The breakfast bar justified my decision to switch by having delicious bacon on offer. There was actually so much choice I’ll probably eat something completely different tomorrow. I’d had to leave the breakfast buffet anyway as I wanted to catch the 7:50 train to Sigulda in an attempt to beat the tour buses.
The railway station was efficient and I managed to buy a ticket and board the train in about 5 minutes. The trip took about an hour and a quarter and I arrived in Sigulda seg on the edge of the Gauja National Park. The visitor information was just outside the railway station and I reversed my plans and decided to catch the bus to the furthest point and walk back.
The bus took 10 minutes to get to Turaida and there was already two tour buses of Japanese there. I walked along the short path to the castle, similar in style to Trakai in Lithuania but not nearly as restored. I’m in two minds with the restoration of these castles. Yes they give you an idea of what they looked like in the past but the restorations are always obvious also.
The castle had a few places to explore, including the dungeon, which has some mannequins reenacting the dungeon and was glassed off to prevent actually entering the dungeon. The highlight for me though was climbing the main tower. Looking out the windows of the tower made it feel a lot taller than it looked from the outside, especially as unlike the dungeon, I was able to stick my head out the window completely and also climb out the window should I feel like it!
More people started to arrive, so I departed the castle to get a head start on the walking track. The first part of the track wasn’t great due to two reasons. It was up and down a lot of steps and secondly, you were always in earshot of the road so despite walking through a beautiful forest, you could hear the cars along the road about 50m to my left. I came out of the forest and there was a small cafe to grab a drink from before I headed to Gutmana cave about 5 minutes further on. The cave has a lot of “carved” graffiti from centuries ago, plus more modern graffiti that was less pleasing. Apparently, the drinking the water from the stream flowing from the cave will remove wrinkles. I figured I’d live with wrinkles, but may not live if I drank a parasitic worm.
The next bit of the walk was a nice long staircase straight up the hill. I should mention in all this time I saw no other hikers, everyone else I’d seen were on a tour bus or driving between the places, except for locals people going for a jog. The staircase was challenging, but done in 20 minutes. At the top were the ruins to the second castle of the day, Krimuldas. Not that there was much left of this castle at all. Nearby was Krimuldas manor, which wasn’t open to the public and perhaps not even used, but I was able to wander the gardens for a while before heading to the cable car across the valley.
The cable car was not as scary as I thought it would be, it was fairly steady and didn’t sway, plus the cable droops into the valley, so I didn’t feel like I was at a height where death was certain. On the other side of the valley was the town of Sigulda, where I started the day. I checked out the new and old Sigulda castle, both of them closed for renovations and then headed back for a late lunch and the train back to Riga. I was absolutely knackered after the walk today and had a nap for a few hours, before heading back into the old town of riga for dinner, where I had a Latvian pork knuckle that I couldn’t finish eating as it was too much food!