Monday morning brought us blue skies – perfect for our planned explorations of Vilnius and Trakai!
Our tour of Vilnius began with a bus ride to Šv. apaštalų Petro ir Povilo bažnyčia (the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul). Part of a former monastery, it is one of the most well-known churches in all of Lithuania. Many have studied the building’s architecture in an attempt to determine the theme of the sculptures and paintings inside, since there are no records surviving of whom actually planned the decor!
Our next stop was a scenic overlook where we could take in a view of the city. A chain-link fence along the overlook held a collection of padlocks, placed there by various couples to symbolize their love.
Next, we ventured back into the city to visit the city gate, the Gate of Dawn. This is the last gate standing that was once used to defend Vilnius. Within the wall is a chapel, and within the chapel is an icon of the Virgin Mary that is purported to have healing powers.
After a brief break for lunch, we boarded the bus for a trip to Trakai, a nearby city that is home to Trakai Island Castle, a 14th century castle located on Lake Galvė. This castle was used by the Grand Duke of Lithuania as one of his main residences, and as such the city of Trakai became a de facto capital of Lithuania for a time. Over the years, the castle was used as a military stronghold, a summer residence, and a prison, before finally being restored and turned into a tourist attraction.