The Baltics*


Sigulda, approx 50 km NE of Riga, is situated on a picturesque stretch of the primeval Gauja river valley. Because of the reddish Devonian sandstone which forms steep rocks and caves on both banks of the river, Sigulda has been called the "Switzerland of Vidzeme". After the restoration of Latvian independence in 1991, an emphasis was placed on conserving Sigulda's public monuments and parks as well as improving the town's tourist sector. >Gutmanis Cave The Gutmanis Cave lies halfway between Sigulda Castle and Turaida Castle and has a small stream flowing from it. It is the largest cave in the Baltics, measuring 19 m (62.34 ft) deep, 12 m (39.37 ft) wide and 10 m (32.81 ft) high. The cave still bears inscriptions from as early as the 17th century. Dinking the water is supposed to be healthy and is said to make one beautiful and increase lifespan. From the cave it is possible to climb into the hills and take the cable car over the river valley.

>Turaida Museum Reserve

The Turaida Museum Reserve is a heritage site. The 42 hectares of grounds are littered with archaeological, architectural, historical and art monuments, all of which provide an account of the events from the eleventh century onwards. The name Turaida means “God’s garden” in the language of the ancient inhabitants, the Livonians. The red brick Medieval Turaida Castle has been partly restored with those buildings housing a museum. In the grounds are Dainas Hill, a garden of sculptures dedicated to Latvian folklore. It was created to honour Krišjānis Barons, the most distinguished collector of folk songs. Turaida Church is one of the oldest wooden churches in Latvia, built in 1750.

>Knights of the Sword Castle

The Medieval 13th century Knights of the Sword Castle started by the Order of the Brethren of the Sword Master Venno in 1207, initially as a ‘Castellum’ type fortress with a chapel. After the Order was defeated in 1236, the Livonian Order took over the site and carried out major reconstruction modifying it to a convent type building. The castle was ruined during the Great Northern War in the early 18th century and has not been renovated. All that is left today is the south-western part of the convent building, with Gothic window apertures and the tower of the main gate. Sigulda New Castle of ancient stone building was built instead as the living house for the manor owners Kropotkins from 1878 to 1881. After the WWI, the Latvian Printing Association started managing the New Castle, which served as the Writers and Journalists Recreation House. It was reconstructed during the period from 1935 to 1937. The USSR Health Ministry sanatorium was located in the castle after World War II. Since 1993 it has served as City and Regional Council offices.