Trakų salos pilis, Trakai, Lithuania
GPS: 54.654818699643, 24.936535197779
Surrounded by water, Trakai Island Castle is nestled in a preservation area on one of the 20 small islands in Lake Galvė. This medieval fortress is part of the Trakai National Historical Park, established in 1991 and the only one of its kind in Europe. The 80 km² protected area aims to preserve the historical sites and natural heritage of this beautiful Lithuanian region.
Trakai Castle underwent construction between the 14th-and-15th-centuries, when the city of Trakai briefly became the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The first building, of which nothing remains today, was built by Gediminas, King of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, after the transfer of his capital from Kernave to Trakai. Later, Grand Duke Kestutis, followed by his son Vytautas the Great, built a Gothic fortified complex similar to Malbork Castle in Poland. After the famous Battle of Grunwald (or First Battle of Tannenberg) in 1410, the purpose of the Trakai site as a defensive castle accelerated in response to the growing but futile threat of the Knights of the Teutonic Order. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined forces with the Kingdom of Poland to form the Republic of the Two Nations (1569-1795). This political union enabled Trakai Island Castle to resist the expansionist wishes of Muscovy (Great-Principality of Moscow) for a time until the formation of the Russian Empire.
Thanks to its location in the middle of Lake Galvė, this castle was also used as a summer residence and reception place for prestigious guests (ambassadors, diplomats, noblemen, merchants, etc.). Occupied by the Russian Empire from the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 20th-century and then by German troops during the First World War, it was completely restored in the middle of the 20th-century. Today, Trakai remains the only island castle in the whole of Eastern Europe and one of the favourite destinations of Lithuanians. A visit to the museum, with exhibitions on Trakai Island Castle and Medininkai Castle (based in the south-east of Vilnius), is an opportunity to learn more about the history of the country.