bridges?! That’s a lot!
Can you imagine…
I completely understand why you would go somewhere with our bride that had lots of small bridges close to each other. It also helps that it’s really pretty.
But, y’know, Sydney and San Francisco are pretty cities as well but I wouldn’t fancy going across their bridges nine times!
Sydney Harbour Bridge nine times… heavy!
I love all of the colorful buildings and boats! Love the 9 bridges wedding tradition too!
Trakai is very quaint.
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Just back from a big family wedding I love seeing all those bride carriers.