The old town of Trakai – which is extremely popular with the residents of Lithuania and foreign guests – is situated west of Vilnius between the hills, forests and lakes. The shores of the peninsula on which it is located are washed by the waters of Lakes Galvė, Totoriskių and Bernardinų (Lukos). This town, famous for its picturesque landscape and the legendary Trakai Castle, was a cradle of the Lithuanian statehood, an important military and political centre, headquarters of the Lithuanian Grand Dukes, and the capital of Lithuania. Today, Trakai attracts visitors to a wonderful place offering refuge from a hectic city life, with walks around the beautiful area or yacht trips on one of the numerous lakes.
In fact, Trakai was considered to be two different cities: one Roman Catholic and one Karaite. Karaites are ethnic Karaims, a peculiar Turkic community with itsown religion (an offshoot of Judaism). They were brought to Trakai in 15th century and only 65 of them remain in the town, but Trakai is their heartland to this day. The Kenessa (Karaite temple) still operates, many wooden homes still have the iconic Karaim three fasade windows. You can taste the Karaim kibins (hot pasty with meat inside) and krupnik (38% alcoholic beverage) in most local restaurants, even if this renaissance of Karaim cuisine is mostly due to tourism.
The former importance of Trakai is evident in the mighty 14th century Trakai Island Castle in Lake Galve (Eastern Europe's only water castle). It has been reconstructed in years 1929-1987 and currently houses a museum of Lithuanian history. Some events such as the Day of the Crafts and Middle Ages or performances of PilEnai opera are periodically held in the castle courtyards.
HILL OF CROSSES
The Hill of Crosses is situated in the middle of an arable land, sixteen kilometers from Siauliai in northern Lithuania. It is seen from Siauliai – Ryga highway. The hill is 60 meters long and 40-50 meters wide.
The Hill of Crosses has about 100 000 crosses. It is said that first crosses were erected here by the next-of-kin of the rebels that fell in the 1831 rebellion. Over the centuries, not only crosses, but giant crucifixes, carvings of Lithuanian patriots, statues of the Virgin Mary and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries have been brought here by Catholic pilgrims.
The Hill of Crosses is an historical architectural monument, it is a unique composition of folk art. The Hill of crosses atract's people with it's peace, spirituality, authenticity and sacred nature. The hill of crosses was visited by Pope John Paul II. Even more crosses appeared after the rebellion in 1863. At tht time the traditions of visiting and erecting crosses on the hill of crosses were being formed. The Hill of crosses became a place of vows in Lithuania. In the beginning of the 20th century, the hill was already quite well known.
Rumsiskės is a small Lithuanian town, situated 20 km (12 mi) east of Kaunas on the northern bank of Kaunas Reservoir. Southern part of the town is now under the waters of the artificial lake. The 18th century St. Michael Archangel church of Rumsiskės (rebuilt in 19th century) was saved and moved to its present place in 1958, when the reservoir was created.
Today, Rumsiskės is best known for its excellent open-air ethnographic museum (established in 1966 and opened in 1974), one of the largest in Europe.
The open-air museum in Rumsiskės displays the heritage of Lithuanian rural life in a vast collection of authentic resurrected buildings where the Lithuanian people lived and worked. The total area of 175 ha contains 140 buildings from the 18th–19th century with the restored original interiors and surroundings. This museum was established to help to preserve and research the former ways of living.
The buildings of this museum are exposed as farmsteads and all of them together represent the main ethnographic regions of Lithuania: Aukstaitija, samogitia, Dzukija and Suvalkija. The open-air museum stores the most valuable examples of Lithuanian farmsteads.
The territory of the museum is a very popular place where ethnographic festivals are celebrated and folk song and dance concerts are held. This museum is very easy to reach since it is located 18 km (11 mi) to the east of Kaunas near the Kaunas-Vilnius highway.
Kernave was a medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and today is a tourist attraction and an archeological site. It is located in the Sirvintos municipality about 35 km north-west of Vilnius in eastern Lithuania. A Lithuanian state cultural reserve was established in Kernavė in 1989. In 2004 Kernavė Archaeological Site was included into UNESCO World Heritage list.
Situated in the valley of the River Neris, the site is a complex ensemble of archaeological properties, encompassing the town of Kernave, forts, some unfortified settlements, burial sites and other archaeological, historical and cultural monuments from the late Palaeolithic Period to the Middle Ages. The site of 194,4 ha has preserved the traces of ancient land-use, as well as remains of five impressive hill forts, part of an exceptionally large defense system. Kernave was an important feudal town in the Middle Ages. The town was destroyed by the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century, however the site remained in use until modern times.
Anyksciai is a tiny bit of land surrounded by crystal-clear lakes, proud of its high mounds, rich cultural heritage and lovely countryside. The town of Anyksciai, situated at the confluence of the Sventoji and Anyksta rivers, is renowned for its literary tradition, veiled by myths and legends.
Lakes and rivers of the district of Anyksciai are wonderful to relax by. Lake Neveza is for active water sports fans and extreme sports lovers. Lake Rubikiai, the most beautiful one, can be reached by narrow gauge railway. You will enjoy the natural beauty of the countryside, taste local wine in the restaurant car, be entertained by a village music band.
Besides the imposing gothic Saint Matthew church is the narrow-gauge railroad, declared to be a technical monument. Narrow gauge railway of Aukstaitija, otherwise „siaurukas“, is a unique open air museum, which celebrated its 115 anniversary this year. A narrow-gauge railway line Panevėzys – Anyksciai - Rubikiai was built in 1899. This was the time of black engines and wooden carriages. At the beginning of the 20th century siaurukas was the main mechanical means of transport in the region of Aukstaitija (north-eastern Lithuania) for carrying people and goods such as flax, bacons, sugar-beet, flour, butter, flax-seed, wood and sand. Farmers used to transport salt, fertilizers, burning oil and coal. From the year 2001, narrow gauge railway is used only for carrying passengers. Now it is a unique object of engineering heritage. Trips on the narrow gauge railway are combined with different educational programs and cultural events. Exceptional holiday trips, charter trips and regular train services are offered.
Southwest of Anyksciai lies the Puntukas stone, the second largest stone in Lithuania. Legend tells that a devil wanted to break the Anyksciai church with this stone but a rooster crowed and the devil moved to hell so the stone fell down and remained laying cut into the ground. The stone is covered by indentations reminding of the flight accross the Atlantic Ocean by pilots S. Darius and S. Girenas, the first Lithuanians to complete this mission (and worldwide air mail pioneers).