A Saturday afternoon in Trakai

Trakai Castle

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.

Bride in Trakai, Lithuania Bride in Trakai, Lithuania

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.

Trakai Castle

Mermaids or not, Lake Galvé is a lovely place to while away a few hours. Pedalos or rowing boats are for rent:

Rowing boats at Trakai, Lithuania Rowing boat at Trakai, Lithuania

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.

Trakai house, Lithuania Trakai house, Lithuania

Trakai house, Lithuania Trakai house, Lithuania

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 kenessa, Karaite prayer house in Trakai, Lithuania

The kenessa, Karaite house of worship

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.

Trakai house

For more fun photos, hop over to this week’s Travel Photo Thursday.



48 Responses to “A Saturday afternoon in Trakai”

  1. Audrey | That Backpacker 14 November 2012 1403 #

    Haha, that’s such a cool tradition! I’d be exhausted if I were the groom!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1552 #

      I know! 9 bridges…

  2. jan 15 November 2012 0204 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1553 #

      You have a point. A case for choosing light-weight brides 🙂

  3. Natasha von Geldern 15 November 2012 0236 #

    Love the colourful boats and houses! A very pretty day out indeed!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1556 #

      Yes, definitely a colourful little town.

  4. Jade - OurOyster.com 15 November 2012 0350 #

    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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1555 #

      Oh, blizzard. Must have been a different – but no less interesting – experience. Although I think summer suits Trakai very well.

  5. Jackie Smith 15 November 2012 0531 #

    How does one get to Trakai? I’d never heard of it before. Great photos.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1554 #

      You just reminded me I should add a little practical information.

    • Vi 20 November 2012 1154 #

      Just take a train from Vilnius 🙂

  6. Mary @ The World Is A Book 15 November 2012 0855 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1556 #

      Haha, true!

  7. Muza-chan 15 November 2012 1134 #

    I love colorful houses 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1557 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Muza-chan 🙂

  8. InsideJourneys 15 November 2012 1532 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 November 2012 1559 #

      No, I didn’t hear anything about unsuccessful attempts by weaklings 🙂

  9. Leigh 15 November 2012 1706 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 16 November 2012 1455 #

      An interesting and easy day out if you’re in Vilnius.

  10. Michael Figueiredo 16 November 2012 0031 #

    I love all of the vibrant colors! I don’t think I’ve ever seen or read anything about Lithuania…very interesting!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 16 November 2012 1455 #

      Thanks. Yes, I think Estonia and Latvia get more attention.

  11. Andrea 16 November 2012 1424 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 16 November 2012 1458 #

      Vilnius is just a 1.5 hr flight from Oslo; a bit more roundabout from Stavanger, but not too bad 🙂

  12. Angela 16 November 2012 1736 #

    The first photo is beautiful, I love that red!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 November 2012 0109 #

      It’s quite the beautiful castle.

  13. Nancie 16 November 2012 2301 #

    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 ! 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 November 2012 0111 #

      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.

  14. Ele 17 November 2012 0909 #

    Thank you for writing about my country. And 9 bridges are not necessary, just choose a really long one 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 November 2012 0112 #

      Happy to, it’s a nice country 🙂 So it’s more about the carrying distance then…?

  15. Laurence 18 November 2012 1403 #

    Nine bridges! I’d be buggered 😀

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 November 2012 0112 #

      Bit of an effort 🙂

  16. Cathy Sweeney 20 November 2012 0245 #

    How interesting about the Turkic language. Enjoyed listening to it being spoken. Love the colorful buildings and bridges, too.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 November 2012 0112 #

      Thanks, Cathy 🙂

  17. Turkey's For Life 20 November 2012 1029 #

    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! 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 November 2012 0114 #

      It’s a small country with lots of interesting towns and villages. Interesting about the language. I want to listen to Turkish now.

  18. Andrew Graeme Gould 21 November 2012 2309 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 November 2012 0115 #

      Thanks 🙂
      It is quite a pretty language, isn’t it…

  19. Paul Krol 23 November 2012 2215 #

    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. 😛

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 November 2012 2111 #

      Same castle, from different vantage points and using different filters 🙂

  20. Abby 25 November 2012 2330 #

    NINE bridges?! That’s a lot!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 7 August 2013 1420 #

      Can you imagine…

  21. Turtle 27 November 2012 2331 #

    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!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 7 August 2013 1457 #

      Sydney Harbour Bridge nine times… heavy!

  22. Koren @ City Gal 28 November 2012 2117 #

    I love all of the colorful buildings and boats! Love the 9 bridges wedding tradition too!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 7 August 2013 1458 #

      Trakai is very quaint.

  23. Mette 5 August 2013 1909 #

    Just back from a big family wedding I love seeing all those bride carriers.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 7 August 2013 1459 #



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