A Latvian Medieval Tale

July 16, 2017
Currently: not thinking about the fact that I’m flying back home on Sunday…

One of the main advantages of having a car is the ability to go visit some places off the beaten track. So, we did just that to experience a more medieval Latvia that’s off the beaten track. Well off the beaten track for everyone except Germans. Germans are everywhere.

My first Latvian trek across the border was to visit Liepaja and Kuldiga. 30 second recap. Go.

Liepaja

 

✓ Windiest city in Latvia
✓ Most musicians in Latvia
✓ Most beautiful sand beach in Latvia

I wish we would have had the time and the warmth to spend a day laying on the beach… Alas, my bathing suit still sits unused in my suitcase.

Kuldiga

 

town square

 

 
✓ Most romantic town in Latvia
✓ Cutest small town old city in Latvia
✓ Widest natural rapid in Europe
Hungry for some pictures of this adorable town? I got you, don’t worry.
our restaurant

 

widest natural rapid in Europe

 

felt good to be surrounded by so much green
after so many cities

 

 

it begs the question, why would 
someone need a giant stuffed penguin?

 

 

 

The further north we traveled, the more medieval influences we found. After Riga, we ventured into Gauja National Park for a different taste of Latvia. It was beautiful to drive through (granted I slept in the backseat for most of it…😋😴) but it’s really known for its historical structures, namely the Turaida Castle.
one of my favorite pictures of the entire trip
“Thoreyda” also known as Thor’s Garden is a medieval castle dating back to 1214. I could go into the history on the place, but it’s pretty boring. I’ll save you the dates, instead sharing the legend of the Rose of Turaida.

In 1601 the Swedes captured the castle. After the battle a clerk of the castle, Mr. Greif, found among the dead a small girl. He took her under his wing and named her Maija. The years passed by and Maija grew up so beautiful that people named her the Rose of Turaida. The gardner, Victor and fiance of Maija, lived in Sigulda castle. In the evenings they met each other at Gutmanis cave. Adam, a man in service in the Turaida castle, proposed to Maija as well. Maija rejected him but he decided the only way to get her was to lie. He wrote a note pretending to be Victor and invited her to meet him at Gutmanis cave. When Maija arrived, she knew she was deceived. She decided to die and remain faithful to her fiance. She had a red silk scarf around her neck and she told Adam that it would protect from the sword cut and asked him to test it. He cut her and Maija fell lifeless down at his feet. Victor found his betrothed and rushed in despair to Turaida for help. At the cave, there was the gardener’s axe, lost in a hurry, and suspicion fell upon Victor for Maija’s murder. He was arrested and tried. The course of events changed when a friend of Adam arrived and told the truth. Victor was justified, but Maija was buried at the edge of Turaida where Victor planted a linden tree on her grave.

Maija’s linden tree

 

Gutmanis cave

As a last stop on the agenda, Ungurmuiza, was one made for my mom. She took us to a stately red mansion previously owned by a nobleman who served under the Swedish king and Russian tsar. It’s frozen in time and easy to imagine a life in a simpler time, where children actually played in playhouses and not on their phones and writing desks were actually used to write letters.

 

The final stop on our castle tour was in Cesis, where we encountered classic Baltic weather: rain for 15 minutes and then sunny blue skies like it never happened. Worth the trip for another take on medieval life in Latvia, especially once you know it was *the* most important castle of the Livonian Order. I’d say that’s quite the feat considering how many castles there are!

 

Cesis castle

Alright, that makes my Latvia adventure complete. Onwards to Estonia, the last of the Baltics. I’m excited to see how it stacks up!

Lots of love,

Lena

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