Trakai Historical National Park

Trakai Historical National Park

1. Introduction

There are 5 national parks and 32 regional parks in the Lithuanian Republic and these cover in total almost 11 percent of the whole of the country. Trakai Historical National Park is the smallest national park in Lithuania. This state-protected territory stands out from the rest in that it is centred on an ancient Lithuanian political centre, Trakai, and has a unique natural landscape to preserve. This task is difficult not only because of the fact that nowadays we are going through a complicated post-Soviet economic and mental situation but also because Trakai Historical National Park is highly populated with 14,000 people and lies only three kilometres away from the nation’s capital, Vilnius. A state-funded organisation, the Trakai Historical National Park Management, has been set up to meet the park’s aims and duties.

However, it was only during the first year that Lithuania regained its independence in 1991 that the chance occurred for Trakai and its surroundings to win the exceptional status of an historical national park. Trakai Historical National Park was founded by the Lithuanian Restoration Seimas in order to preserve cultural sites of Lithuanian historical statehood along with their genuine natural environs. In this unique and compact ensemble of natural and cultural heritage, which reflects important periods and events in the history of Lithuania and eastern Europe as a whole, we can see a beautifully preserved cultural landscape centred on an historic town and castles which are nestled in lake land. Here there are traditional agricultural villages, fieldscapes and areas where primaeval natural formations still survive. The value of Trakai Historical National Park has been preserved finely and its special status has been recognised and protected by a whole body of national legislation.

The landscape of Trakai Historical National Park exudes particular beauty; in part this is natural and in part it is man-made. It covers an area of 8,200 ha which includes more than 32 lakes (occupying an area of 1,400 ha). The pre-Ice Age relief is responsible for the large formations which dominate the Park, namely the lakes and marshland, and hills which formed during the last Ice Age (between thirteen and fourteen thousand years BC). During the varied stages when the ice melted an undulating plateau formed in the southern part of the park with a chain of moraine hills. The morphological structure of this land relief is a unique feature of the formation of lake land in the Baltic Uplands. Lying in the embrace of a water system comprising Galvės (361 ha), Skaiščio (286 ha), Bernardinų (88 ha) and Totoriškių (76 ha) Lakes is the old centre of the town of (Naujieji [New]) Trakai (169 ha) with its Island and Peninsula Castles, which effectively form the kernel of the park ensemble. The town is girt by mixed woodland (3,900 ha) which gives way in the east to marshland, to a plateau in the south, and a contrasting hill and vale area to the north and west. This landscape forms perfect conditions for a large variety of flora and fauna, which includes species of Europe-wide importance as well as many that feature in Lithuanian and European lists of rare species. The Park’s territory contains well-sited hill forts, castle sites, manors, traditionally appointed villages and isolated farmsteads. All the components of Trakai Historical National Park combine to form an integrated, holistic territorial and visual unit which leaves the visitor with an unforgettable impression.

The natural treasures and the variety of the landscape, especially its specific land formations, provided favourable conditions for the human population which settled within the modern Park’s territory 4,000 years before the Birth of Christ. Trakai attained special significance in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries A.D., when the last pagan state in Europe, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, opposed crusade attempts to convert it to Christianity led by the Teutonic Order. Trakai is mentioned for the first time in written sources in the Chronicle of Wigand of Marburg under the year 1337. Trakai had become an important defensive centre close to the major grand-ducal residence of Vilnius. A unified defensive system was built in Trakai, which was difficult to approach because of its natural defences of wood- and lake land.

The polyethnic town of (New) Trakai with its Lithuanians, Karaites, Tatars, Jews, Russians, Germans and Poles grew up beside the castles and had broad political and commercial links with European towns and their communities and traditions of mediaeval sacral, secular and defensive architecture, secular and religious art and literature. The town had a unique form of self-adminsitration based on Magdeburg Law and from the fifteenth century autonomous Christian and Karaite communities governed their own affairs.

The majority of Trakai’s inhabitants (66.5%) are Lithuanian, although the town also has a substantial Polish minority (19%), as well as Russians (8.87%).


2. Geography

There are 200 lakes in the region, of which the deepest (46.7 m) is Galvė with its 21 islands. Galvė covers an area of 3.88 km2, Vilkokšnis lake – 3.37 km2, the lake of Skaistis – 2.96 km2.

Trakai Historical National Park was founded on 23 April 1991 to preserve Trakai as a centre of Lithuanian statehood as well as the park’s authentic nature. The territory of the park covers 82 km2, 34 km2 of which are covered by forests, and 130 km2 are covered by lakes.

Trakai is a town built on water. The town is surrounded by the lakes of Luka (Bernardinai), Totoriškės, Galvė, Akmena, Gilušis. There are a number of architectural, cultural and historical monuments in Trakai. The history museum in the castle was established in 1962. Festivals and concerts take place in the island castle in summer.


3. List of Places

1. Varnikai Hill Fort and Ancient Settlement

2. Bražuolė Hill Fort and Ancient Settlement

3. Daniliškės Hill Fort and Ancient Settlement

4. Ancient Settlement I, Senieji Trakai

5. Ancient Settlement II, Senieji Trakai

6. Trakai Mythological Site

7. Bražuolė Barrow Graves

8. Senieji Trakai Castle Site

9. Ruins of Trakai Peninsula Castle

10. Trakai Island Castle

11. Trakai Roman Catholic Parish Church

12. Senieji Trakai Roman Catholic Parish Church

13. Trakai Kenesset – Karaite Prayer House

14. Trakai Orthodox Church

15. Daniliškės Old Believers’ Church

16. Senieji Trakai Former Benedictine Monastery

17. Trakai Former Dominican Monastery

18. Former Prayer School, Birutės str. 6

19. Former Presbytery, Birutės str. 8

20. Pillar Bearing Statue of St. John Nepomuk

21. Former Russian Imperial Post Office, Karaimų str.5

22. Former Karaite School or Medrash, Karaimų str.28

23. Karaite Bridge

24. Dwelling House, Karaimų str.63

25. Former Storage Building, Karaimų str.65

26. Dwelling House, Vytauto str.17

27. Dwelling House, Vytauto str.21

28. Former Inn, Vytauto str.39/2

29. Dwelling House with Autbuilding, Vytauto str.80

30. Dwelling House with Autbuilding, Vytauto str. 82

31. Užutrakis Manor House with Park.

32. Užutrakis Manor Household Buildings

33. Former Totoriškės Manor Farmstead

34. Former Commercial Estate, Kariotiškės

35. Little Church Island with remains of the Orthodox Church of St. George

36. Karaite Island, Site of Former Sapieha Estate

37. Trakai Remnants of Wooden Bridge

38. Remains of Former Trakai Palatines’ Manor

39. Site of the Orthodox Church and Cemetery

40. Site of former Trakai Town Hall

41. Ruins of Former Bernardine Monastery and Cementary

42. Ruins of Small Curch of Unites

43. Dūdakalnis, Tatar Dwelling Area

44. Senieji Trakai Village

45. Serapiniškės Village

46. Varnikėliai Village

47. Daniliškės Old Russian Believers Village

48. The Old Karaite Cemetery

49. The Old Jewish Cemetery

50. First World War Military Graves, Jovariškės Village

51. Polish Military Graves

52. Holocaust Graves

53. Lithuanian Partisan Graves

54. Karaite Ethnographits Exhibition

55. Karaimų street, Trakai town

56. Panorama from Bražuolė

57. Panorama from Jovariškės

58. Varnikai Botanical – Zoological Reserve


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