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After a rather difficult evening together as a family in Riga on Saturday we agreed to spend Sunday separately, with one child each. On my brother’s recommendation, I decided to take our son to Sigulda to see some castles and caves.
Sigulda castle was built as the headquarters of the Livonian brothers of the sword between 1207 and 1209 and probably abandoned in the northern war (1700 to 1721).
We caught a train, diesel and very slow, partly because it stopped many times, from Riga to Sigulda. We had a comfortable journey and on arrival we gathered information from the Tourist office. Unfortunately we had just missed the bus to Turaida so we set off to walk the 5km instead.
Our first stop was the cosy bakery café across from the railway station. There we had breakfast and stocked up on some savory pastries for lunch.
There is a huge and very good play ground in Sigulda, the best that I’ve seen so far in northern Europe. It catered for everyone, from adult exercise equipment to a skate park to big and small children play equipment. Needless to say we spent some enjoyable time there with several Latvian families, rugged up against the cold. One thing that I like about living in a cold climate is that everyone takes it seriously and dresses appropriately, unlike Australia where it’s easy to find men in shorts even when the temperature is below 10C.
We walked on, looking at the mix of northern architecture in the small but growing town. There weren’t any signs and I misread the map and we started walking down the road to the river and the lack of footpath made me worried as cars sped past. We decided to try walking up the forest track to our right and when we popped over the ridge we found Sigulda castle in front of us. What a relief!
We walked past the new castle and crossed the footbridge to the old castle. I was amazed that it only cost us 1.40 Euro for the two of us to enter. We walked up into the entrance tower which has been recently renovated with wooden stairs and framework to create rooms in the stone building. A collection of armor and weapons were available for children to hold and my son was delighted to hold a wooden sword, spear with metal tip and wear a medieval metal helmet.
We also climbed up the rear guard tower and from there we had a great view of the Gauja River valley. We could see the cable car crossing the valley, the famous Turaida castle (Latvia’s number one tourist attraction) and Krimulda Manor. My son also enjoyed trying standing in the stocks.
We walked over to the cable car station but discovered that timed tickets are not sold and the wait in the queue was at least 1 hour. We swallowed our disappointment, adapted our plans and gave up on crossing the valley and seeing the other 2 castles and the Gutman caves and headed back to the Lutheran Church instead. While I had a quick look inside at the austere white church my son delighted in wacking autumn leaves with his Sigulda walking stick (a souvenir that is fully functional as a walking stick and attractively decorated). I wanted to climb the church tower and see the mosaics up there but my son had lost interest and I didn’t like the idea of leaving him alone outside while I couldn’t see him. In general I didn’t have a great feeling in Latvia of personal safety so I didn’t let our children wander alone at all.
As you probably already predicted we headed back to the massive play ground for lots of fun play before catching the next bus back to Riga. We reunited with my daughter and husband in the old town for a hot drink before a delicious meal at a hipster restaurant near our apartment.