Castles and palaces

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May 3rd 2007
Published: August 6th 2007
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We started the day picking up supplies from a local supermarket in Sigulda, and buying breakfast from the bakery attached to our hotel. This turned out to be a game of chance, with many sweet-looking baked goods containing meat, savoury-looking ones containing fruit and some apparently containing both...

Our first stop was the medieval town of Cesis. First up, we visited a castle where we were given hard hats and candle lanterns and pointed in the right direction to explore dungeons and towers. In one room we found a archeologist in a smithy using authentic methods to recreate ancient metalwork found on the site and from the surrounding regions. In the grounds, they also had the town's statue of Lenin, lying on it's side as a poignant reminder of soviet occupation. Afterwards, we sat in a cafe enjoyed watching a policeman taking photos of our hire car which was apparently illegally parked in a zone demarked by a big blue "P" sign!

After beating a hasty retreat from Cesis and the long arm of the law, we headed away from the main roads, southwards into the country. Little did we know, but our decision not to head back to
Cesis Castle Dungeon
Riga on the main road and then head south on more main roads meant that, instead we would spend MOST of the day travelling on dirt tracks through forests and villages and generally not making very much progress. Still, we saw a side of Latvia that most tourists don't see. We crossed a hydro-electric dam, stopped for lunch at an amazing place by a lake, ate some more pork and cheese based cuisine, passed through Bauska and finally arrived at our target, the "Rundale Palace", where we wore crazy felt shoes and wondered at the largest porcelain radiators you could ever imagine.

Afterwards we found time to drive across the border into Lithuania (just to say we'd been there!) and then back into Latvia where we were greeted by a friendly traffic cop, who had a preference for fines paid in cash but was adverse to official paperwork...

For the night we found a motel on the main road into Riga and opted for a couple of deluxe rooms (50's and 70's themed respectively!). Dinner was taken in a Latvian Tex Mex in the neighbouring village.

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