When I chose to visit Sigulda on my way back to Riga from Cesis Castle (which I wrote about yesterday) I figured I was just going to see another medieval castle. Turns out Sigulda is a resort town about an hour from Riga and features a wooded river valley containing forest walks, a cable car, bobsleigh track, three castles and a rehabilitation center. featuring a hostel, all of which is manageable as a day visitor on foot. Located in the picturesque Gauja Valley, with its steep banks and cliffs, Sigulda has become known as the ‘Switzerland of Latvia’. There is a history of locals selling carved, wooden “walking sticks” (really a cane) to help with hiking up and down the valley.
Although I am not sure if I agree with ‘Switzerland of Latvia’, Sigulda was great just the same. Of the three castles, I visited the medieval that was built in 1207 by the Order of the Brethren of the Sword. Two towers are restored and in one of them you can try wearing armor plus there is a locally-made candles shop at the top. The top of the other one gives you an impressive panorama view of the Gauja Valley. Right next to the medieval castle you will find the New Castle built in the end of 19th century and the Turaida Castle is about 4 km away, but it’s been rebuilt in the Soviet era. You can also check out the Krimulda Palace and Ruins.
I focused my attention more on the non castle attractions starting with Gütmanis Cave. Legend states that the water in the creek flowing from a spring inside the grotto is the tears of a young lover who killed herself rather than be taken by another man. For this reason drinking from the stream is supposed to be healthy and boosting one’s lifespan. So, I am either going to live a long life…..or get dysentery! Since that was two months ago when I was in Latvia, I think it will be the first. 🙂 The other great thing about Gütmanis Cave is that there are many inscriptions carved into the soft sandstone. Many are centuries old.
To get to Gütmanis Cave I rode the cable car across the Gauja Valley (even better views) and walked about a kilometer down a bunch of stairs. At this time I found you can do a zipline along the cable of the cable car and soar across the valley, but instead I chose to do a 130 foot bungee jump from the cable car towards the river below. I had never bungee jumped before and figure when could I do it from a cable car again? Even though I love cliff jumping into the water in the Caribbean, I am a little embarrassed to admit it took me a minute and 5-6 aborted attempts before I took the leap. Holy crap that is up there!!!!! 🙂
The one thing I would have loved to do, but was only available on weekends is ride a bobsleigh down the bobsleigh track. I read the ride takes about 1 minute and achieves speeds of up to 55 MPH. How fun would that have been?