Did you know that bars of silver were used as currency in medieval Europe, and that the value of the bar was determined by the number of notches made in it by a silversmith? And if you took that bar of silver and made a few extra notches in it, it was considered counterfeiting? And if you got caught (because no one can exactly reproduce the mark of a bona fide silversmith), do you know what they’d do to you as punishment?
They would melt that bar of silver and stuff it down your throat.
We learned these interesting facts, and many others, during our tour of Lithuania’s Trakai island castle, which was built in the 14oos by Grand Duke K?stutis. This castle is the real deal, with a moat and turrets and everything, and its surroundings are just as picturesque as depicted in photos and postcards. Including this one which I don’t mind saying I took myself:
The children had learned all about this storied place in Lithuanian school, and I was anticipating that it would be one of the high points of our trip. After all, what kid doesn’t love a good old fashioned moat and dungeon type situation?
And indeed, all four youngsters in our entourage (we went with good friends of ours and their children) were captivated by the castle and its history as told by our charming tour guide.
After eating our fill of “kibinai,” (a type of dumpling introduced to Lithuania by the Karaim tribe of Crimea that came to live in the city of Trakai to serve as bodyguards of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great after he battled Ghengis Khan’s Golden Hoard), we still had a lot of daylight to burn, and decided to check out a nearby “adventure park” recommended by a friend of my friend Rita’s. We knew nothing about the park except that it was supposed to be very pretty and great fun for kids.
The park, as it happened, was called “Tony Resort.” Who is Tony? Is there a significant Italian population in Lithuania? No one knows. But what we do know is that Tony’s Resort, tucked away in a lush pine forest by the town of Anuprišk?s, was a most excellent diversion. The resort boasts a very modern hotel/spa situated next to a placid lake, but its main attractions are obstacle courses and zip lines.
And it was totally legit, too, with instructors and release forms and a safety lesson included in the cost. So what if the instructors split after giving a couple of pointers, and so what if there’s no one around to ensure that kids are properly harnessed? This is Lithuania, not the litigious U.S.! If you meet your demise because you weren’t using common sense or paying attention, that ain’t none of Lithuania’s bidness.
See the crumpled figure in the bottom left of the above photo? She’s not dead! She’s just resting.
The P-Dawg, his friend Art?ras, and all of the children had hours of fun there. Even the youngest eventually worked up the courage to ride the BIG zip line, losing a shoe in the process but returning with a smile of utter ecstasy on his face. Meanwhile, my friend Rita, her mother and I enjoyed adult beverages in the shade.
Jonas declared it “the best day of his life.”
And that’s how Tony the Italian trumped Grand Duke Vytautas the Great.
(We came across this villager getting well water on the trip from Trakai Castle to our car. NO ONE HAD EVER WITNESSED such a site, so we all gathered ’round to watch.)Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)