The entire Gauja National Park area is only 53 km/32 miles from Riga, making it an easy and popular day trip for the Latvians to visit Sigulda, Cesis/Cecis, Turaida or just enjoy nature. There is also Krimulda Manor House, first mentioned in the 15th century with an old castle ruin near the manor. Gauja National Park was created to protect a river valley but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have all these historical buildings and towns in the same area referred to as the “Switzerland of Latvia.”
The red brick Turaida Castle complex…View image… was an ancient fortress built in 1214. This was an important fortification and residence of the Archbishops of Riga. There are exhibitions arranged in every reconstructed building of the Castle as well as the buildings of the Turaida Estate. There are also 14 ponds, a park of folk songs with 26 sculptures by Indulis Ranka…View image, nature trails and a memorial tomb to the Rose of Turaida. Follow this link if you are interested telling the entire (and long) story about a murdered girl, eternal love and devotion. Newlyweds still visit the site as a symbol of everlasting love. There was absolutely no way that anyone could visit all this within a 1-1/2 hour time frame along with browsing the West Tower jewelry shop. Schedule a half-day minimum for your visit.
Let off in the parking lot, the group would explore the vast expanses of Turaida Castle on our own. Reconstruction is ongoing in the gardener’s house, church, stables, dog keepers shed, stewards house, and granary, scattered around the grounds and none of which we had time to see. ex-Marine and I immediately headed for the main castle complex and climbed into the electrified, round West Tower for views of the Gauja Valley…View image, main courtyard below, main rooms and second floor jewelry shop.
This jewelry shop makes and sells bronze and silver reproductions of ancient Latvian jewelry. Even though the prices were quite expensive for costume jewelry, I, and most of the other women in the group, ended up buying. My choice was a pair of earings with Latvian symbols dangling. The Mara cross – protector of family hearth; Cross of luck, fire cross, and cross of thunder on one; Fir needle – symbol of luck; Triangle – arc of heaven and god; Usins sign – god of bees, horses and spring – symbol of fertility (I certainly don’t need a symbol of fertility at my age); Sign of the sun; and Sign of grass snake – a home blessing.
One last stop to visit Turaida Castle prison…View image, and it was time to hurry back to the bus. The three-castle day was over.