Oh, this place is totally amazing.
It’s a tiny city 40 mins by bus from Vilnuis, the capital of Lithuania. It boasts two castles – one in ruins, one literally made me say ‘oh wow.’ The population is tiny, surely they could just about share one castle between two.
The castle is on an island, only accesible by footbridge over this HUGE lake, which was frozen solid. I actually saw a man walking out into the middle of it, hammering a hole and fishing through it!!!! Had a wander through the castle, totally beautiful. The thing that made this one different was that there were loads of rooms, but they were all small and no high ceilings. Guess it’s a heat trapping thing.
This beautiful little city is also bizzarely home to this really rare religion/cult – Karaiam. It’s an extreme version of Judaism, as far as I understand it. Though I don’t doubt a Karaimist (?) would beg to differ. A king back in the 14th Century decided he needed some body guards and where else but Baghdad to find them? So he brought a whole lot of them over, all part of this cult and there’s still a few decendents settled here and they’ve kept their religion and culture till now. I went to a Kariaim restaurant for lunch, real middle eastern feeling.
Hit another old town, Vilnuis in the afternoon. Was nice. Cobbled, uneven, hell-for-people-with-disabilities streets, ornate churches, colourful old buildings, wrinkling and slightly grumpy postcard sellers etc.