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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

the road to Sigulda

Turaida Castle, a slightly ruinous complex of brick and stone. A tall tall tower, a long wall, gates and a three storey keep. Its redness contrasting greatly with the wild greenery. The castle stands guard over a deep green hole cut by a gurgling river far below. Far across, though you cannot see it, sleeps Sigulda, a quiet tourist town with an old soviet train station.

Taking the train from riga can be haphazard in nature. Especially if you act hastily upon hearing what you think is 'Sigulda' issuing from the announcing speakers. This will lead you to a tiny village of neat gardens, scything grannies, spread out wooden houses and a sandy maze of roads. There's a trick following the main road out of that place in order to hitch-hike to your proper destination of Sigulda should you decide not to wait around an hour for the next train. A wrong turn takes you towards a stream snaking away from a vegetable garden and a yelping dog. Fear not, for the sound of fast moving cars can be heard. it's up to you to make it through the forest to that motorised salvation. it is difficult work, best done with footwear that can get wet, for the many crossings over the stream are easier than taking the high road. The way becomes boggy and you may start to worry.

Nothing for it but the high road after all. Beavers engineered the bog, so it can't be terribly vast, as fears thought. Cutting a trail up the steep sides of the stream bank the cars get louder. Trees give way to meadow and there, yes, a glimpse of automobile. Finally the road, finally a lift to Sigulda. It took an hour, the same as waiting for the next train...

But when you trek through the ruins of Sigulda Castle, see the redness of Turaida level with you standing upon the opposite outcropping with the rivers green canyon between you, it was worth it. Should you decide to take the train back to Riga and ask a taxi driver for confirmation that that soviet era building of concrete is indeed the station, do not be surprised when he says, "Choo-choo, da".

And the moral of the story? Learn to speak Latvian to avoid such a mess, or, don't be hasty, you'll only get your feet wet.

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