Getting lost in the tracks of crusaders

Sigulda Travel Blog

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At the train station in Riga

When I woke up and stumbled out of bed I almost fell down because my muscles were all stiff and cramped, and the blister on my foot hurt. I had hoped that an evening and a night’s rest might make a difference, but my legs told me that I had to take it easy for a longer time. Still, I took the early train to do a hike, like I wanted to.

At the train station I got bothered by a guy who followed me around, talking Latvian to me. I didn’t know what he wanted, but I felt that he was simply trying to mess around with me. I kept walking and eventually he left me to join his friends. I always get a bit shaky and suspicious by such happenings. It bothers me a lot, and on your own you are quite vulnerable. I boarded my train and started to relax after a while. Fifteen minutes after departing from Riga the train was already deep in the woods! That never happens in the Netherlands.

Sigulda castle (old)
There is so much forest in this part of Europe, and it is deep forest, where you can see far into the woods, and the horizon disappears in tree trunks.

My destination was Sigulda, a small town which is sort of the main gateway into Gauja National Park, a deep forest with lots of wildlife. The town itself isn’t really that interesting, but it has a great assortment of palaces, castles and manors. There is a great hike that takes about half a day where you enter the Gauja forest from Sigulda and walk past the castles on your way. The real challenge is not to get lost…

Right next to Sigulda there are two castles, a new one and an older, more interesting one. This land was the target of medieval German crusaders.
Gauja National Park with Gauja river
The Teutonic order of knights and the later Livonian order built a lot of castles in this area to battle the Baltic pagans, at around the same time that the other crusaders marched to Asia. It is a little-known piece of history. Not much is left of this castle, besides a clear cross in the walls.

The other castles are located at the other side of the valley I was in, at the other side of the Gauja river. To go there I took the cable car, only I had to wait an hour because I arrived too late. Die hard adventure seekers can bungee-jump from the moving cable car. I didn’t because… I didn’t feel like it… moving on… The other side is called Krimulda. It has an old manor which was later used as a tuberculosis rehabilitation clinic. You can see the little wooden rooms that they turned toward the sun all day in an effort to cure tuberculosis.
Carved coats of arms inside Gutmanis cave.
Didn’t work.

I started on my walk to the next sight, but the signs were really confusing, and were missing now and then. I took some wrong turns and ended up in faraway fields on the Latvian countryside. A running and barking dog chased me away, and I went all the way back to Krimulda to start over again. I found it at last: a famous cave. Gutmanis cave has a legend about a lady (the Rose of Turaida) and a knight in love. They met secretly in the cave, where the knight accidentally killed the lady. The castle records proved that the story had really happened.

Ever since the drama in the cave, the place became famous by the graffiti left by passing knights. The entire walls of the cave are completely covered by coats of arms, that were carved out of the rock by the knights.
Carved coats of arms inside Gutmanis cave.
Some coats of arms are dated to six hundred years ago. I have never seen anything like it, it is really unique!

I got lost again on my way to the final sight. There were signs here and there, but I have walked for at least an hour without knowing if I was going the right way. I came past houses in the Latvian countryside, and in the end I stumbled upon a town. I got a bit panicky by then, and I thought I had walked too far, or in some completely wrong direction. I asked a bus driver the way to Turaida castle (where I was trying to get to), and he told me: yeah it is right over there! It was right across the street! I was really relieved but I felt like an idiot at the same time. Turaida Castle by the way is really amazing, so the walk was worth it. It is an impressive red-brick stronghold, built by those German Livonian Knights.
Turaida Castle
There is a really high tower that gives a great view over the rest of the walls and over Gauja park itself.

On my way back to Riga I had some interesting talks with a Belgian who had been in Moskow while the smoke covered the city, and with a guy named Alastair from Newcastle. I asked both of them whether they considered Latvia a northern European country or an eastern European country and I got two different answers. I guess Latvia is just itself. It was an adventurous day, and I am really glad I had done that hike.

sarahthevegasbride says:
we visited here in winter frozen over lake have a look at my blog!
Posted on: May 06, 2011
Jeroenadmiraal says:
I am glad you liked it :) I had a great day.
Posted on: May 03, 2011
marismols says:
Thanks for the post. I like it.
Posted on: May 03, 2011
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At the train station in Riga
At the train station in Riga
Sigulda castle (old)
Sigulda castle (old)
Gauja National Park with Gauja riv…
Gauja National Park with Gauja ri…
Carved coats of arms inside Gutman…
Carved coats of arms inside Gutma…
Carved coats of arms inside Gutman…
Carved coats of arms inside Gutma…
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Sigulda castle (new)
Sigulda castle (new)
Sigulda castle (old)
Sigulda castle (old)
Into Gauja forest
Into Gauja forest
Cable car yeah!
Cable car yeah!
Krimulda manor
Krimulda manor
Tuberculosis clinic
Tuberculosis clinic
Krimulda castle
Krimulda castle
In Gauja National Park
In Gauja National Park
In Gauja National Park
In Gauja National Park
In Gauja National Park
In Gauja National Park
Gutmanis cave
Gutmanis cave
Carved coats of arms inside Gutman…
Carved coats of arms inside Gutma…
Latvian countryside
Latvian countryside
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Turaida Castle
Sigulda
photo by: dardeb