It’s hard to believe that it was 2 months ago that I sat in Riga’s Old Town, staring sadly into my beer as I thought about the end of my visit all 58 Riga districts project. I quickly decided that I needed something similar for this year, so I decided to cast the net wider and visit all towns in Riga planning region, which stretches as far as places like Salacgriva, Aloja, Ogre and Tukums. With one of them (Riga) done, it was time for the other 28.
Ask Latvians where to visit outside Riga on 11 October and you’ll only get one answer: Sigulda. Some of the places I’ll visit during these outings will be unknown, not so Sigulda, which features in all the guidebooks along with places like Jurmala and Kuldīga as a place to go outside Riga. I’d already been four or five times before, but this was supposed to be *the* time to visit.
Why Sigulda at that time? Simply enough, with all its woodland, the autumn colours are fantastic.
We drove down, it’s about 40 minutes by car from Riga. Hungry, we tried to get some food in the Fazenda which has replaced the Raibis Suns restaurant, but it’s so popular apparently that you need reservations, so we were stuck in Cili Pica in the Sokolade shopping centre. After that, we hit the track into the forest. It was crowded. The weather was much better than usual, 16, with the sun occasionally making an appearance. As a result there were loads of people there taking advantage and parking was hard to find.
The first stop was at the Gutmanis cave, the highest and widest cave in the Baltics.
There are, allegedly, inscriptions from the 17th century in the cave, to which modern teens and others have added. I’m surprised they let this continue, aren’t they worried about erosion and damage to the site?
After that, we headed up the hill to follow the trail round to Turaida castle. After 70 kilometre treks in Peru, this was easy peasy for me for a change, while other people puffed and panted up the stairs.
Turaida castle just celebrated its 800th birthday this year, even though most of the modern castle consists of reconstructions done in the last 40 years.
The tower, like the rest of Sigulda was crammed. With only a narrow staircase going up, we got stuck at one point as we had to wait for people squeezing their way down past us. Some of the ladies hadn’t really thought this day through, as their heely boots really slowed things down on the staircase. From the top, there are views of all the woodland around
and the Gauja, Latvia’s longest river, in the distance.
The river was the next stop. There’s a big bridge, which doesn’t seem to have a name, crossing it and we fought our way through another group of people to try and get photos.
If you want better views, there’s a cable car which crosses above it
which organises bungee jumps. I once saw the Foo Fighters in concert and their frontman, Dave Grohl, the ex-Nirvana drummer, described this as “Stupid people jumping with knicker elastic tied round them.” I agree with Dave!
The sunset was coming at this point and we snapped off photo after photo.
With darkness setting in, we deserved some refreshments so headed back towards the town. As towns in Latvia go, Sigulda seems to have all the essentials. I especially liked the idea of…
As I’d stuffed my face in Cili Pica earlier I sadly couldn’t check out their claim. We headed instead to Biskvits, which seems to be part of a small chain. It was busy enough, and there were still people sitting outside, something you don’t usually see in Latvia in the second week of October.
With town two done it was time to head back to Riga. Sadly, I haven’t yet found a decent sized printable map of the towns in Riga planning region, so all I have is this tiny one.
Maybe someone knows where I could download one?