The walkways across the lake are well maintained and reassuringly sturdy. On the small island between the walkways was a man with an accordion playing small snatches from an international repertoire. I think he looked at the tourists heading towards him, assessed where they were from, and then played a tune associated with that country. I recognized the Marseilliaise and the overture from Carmen, but didn’t recognize the dour and sombre piece he played for the Russian tourists who had just visited the castle.

Once inside, there are many exhibitions to see, most of them in the keep. In the large courtyard people were taking photos of each other in the stocks and inside a rusty iron cage. The keep exhibits evoked what life would have been like in the medieval castle and also showed traditional Lithuanian garb. The most interesting piece was the interactive exhibit which showed how the castle evolved over the centuries and how little of the castle there was left before restoration began – probably only 10% of the original castle remained. The castle is the most visited site in Lithuania and on summer weekends can attract as many as 10,000 people. These visitors not only benefit Trakai they also subsidise other places that aren’t as well visited because Lithuania’s museums are run as a whole entity. This helps places such as the Ciurlionis Museum in Druskininkai, which has 50 customers on its best day and sometimes none for days in the winter.

This is an extract from Julian’s Journeys