Much to my boyfriend’s annoyance, and true to form, I had booked us an early morning tour the day after our late night arrival – oops. Apparently I have a tendency to book trips the day after a late flight but often this is because I am trying to avoid the weekend rush/price hikes for day trips, not that this provides any comfort to my other half when the alarm goes off first thing in the morning!
For our first full day in Lithuania, I had booked a tour with the fabulous guys at North North East. North North East offer a selection of tours and as we were visiting in the Winter (well more the back end of Winter) when the waterways are still frozen, they offer various walking and snowshoe tours around Trakai and Vilnius. (In the summer they do kayaking tours!).
We had originally booked to do a snowshoe tour but unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and by the time we arrived in Vilnius all traces of snow were long gone. Sad times. Instead we were offered either a free cancellation or the option of a hike around Trakai and as I was so desperate to see Trakai Castle, I opted for the hike.
We were picked up promptly at 10am from our hotel by Tomas. He would be our driver and guide for the day and in all honesty, he was probably one of the best tour guides we have ever had! He was super chatty, full of local knowledge that he wanted to share and even came armed with a thermos full of hot tea!
We drove the short trip from Vilnius to Trakai, which thanks to some roadworks took about an hour (I think, I wasn’t keeping track as we were all chatting away!). We arrived at our first stop and ventured out into the cold, cold wind. Well wrapped up and armed with my trusty GoPro, we walked the paths around the beautiful manor house and took in views of the stunning Trakai Castle across the lake.
After an hour or so of wandering we came back to the car and enjoyed a good old cup of tea to warm us up. Luckily, just as we made it to the car, the heavens opened and we sat all toasty and dry in the car, sipping our cups of tea as the rain/hail battered down on the car.
After finishing our cups of tea, we headed back into the town of Trakai and wandered along the lake front to the Castle. I have to say, Trakai Castle is just as stunning, if not more so, as it is in the pictures. What made it even more magical was that as we approached the bridge to the castle, a rainbow formed directly above Trakai Castle, it was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments that you couldn’t believe you were witnessing. Unfortunately, like with all these perfect moments, the rainbow disappeared all too soon (I did manage to get some awesome pictures first though!).
We then crossed the bridge and wandered around the Castle and Tomas regaled us with more tails and entertaining facts about the Castle. Trakai Castle was built in the 14th Century and played home to some of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The setting of Trakai Castle in the middle of Trakai Lake is just stunning and no matter what angle you gaze upon the castle, you will be grabbing your camera to capture it!
After our tour of Trakai Castle, we then walked through the centre of Trakai to our lunch destination. Set on the edge of another lake (Trakai is pretty much surrounded), was our restaurant, Kiubete, which serves local Karaim cuisine, including many varieties of the pie the restaurant is named after, Kiubete. We went for the apple Kiubete and it was yummy, scrummy. I was sad when the last crumb had been eaten, as I could easily have eaten a whole one by myself!!
Trakai is quite a multi-cultral/multi-religious town, which is quite something considering it’s size. As we walked around the town we came across churches, synagogues and mosques, all pretty much next door to each other. Trakai has a mixture of Polish, Lithuanian, Karaim and Russian inhabitants. The Kiubete we had is a traditional Karaim dish and has fast become a local speciality in Trakai. Kiubete is a dish for which the recipe has been passed down through generations of Karaim people. It is a circular pie divided into parts and shared amongst a group of people as an expression of unity and harmony. They do say that each Kiubete is different, as they are all baked using traditional methods and each generation’s recipe!
Feeling very satisfied after our Kiubete, we wandered back to our car and said goodbye to Trakai.
I can highly recommend North North East if you wish to visit Trakai. If I am lucky enough to visit Lithuania again, I will definitely visit in the summer, as I have seen pictures of Trakai Castle when the lake has melted, and it looks even more stunning! It would also be pretty fun to explore this area by kayak!
Thanks again to the guys at North North East and especially to Tomas who was an awesome tour guide and made our trip to Trakai pretty epic! Now, does anyone have a recipe for Kiubete so I can recreate it please?!
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