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Rundale,  Latvia - flag Latvia -  Bauskas Rajons
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marianne's travel reports

Daytrips in and around Riga

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Ochre-coloured Rundāle Palace makes a good day-trip from Riga as does the town of Sigulda, which is more a park than a town. Both can be visited by public transport.


Rundāle Palace and garden
Rundāle Palace and garden
This report is a sequel to my Riga report. Since it is not allowed to upload two reports for the same destination I uploaded this as Rundāle, as this is an easy day trip from Riga.

It is a run-on report and all headings are disregarded.

******-******-******-******-******

The historic centre of Riga is small and we needed no more than two days to see it all. (see my Riga report and photos in my pictures section).

As the weather was expecionally beautiful, we decided to leave the museums for rainy and colder days and went for a ride on tram #11, strolled through the parks east of the Old Town, went to Sigulda and visited Rundāle Palace.

Sigulda and Rundāle are easy day-trips because Latvian public transport is cheap, frequent and reliable.

Riga's bus station is efficient and within walking distance of the Old Town. (Take the subway passage at the south end of Vaļņu Street, pass under the train viaduct, the bus station is on your right).

Departure times are shown on large posters and tickets are bought at the ticket window. Tickets show date and the number of the bus stand. But if you are pressed for time, the bus driver also sells tickets. The system is easy and efficient.

Favourite spots:
water-spouting nymph
water-spouting nymph
City and Kronvalda Parks

City Park forms the eastern boundary of the Old Town. The City Canal divides the park into two shady stretches of parkland inhabited by ducks and swans. A path follows the canal from the opera to Elizabetes Street, famous for its Art Nouveau architecture.

We started our walk at the opera, passed the fountain and water-spouting nymph, a favourite hang-out of courting couples. Parents like to take photos of their children dangling their feet in the water, supervised by a nude nymph.

The Freedom Monument is easy to spot. Its 50-m high column points straight into the air and is crowned by a female figure holding three stars high above her head. They represent the three regions of Latvia: Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgal, which were united in 1918 and formed the present country of Latvia.

What's really great:
Lake beach at the end of tram 11
Lake beach at the end of tram 11
Valdemara Iela, a busy thoroughfare, crosses the park about halfway. On the left is the National Theatre, a gleaming white neo-baroque building with two Titans bearing the weight of the façade.


TRAM 11

The Old Town is the tourist centre of Riga and famous for its medieval buildings. However, it is not representative for where people live. Therefore, we took tram 11 from Central Station to Mezaparks.

We wandered about leafy avenues lined with villas for the wealthy. Any side street on the left took us to the shores of Kišezers, one of the two lakes in north-east Riga. The mirror-still water reflected the blue sky, the shores were full of sun-lovers, who lounged on a slightly polluted small strip of sand.

Keeping the lake on our right, we walked to a small harbour with bobbing, multi-coloured boats. A wooded path curved to the left and ended in front of the Zoo. From here it is 3 km back to the centre of Riga. A tram ride is only Ls 0,20 (€ 0.30).

Sights:
Utilitarian apartment blocks
Utilitarian apartment blocks
We took the tram back as far as Meža Kapi tram stop and started following the tram tracks on foot.

I like walking through unknown streets as it gives me more the feeling of being there besides it is better for photo opportunities.

We passed utilitarian grey concrete apartment blocks and old, factories, reminders of Soviet days. Most of the traditional wooden houses have been pulled down and those that remain are in bad repair. We found Miera Ielda an interesting street as the houses are a mixture of grey blocks and wooden houses.

Accommodations:
Entrance to Rundāle Palace
Entrance to Rundāle Palace
Rundāle Palace

Rundāle is 13 km west of the town of Bauska which is 75 km south of Riga. It can easily be visited as a day trip by public transport as long as you catch the 11 am bus from Bauska to Rundāle, there is time enough to see the palace before boarding the 14.50 or 16.44 pm bus back to Bauska. Going back to Riga is no problem as there are hourly buses until about 10 pm.

Rundāle Palace is a Baroque mansion filled with paintings, period furniture, silk tapestry, painted ceilings and porcelein. It was built in the middle of the 18th century as a 138-room summer palace for the Duke of Courland, a benign-looking man wearing a curly wig as shown in a painting that can be seen in the green room.

