Posts

Showing posts from 2021

The Bluffs of Latvia

Image
Amata River  The country of Latvia is generally flat. We've driven around in it enough to attest to that. It has rolling hills south and west of Riga, and of course, the man-made hill in Riga itself.  So, we were surprised by the gorge running between the castles that we've seen over the last couple weeks. This river and surrounding gorge compromise Guaja National Park which covers a large part of central Latvia northeast of Riga.  Scenic walkway Since we were in the area visiting castles, we decided to check out the national park and the small creeks winding throughout it. Our trusty travel guide informed us about a walking trail to see some of the cliffs.  It was amazing to be winding through the Latvian woods after experiencing city life up to this point. We thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet of the deep forest.  Red cliffs  We came upon the red cliffs with the small caves worn into them. The rushing of the spring rivers helped to cut the holes into the rock walls. We ne

Castles of Latvia - Turaida Pils

Image
  Aerial photo of Turaida The last castle, that I wanted to show you, has the most tourists to its site because it's restored more than any or the other ones. Turaida Castle, located along the Guaja River valley, was the third castle in the triangle with Sigulda and Krimulda. Turaida was seen from the viewing tower when we were at Sigulda (photo from my post two weeks ago). Tower All three were on the edge of the river gorge with Sigulda being the lone one across the river. They were all built by the Livonian order so kept their eyes on each other.  Originally built in 1206, Turaida was constructed of wood which, of course, was destroyed by fire. Later it was rebuilt with stone. This castle has been under reconstruction since the 1950s, which is why it's the most visited castle in Latvia.  Southern wall and tower The 30 meter tower stands at the entrance to the main part of the castle. The southern wall and semi-circular tower have also been reconstructed on the old foundations

Castles of Latvia - Krimulda Ruins

Image
Guaja River gorge view from cable car This week we're taking a bit of a break from castles that we saw because this castle doesn't exist any longer. Last week I told you about the view over the Guaja River, and today I'll tell you how we explored the other side of the gorge. Krimulda ruins The castle that doesn't exist any longer is the Krimulda Pils. It was built about the same time as the Sigulda Castle and was destroyed in 1601 in a war with their enemies from across the river. It was never rebuilt again. From the Sigulda tower on the edge of the ravine, soldiers could look across the gorge and watch the comings and goings at the Krimulda castle.  All aboard! Today the only way to access the Krimulda area from the Sigulda side is via a cable car. We decided we were brave enough to check it out, so we enjoyed a ride 40 meters above the river.  Krimulda Manor The cable car let us off on the site of Krimulda, which today is the home of Krimulda Manor. This manor, origin

Castles of Latvia - Sigulda Pils

Image
Sigulda Pils  Similar to last week's castle that we explored, this castle sits in ruins today. Sigulda Pils, located in the city of Sigulda, is northeast of Riga.  Built in 1207, this fortress was constructed on the edge of a precipice overlooking the Guaja River by the Brothers of the Sword, part of the Livonian Order.  Entrance Tower As we approached the reconstructed entrance tower, we were in awe of the sheer size of it. How could walls this large be built in the early 1200s? They didn't have the equipment we do back then.  Drawing of original castle The original castle was quite large, as seen in the sketch to the left. The church was the main building inside the walls.  It was interesting to see what the reconstructed fortress wall looked like on the inside. The soldiers had the different levels to protect the land side of the fortress, shooting through the small access windows.  Reconstructed wall    Chapel wall Notice the tiny holes in the outside wall for defense in th

Castles of Latvia - Cesis Pils

Image
Cesis Castle Since we are in CCP virus lockdown here, I have to take you on a tour of Latvian castles that we visited last summer. The only thing I've seen in the last month is the inside of my apartment or grocery store, neither of which you want to see.   The first castle I'd like to show you is in the town of Cesis. The pils (the word castle in Latvian) sits on a small hill surrounded by the city which, of course, grew up around the castle.  Model of the castle Most of the castle today is ruins. It was first constructed of stone around 1209, so it's been around a very long time. When it was completed, it became the seat of the Livonians. The Master of the Livonian Order used it as his residence from 1239 to 1561. The Livonians were the rulers of the territory known as Latvia today. Altar in the ruins The ruins sit in a beautiful park now. We wandered around the grounds of the old castle and came upon an ancient altar that was used in the castle hundreds of years ago. My

Honoring Covid -19 Healthcare Workers

Image
Healthcare Statue   Many things in Riga have changed since last March when the Chinese virus descended on the world. One lasting thing will be a 20-foot statue that now adorns the lawn in front of the National Latvian Art Museum.  This statue, dedicated way back in June of last year,   appeared as a way to thank the healthcare workers for their untiring work in the hospitals. The woman, wearing a lab coat, gloves and a face mask, has her hands out in service.  National Latvian Art Museum Sculptor Aigars Birkse created the artwork, along with the European League of Institutes of the Arts. They said this statue   “is dedicated to medics in Latvia and around the world, praising their selfless courage and care during the Covid-19 outbreak.” Museum in background At that time, Latvia had not been affected by the coronavirus very much at all. During the summer, life in Old Town Riga was pretty normal, except for the lack of tourists since the borders were closed.  However, since November, Lat

A Foxy Tale

Image
A unique sighting Last week we discovered something unique to Riga. We looked into a rumor of a building with a fox sculpture attached. When we located the building, we were surprised to see how large this fox actually was.  As you can see by the picture on the left, it's several times my size. It's standing on a portion of a building but crawling down toward the ground.  There wasn't much of an explanation as to why this particular animal was built in this particular location. Well, there was a sign posted on the wall, but it was written in Russian and Latvian, so I couldn't read a word of it.  Building next to the fox  The neighborhood where we found it wasn't very memorable. In fact, it was rather run down, like many old Soviet neighborhoods are in Riga.  Old Soviet buildings None of the surroundings explained why the fox was located there. Just down the street, we spotted a tall Soviet era building that is known in Riga as "Stalin's birthday cake."