By Andrew Young
Publication date: 07/09/2009
At the heart of Baltic culture
Finally, my Baltic mini-odyssey is complete! Three trips, three magnificent countries, each with so much to offer on an individual basis, and collectively a grand way to see how East and West met, and which came out on top!
Vilnius, beautiful capital of my final destination and European Capital of Culture, in Lithuania, is (just like its neighbouring Baltic capitals) a vibrant, eclectic, part-modern, part-ancient city. Steeped in the legend of the iron wolf, the city traces its origins to around 1300 - and indeed, at the time, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania extended as far south as the Black Sea (now the Ukraine), and east into now-Russian territories almost as far as Moscow. The grandeur of this age remains - Old Trakai Castle, a 14th Century structure on a small island on the beautiful Lake Galvė, now mostly restored (mostly by the Soviet occupiers after WWII) holds many clues and artefacts showing the strength and might of Lithuania over the last 600 years.