He named the palace 'Ruhetal', German for valley of peace, which was corrupted to Rundāle. The palace was inhabited until 1920 and then fell into disrepair. Restoration started in 1972 and has now almost been completed.

Nightlife:
Bedroom and ceiling-high stove
Bedroom and ceiling-high stove
When we got off the bus we passed through orchards, crossed a small moat and came to the outer courtyard with a maroon gate house where we bought tickets at Ls 3 (€5).

Middle-aged lady-attendants were all eager to explain details about the house in German. I asked about the ceiling-high tiled stoves in the corner of each room. They told me that four, each one in a different room, are connected to a central stove that was fed with brown coal.

The Baroque garden at the back is an intricate labyrinth of alleys, pergolas, clipped trees and green hedges.

The garden looks quite empty because all plants and trees have been planted fairly recently. A small army of gardeners was busy tending the garden when we were there.

Hangouts:
Study with another ceiling-high stove
Study with another ceiling-high stove
I found it difficult to decide which room I liked best. The pink room with its guirlandes of roses on the walls was very feminine . The bedroom had erotic details. The Gold Hall, used for receptions, showed grandeur and White Hall which was the ball room was simply splendid.

All walls are covered with silk damast and all ceilings display scenes of antique mythology.

The main colour in the Duke's bedroom is green, this in stark conrast with his wife's pink boudoir. The painted ceiling shows themes of mythology: Venus and lover, the war God Mars with his son Amor and lots more. Four medallions display other erotic subjects: Leda and the Swan, Venus and the looking glass, Jupiter and Diana and Luna and Endymion.








Restaurants:
The quiet centre of Sigulda
The quiet centre of Sigulda
Silgulda

Sigulda is only 1hr and 15 mins by bus from Riga. There are 15 daily buses, every hour but fewer on Sundays.

We only came for the day but Sigulda is a good base for short and mid-range walks, and a longer stay is well justified.

Sigulda lies on the Gauja River and is surrounded by rolling uplands with lots of trails, clearly signposted. (The Tourist Office has a good map at Ls1)

The town itself looks like a big leafy park dotted with some houses and appartment blocks, never higher than 2 floors.

We followed the river as far as Gutman Cave. The walk was more interesting than the cave itself. It is a popular outing for Latvians,who come with big jerrycans to take home the ice-cold water from the spring.

On the way back we passed the 13th century ruins of Sigulda Castle and the adjoining New castle, a 19th cent mansion. It is now a restaurant and home to town council offices.

Other recommendations:
Gauja River
Gauja River
Next time I will certainly stay longer in Sigulda and go to Gauja National Park, walk the Lignate Trail and visit the towns of Krimulda and Cesis.

In winter this area is a skiing centre. There is a bobsledge track and snow is guaranteed, at least so I was told.

I will certainly stay in Sigulda Hotel. I only saw the outside. It is a beautifully restored 19th cent building with a modern extension.

Their prices are very reasonble especially when compared to hotels in Riga.
http://www.hotelsigulda.lv

This link gives good information, also in English, about the Sigulda area.
http://www.sigulda.lv

Published on Tuesday August 15th, 2006


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Sat, Aug 26 2006 - 03:07 AM rating by mrscanada

As always a 5 star review.

Lyla

Tue, Aug 22 2006 - 12:01 PM rating by horourke

Great report
When we went to Rundales pils in 1990, we saw jewelry attributed to the Vikings which is very similar to Irish Medieval trinkets. We do not know which Nation had these designs first.

Your report brings many happy memories.

Fri, Aug 18 2006 - 12:50 PM rating by gloriajames

Another great report and beautiful pics!!! 5*

Wed, Aug 16 2006 - 08:15 PM rating by st.vincent

Good idea for a follow-on report. Those stoves look very decorative and fit in well with the rooms.

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 08:19 PM rating by eirekay

Great Report! Nice to have the day trips laid out this way!

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 05:53 PM rating by davidx

Great stuff, Marianne. The two reports together make a wonderfully comprehensive guide to Riga and easy trips out. Thanks.

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 04:02 PM rating by rangutan

Great! Lots of tips and information.

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 02:56 PM rating by leillli

marriane,you explain everything with details!now i know how to write:)

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