Cēsis Castle is one of the most iconic and best preserved medieval castles in Latvia. The foundations of the castle were laid 800 years ago by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, but he most prosperous period Cēsis Castle experienced was during its next owners, the Teutonic Order. It became one of the key administrative and economic centers of the Teutonic Order in Livonia. In 1577 it was besieged by Ivan the Terrible and during the course of the siege approximately 300 people within the castle committed mass suicide by blowing themselves up with gunpowder. Cēsis Castle was still in use during the following century but it fell into disuse after the Great Northern War. Today Cesis Castle is one of the ‘must see’ destinations in Latvia.
I got the chance to visit one day two months ago and loved it. Only the south and west wall have survived, but on the west wall is a tower that was the Master’s quarters. To climb the dark spiral staircases you pick up a candle lit lantern and climb up as in days of yore. It is a tradition that originated in 1996 and has become a trademark of Cēsis Castle.
Outside the castle in the outer bailey (protected field) they have four different stations set up during the summer season. The first are the artisan workshops where a bone and antler craftsman, woodturner, blacksmith and printmaker work. They practice their craft by utilizing the same methods as were common in the Middle Ages. Adjacent to the artisan workshops is a 16th-century kitchen garden containing vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants that were cultivated in Livonia, 500 years ago. The third station are siege and lifting devices.
The fourth station is the one I liked the most. Here they have recreated many games and activities medieval children would have played. I was able to learn how to walk on stilts and when he asked if I wanted to learn a medieval board game I was totally on board.