SIGULDA - Sigulda is the kind of place one could write about and describe for ages and still not cover it all.
There are the usual sights 's Turaida castle, bobsledding, sand caves, bungee jumping and long walks through the forest. But that barely scratches the surface of the other treasures Sigulda has to offer.
Sigulda is really more of a collection of three towns that are chock full of old Livonian castles and trails; Sigulda, Krimulda and Turaida come together for an easily navigable triad of history.
The moment one steps off the train at Sigulda station, a large brick tower on the right catches the eye. The tower art gallery provides a compact look at Latvian paintings on the way up the spiral stairs. Though the gallery and studio are small, the displays are moving. Entry is free and those lucky enough will be able to see artists perfecting their craft on the tip-top floor of the tower.
From across the street it is possible to catch a microbus (30 santims) to the Turaida castle area. Or those in a hurry can walk along the road toward Krimulda and the cave area.
Those with plenty of time to kill should consider paying two lats for a golf cart tour and a variety of other slow moving tours. It is possible to get all the details of these tours through a quick stop at the tourism office.
Krimulda features the gorgeous manor house/castle Birini, which will be hosting a variety of Whitsunday festivities on May 31.
At the castle it is possible to buy the Sigulda Spiekis card, which costs 11 lats and can be used for a 24 hour discount in Sigulda's most popular attractions.
On to Turaida and its often overlooked but still recognizable symbol, the Dainu (song) hill, attached to the castle reserve. The sculpture garden is dedicated to Krisjanis Barons, the famous compiler of over 200,000 Latvian songs. The 26 sculptures were a symbol of the reawakening and a popular place for folklore groups to perform in the summer months.
The Sigulda Spiekis is something rarely mentioned but visible everywhere. This famous cane, which comes in a variety of sizes, is probably the top souvenir from Sigulda. With over 200 years of history to it, the cane and walking stick developed as a clever way for farmers to make some easy money off of the tourists coming from the big city on the new train for some fresh air.
Unaccustomed to walking, the tourists would quickly realize that they needed some support for the "Little Switzerland." Several families were responsible for making the walking sticks in the past, but now the Viganti family in Turaida makes the majority of them.
While there are a few lovely cafes and cafeteria style eateries in the area, packing a picnic is highly recommend as the weather is nice these days and the restaurants are usually more in town centers than along the wooded paths.
If going the way of Krimulda and Birini castle, the adjacent restaurant features some delicious seafood fare at nearly reasonable prices. The menu includes local favorites wild boar, and the Birini castles' specialty of ginger, chocolate and Mascarpone cheese ice cream.