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Published: July 13th 2017
Hello my fellow travellers!
My final day in Latvia was certainly enough to equal, maybe even top, my last day in Lithuania!
I left together with my host Katrina and then we split up as she went to her office and I headed to the bus station to catch a bus to Sigulda. The connections there are excellent, the bus was nice and only cost 2.5 euro and took one hour and 15 minutes.
As I left the bus it was a feeling of ready set go and I immediately headed for Siguldas Viduslaiku Pils
, a castle that used to belong to the Livonian Order. I knew that time would be a bit of the essence today because I only had about seven hours in Sigulda until the last bus back to Riga. Sigulda has no less than four castles as well as several other interesting sites to offer to an history buff such as myself so I knew I had a full day ahead of me!
On my way to the castle I made a quick visit to Siguldas Baznīca
, and went up into it's bell tower. It was nice but nothing spectacular in my opinion
and I would say that you can skip that experience since you can't really see anything of note from up there.
The first two castles are right next to each other, Siguldas Viduslaiku Pils
and Siguldas Jaunā Pils
, the medieval castle and it's newer version, built in 1207 and 1878 respectively. Here I ran into a group of Japanese tourists so of course I took the opportunity to practice my Japanese. I've never seen as many Japanese people outside of Japan as I have here in the Baltic and I love it! I'll probably never grow tired of the reaction when you start talking Japanese to them when they don't expect it.
At Siguldas Viduslaiku Pils
they also had a crossbow range complete with a medieval armour to wear. I'm not one to miss an opportunity to dress up so I got fully geared up and jumped right into it to much applause and laughter from the Japanese tourists. After all the photo sessions, and feeble attempts of hitting the targets, was done with I said goodbye to the Japanese tourists and stayed and chatted for a while with the young lad that worked at the crossbow stand.
Great guy and we had much in common, it was nice to talk to him for a while and not feel the stress of rushing to the next sight.
After I said my goodbyes to him I set out for Turaidas Pils
, perhaps the most famous of the castles in Sigulda due to it's striking red appearance. It is quite walk there from Siguldas Viduslaiku Pils
, almost one hour estimated but I was fortunate enough to be able to hitch a ride part of the way with a nice man living in Sigulda who was on his way to his family home some 40 km outside of Sigulda.
He dropped me at the entrance to the historical park and I paid the five euro entrance fee to Turaidas Muzejrezervats
. That grants access to the castle, Turaidas Baznīca
, the church that stands on the ground, as well as the other museum parts located in the park. The only part in my opinion that really stood out was the castle itself, it is well preserved/restored and I definitely enjoyed my visit to it. If you are sneaky/cheap enough you can actually climb the slope leading up to the castle without
going through the entrance. I know because I used that slope on the way out in the interest of saving some time heading to Gūtmaņa Ala
, a famous cave which was my next stop. Gūtmaņa Ala
is the largest cave in Latvia but in all honesty it wouldn't have been all that impressive to me if it wasn't for all the amazing inscriptions in it dating back hundreds of years! It's not very deep but quite picturesque and worth a visit because of those inscriptions. There is also a small stream of water emerging from the cave that is said to have sprung from the tears of the wife of the Liv chieftain Rindaugas who buried her here alive after accusing her of being unfaithful, the water is said to have healing effects.
Another interesting tale about the cave is that of the Rose of Turaida. She was a young girl, who was only a few weeks old when she was rescued in the aftermath of the Swedish siege of the castle by the record keeper of the castle, Greif. He raised her as his own daughter and named her Maija since she was found in the month
of May. She grew to be the most beautiful woman in Turaida and was called the Rose of Turaida.
She became engaged to Victor, the gardener of the castle and as they lived on opposite sides of the wide river that flows through the area, they would usually meet at Gūtmaņa Ala
. However, she also caught the eye of a polish deserter by the name of Jakubovsky who asked her to marry him but was turned down. Overcome with lust he made one of his compatriots, Skudtritis, deliver a fake message to Maija for her to meet Victor at the cave.
As she came there she found herself trapped by Jakubovsky and she offered him her red silk scarf if he let her go untouched. The scarf was a gift from Victor and was said to be imbued with magical powers that made it impossible to cut through. Jakubovsky hesitated so Maija offered to prove it's power, she urged him to try and cut her with his sword so he struck with full force only to find the piece of cloth easily pierced and Maija dead at his feet.
Overcome with grief Jakubovsky fled into the woods
where he hung himself. As Victor later came to the cave to meet his love at their normal time he found her dead body and rushed to the castle for help, only to find himself accused for her murder instead. He was however acquitted thanks to Skudritis who had followed Jakubovsky and seen the whole thing and testified to the court.
The thing is that while this was long thought to just be an urban legend like so many others it actually turned out to be true. In the mid 19th century the court archives in Vidzeme found the court transcripts from the murder case, dated 1620, and revealed them at the cave which sparked a lot of artists to create works dedicated to the love between Victor and Maija which have been compared to that of Romeo and Juliet
From the cave I climbed pretty much straight upwards along a really steep staircase that drained the last sliver of energy from me in order to reach the last castle. Or rather, the ruins of it, the final castle is the Krimuldas Pilsdrupas
, the ruins of a 14th century castle that was destroyed in 1601 by Swedish and
Polish forces. It has never rebuilt and therefore there isn't much left of it, a wall with two windows basically.
The castle ruin in and off itself was not really worth the climb, luckily though Krimulda also have a really impressive manor, the entire area is called Krimuldas Muižas Parks
. Sure, it is in a state of disrepair at the moment but it still has all it's various buildings intact and there are currently some restorations going on so I believe it will be very beautiful in the future. It was really lovely to take a stroll through the estate and enjoy the mid 19th century neoclassical style of the buildings.
Having visited all the attractions I wanted, and feeling my feet being worn down into nubs, I decided to take a small shuttle bus back into Sigulda where I managed to arrive just in time to jump on the bus heading back to Riga, talk about good timing!
As I returned to Riga I agreed with Eva, a woman who had also offered to host me, that I had been talking about meeting up with for a dinner, that we wouldn't meet today since Katrina hasn't
been feeling to well and I was really worn out and I had only eaten a snickers at Turaidas Pils
in the whole day.
Instead I went and got a quick bite to eat before I joined up with Katrina. It turned out that she was feeling better now so instead of just relaxing with some Netflix, which was my hope, we went out for a couple of beers at a couple of different pubs. It was nice, but not really what I was after for the evening so I was honestly quite happy when we returned back to her home and went to bed and I finally got to lay down.
Tomorrow I will catch a morning bus heading to Tartu where I will be staying with Kristiina, her boyfriend and their cat, for a night before I continue on to Narva. I'm looking forward to it even though I have no idea on what to expect of Tartu.
Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!
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