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South Latvia (Zemgale)
The largest part of Zemgale is flat, which makes it different from the other regions that have both uplands and deep river valleys. Zemgale boasts one of the most fertile grain fields in Northern Europe, something that has ensured the prosperity of the region for many successive centuries.
The largest part of Zemgale is flat, which makes it different from the other regions that have both uplands and deep river valleys. Zemgale boasts one of the most fertile grain fields in Northern Europe, something that has ensured the prosperity of the region for many successive centuries. Not only prosperity, but also gorgeous views of fields in Spring and Summer are seen driving through Zemgale!
Zemgale’s castles and manor houses offer an opportunity to see the remaining evidence of luxury and prosperity of older times.
And it is Zemgale in which is located one particularly significant baroque architecture monument - Rundāle Palace.
Zemgale’s landscapes are characterised by extended cultivated fields, since Zemgale’s soil has always been particularly fertile. You will see grain and rape fields, operating windmills and modern wind generators on the plains of Zemgale.
Part of Ķemeri National Park, which is known for its healing mud, sulphur waters and mineral waters, is located in the northern area of Zemgale.
Several of Latvia’s rivers cross Zemgale - the Daugava, Lielupe, Mūsa and Mēmele. The Mēmele is one of those rivers that is actively used for boat trips that offer an opportunity to see the interesting river bank strips in the area of Skaistkalne.
Castles in Zemgale
Zemgale’s castle mounds, manor houses, castles, parks and secular trees evidence the rich cultural history of the region, as well as making this region an attractive destination for anyone who is interested in architecture and art.
The most splendid eighteenth-century Baroque and Rococo architectural monument in Latvia is Rundāle Palace, which was designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli and which is enclosed by a park that contains both French and rose gardens. Zemgale houses another masterpiece by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli -Jelgava Palace, the residence of the former dukes of Kurzeme and Zemgale. It is the largest rococo-style palace in the Baltics and houses the castle museum.
Other important places of interest in Zemgale include Bauska and Mežotne castles, Classical fifteenth to eighteenth-century architectural monuments, as well as the ancient Krustpils Castle. What’s more, when you visit Zemgale, be sure not to miss the neo-Gothic Augstkalne and Vecauce castles, Duchess Dorothy’s favorite - Vircava Manor House - and also Blankenfelde Manor House in which even the French King Louis XVIII has resided.
Some architectural evidence from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries has also been preserved such as, for example, Koknese Castle ruins that are partly sunken in the River Daugava, and the ruins of Dobele Castle which was built by the Livonian Order.
Cities and towns
The old center of Jelgava is the oldest part of the city to have survived the Second World War. This is the right place in which to feel the city’s atmosphere and to stroll along its streets. If you pay a visit to Jelgava, make sure you don’t miss the tower of Jelgava Holy Trinity Church.
It is really worthwhile paying a visit to Tērvete Nature Park which has more than a hundred wooden sculptures featuring heroes and heroines of the well-known fairy tale plays of Latvian writer, Anna Brigadere, which are an especial point of interest for children.
Near to Dobele is Pokaiņi Forest with its stories about the magical powers of boulders that are located in the forest, as well as the Tīreļpurvs and Ložmetējkalns, one of the best-preserved First World War battlefields in Europe, in which you can see memorial spots for the Christmas Battles.
Zemgale’s women are known to be very hardworking and hospitable and have never lacked the skills to be able to provide a filling meal for their household and a good welcoming meal for their guests. Zemgale’s local foods are Karaša, or barley grout, and sour milk porridge, along with fish.
A trip to Zemgale will allow you to flip through the pages of history and to observe modern life alongside its historical antecedents.