I checked out of my hotel in the capital, and flagged a cab out to the airport where a rental car was waiting for me. In one of those rare moments of fore- (rather than hind-) sight, I asked for and received an English-speaking GPS. After I retrieved the keys and started to head out of the gated area, I noticed the hotel right next to the parking lot. It was big, but fairly devastated-looking. I thought I might stay there, because my plane would be departing the morning after I returned the rental car at the end of my Lithuanian journey. However, the unenthusiastic receptionist, the clanging work-crews tearing down half the place, and the stale cigarette smell in the lobby suggested I look elsewhere for a place a few days later. For now, though, I had other destinations to visit.
The first place on the way to my stop for the evening was a most impressive castle, Trakai Castle, 30 minutes west of the capital. You may have begun to notice a
trend with me and castles. It is true. Castles draw me the way crumbs attract starving basement rats. But even had I not seen the number of other castles throughout the region and in the South Caucasus area, this one would still have made the list. Site selection by the original builders, and extensive renovating efforts by subsequent ones throughout the centuries, make this fascinating place a must-see for all castle enthuasiasts. The castle occupies almost the entirety of a little island in the middle of a lake, conveniently out of trebuchet-range. Presently, the only original part of the castle is the very foundation, where stones perhaps 15-20 rows high remained intact in places from the days of yore.
The exhibits on display are just okay, and seem to have been hauled all the way out there in haphazard fashion. 20th century china dishes from France are in glass cases next to woven purses from the mid 17th, for example. The same room has a roped-off exhibit of 19th century German living-room furniture. I looked at them all, but my head was in the medieval clouds where – as Captain of the Royal Guard – all that stuff would’ve just been in my way.
Anyone planning to visit this castle would do well to (that’s right… I’m going to say it just once, myself!) go there in June. I would recommend finding out when the events and festivals are being held in the castle and the town of Trakai, take a picnic lunch, find some shade and watch the show. If there are no events planned for your visit, take that picnic lunch with you anyway, rent a rowboat and paddle around the lovely lake.
Well, while I was doing my parapet inspection and coming up with an overall plan to defend the Archduke, the local police were busy scribbling parking tickets. One such ticket was pinned to my windshield wiper, although the time remaining on my pre-paid ticket – clearly displayed on the dashboard – indicated another 30 minutes or so yet. I saw them a few cars over from mine, hard at work with their pads and pens, so I pointed out the discrepancy. For once, my Russian upper limit finally matched someone’s lower comprehension limit, and one of the cops crumpled up the ticket and shoved it in his pocket with a grunt. I expect that at some point, five years from now, I will be receiving a letter from the Lithuanian Division of Motor Vehicles with the notification that I have lost my driving privileges in that country over unpaid parking tickets.
There was nothing stopping me at the present, however, so I hopped into the small grey rental and headed off to see more of Lithuania.