It only seems right that a vacation that felt like a wish granted to me via my fairy godmother would include castles. Let me tell you, Latvia has castles. If you happen to watch the TV miniseries of War and Peace from 2016, you might recognize Rundālei Palace that is actually located in Latvia.
We did not visit Rundāle palace while we were in Latvia but the pils we visited were pretty amazing in their own right.
First thing on Friday morning, I picked up the rental car I reserved months prior to give us the freedom to drive where ever we wanted in the countryside. As it turns out, my forethought to reserve a car was pretty darn smart. Other family members that rented cars that day, out of necessity due to missing the party bus to the wedding location (due to being out with the wedding party till the wee hours the previous night) paid premium rental prices because of a music festival out in the country side. Maybe it was the Positivus Festival?
Anyway… Our target was was Cēsis, LV. Before heading out to Cēsis castle, we stopped at a hotel in town for a nature break. We had expected that once we got out away from Riga, we’d be more successful communicating in Latvian. Well, once again, tourism won out. English was more easily understood than Latvian. Either way, we found the toilet and took care of business. Fortunately, this hotel was just a pit stop, not our destination. A bit farther out is Cēsis Pils. Before you are able to take in the wonder of the ruins of Cēsis Pils, you need to enjoy the new Cēsis Pils.
Can I just say now that very few of my pictures do justice to the real beauty of Latvia?
Behind new Cēsis Pils is the old castle ruins. There are enough walls and bricks remaining to aid your imagination into visualizing how the castle was laid out and what the delightful views one would have from the towers. There are two other castles in the vicinity of Cēsis Pils. One of which you can see in the distance of the picture below, however, Cēsis was the only pils we visited that day. One can hardly ignore hungry tummies, especially when the skies continue to darken and threaten rain.
Once we were done eating and with time to kill, we hit the grocery store to do some shopping. Afterall, no trip is complete until you pick up a box of Prozit for each person back home. You only need to hope you keep the chocolates in one piece while traveling home so that the liquor inside the chocolates doesn’t escape.
Castles are not the only thing worth visiting in the Gauja River area. As is often done in the US, we visited the boyhood home of a man of historical significance. Well, he was significant to us and many that we know, that’s for sure. Ivars met us along the roadside and guided us to the boyhood home of Andrejs Kengis, PK’s dad, which is called Sietiņi.
The family still owns land in the area but we are not allowed to go up to the actual house and it’s not visible from the road. Luckily, the barn, built by PK’s grandfather, is still visible from the road.
The Kengis family doesn’t talk much about the literal story of leaving Latvia. Essentially, there came a point in the occupation when the Russians began to send farmers off to Siberia (or did other things to them). The family had been visiting another household when they received word that if they went home they would be killed. So, the Kengis family fled for safety in the middle of the night. I now realize why Sound of Music has a special place in my mother-in-law’s heart.
We inquired about where the name Sietiņi comes from. Ivars then guided us to the nearby sandstone cliffs along the Gauja River. Sietiņi translates to sieve or strainer.
Ivars recommended that we make a stop at the local cemetery before moving on to the wedding location. I admit, I was reluctant. What could be so interesting about a cemetery (besides ancestors). In hindsight, I regret that I did not take more pictures. This cemetery was like a botonical garden on castle grounds. It was quite amazing.
There was one more castle that we visited that day, but since it was also the location of Matiss’s wedding, I think it’s best to save those impressions for the next chapter, Kāzas (wedding).