Tartu to Sigulda

We stayed at Mālpils Manor which was built in 1760. Like many other mansions in Latvia, it was burnt down during the revolution of 1905. Afterwards the manor’s restoration was commissioned by its landlord Alexander von Grote, by a Baltic German architect Wilhelm Bockslaff. The reconstruction was completed in 1911, and the building acquired its present-day appearance. Baron von Taube (18th c.) reshaped the grounds into a romantic Baroque park with garden paths, a lovers’ bridge and picturesque ponds. The manor is surrounded by a flower garden and aromatic herbs, two fountains, and ponds with blossoming water lilies. The footpath benches were made from the trees growing in the same park. Baron von Taube’s obelisk has been renovated as well. Today Mālpils Manor is both a monument of Classicism and a country house hotel with 24 rooms

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En route from Tartu to Mālpils we had a stop at Cesis. A 13th century town with market place and church. The stone castle of the Livonian Order with its three fortified towers dates from that time too. The town was also encircled by a dolomite stone wall with eight towers and five gates. 18th century buildings can be seen in Rīgas Street. The Battle of Cēsis in June 1919 when Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans was one of the decisive battles in the Latvian War of Independence.

After leaving the town of Cesis we stopped at the Āraiši Museum Park. It consists of reconstructed buildings from the Stone and Bronze Ages, ancient Latgalians settlements from the 9th-11th centuries, as well as castle ruins from the Livonian period. Āraiši Lake Castle is presently the most extensively studied site of this kind in the whole of northeast Europe.

More than 20 small wooden houses on an island in the Āraiši Lake can be visited, as well as a number of other cultural historical monuments, including a Dutch style windmill. The Dutch style windmill was built from a wall of boulders, covered with mortar; its diameter at the foundation is 11 m and 6 m at the top. The building is 12 metres high. The windmill was used up until the beginning of World War I.
Then on past the prominent storks nests, usually on telephone poles, as home owners appear reluctant to have these mini castles built on their chimney pots. And on to Sigulda

Sigulda is situated on a 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", which is probably more tourist inspired than real. 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. Sports such as skiing, bobsledding, and the luge are popular in wintertime and bungee jumping is practiced during the rest of the year.

However it really was not a vulgar as that, and the restored castle was worth a visit. There are in fact 2 castles - Sigulda New Castle, to distinguish it from the ruined medieval Sigulda Medieval Castle nearby, was built during the end of the 19th Century. The stone building was a house for the owner's family, the Kropotkins, from 1878 to 1881. After World War I the Latvian Printing Association managed the castle and the building served as a recreation house for writers and journalists. It was reconstructed from 1935 to 1937, and Latvian artists worked on its interior. The castle was used by the Ministry of Health of the USSR as a sanatorium after World War II. From 1993 to 2003 it housed the Sigulda City Council, and now houses the Sigulda Regional Council.
We had a drink in the Castle restaurant, an odd sort of place that did not really seem to be geared to tourism, more a left over from the Soviet era. The sort of place where you had to winkle the staff out of the back room, and even then they only served you with bad grace. As it was impossible to find anyone to pay I ended up just leaving the money on the table.


Our Itinerary in the Baltics