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Turaida, or in God’s garden
Turaida has been named one of the most fascinating tourism destinations by the European Destinations of Excellence or EDEN 2017 competition.
Less than an hour’s drive from Riga, conveniently accessible by public transit (both train and bus), and the beautiful Sigulda, the mythical valley of Gauja and the Turaida Museum Reserve, unmatched in its allure, are all unveiled before our eyes.
The name “Turaida” — meaning “God’s garden” in the ancient Livonian tongue — has an enchanting ring to it. Turaida Museum Reserve is a record-holder in Latvia for the number of visitors — over 240 thousand guests from more than 80 countries of the world have been here.
Turaida Museum Reserve has a special importance for Latvians, for it has been awarded the status of a specially protected cultural monument. The 42-hectare territory of Turaida Museum Reserve is abundant with archaeological, architectural, historic and art monuments, narrating on the daily lives, the crafts and traditions of the people in the span of a thousand years, starting from the 11th century.
The story of the passage of time begins at the Folk Song Park and the Folk Song Hill, some of the most powerful symbols of Turaida Museum Reserve. A garden of monuments has been created at the Folk Song Hill, dedicated to the legendary collector of Latvian folk-songs Krišjānis Barons. The 26 sculptures created by the sculptor Indulis Ranka seem to be in perfect harmony with the unique allure of the surrounding nature. The universal human values —love, honour, relationship with the environment and the people, care for kin, people and nature —are rooted at the heart of the folk-songs, and these poetic concepts are embedded in the sculptures as well.
Turaida castle is the visual dominant of the Turaida Museum Reserve. The magnificent, red-brick tower can be seen at a distance from many viewpoints. The construction of the stone castle began in 1214 for the needs of bishop Albert of Riga, the location of a burnt-down wooden castle of the local Livonians was chosen as the setting for the glorious structure. After a fire in the 18th century, the castle stood idle for a long time, and preservation and reconstruction of the masonry started in the late 1976.
The tower is one of the oldest parts of the building. It is 5 stories tall, and an observation deck is installed about 30 m from the ground. It provides a fantastic vista of the wonderful Gauja National Park.
The Turaida Manor formed amidst the castle fortress and developed along with the castle. Over centuries, the Manor expanded. Starting from the first half of the 18th century, the Manor houses were already built outside of the fortress — alongside roads, fields and pastures. 21 buildings have survived, some of which are more than 200 years old. Guests can visit the old and new dwelling house of the steward, the bathhouse, the forge, the fences, fish basement, the cart-house and other premises. The exhibitions introduce the Latvian peasants’ lifestyle at the manor and the farm.
One of the most significant exhibitions is dedicated to the ancient dwellers of Ancient Turaida —the Livonians, one of the peoples of Latvia with their own unique, ancient culture, who spoke a language belonging to the Finno-Ugric language family
An integral part of the Turaida Museum Reserve is the Turaida Wooden Church, one of the oldest wooden churches in Latvia. It was built in 1750, but the church still looks exactly as it was back then.
The visitors of Turaida Museum Reserve with a bit of a romantic in them, but other people too, like to stop for a moment at the grave of Turaida rose close by the church. An ancient legend based on true events tells the story of a Latvian girl who chose death over marrying a man she did not love.
The Turaida Museum Reserve continues to expand and grow, aiming to give the visitors fresh and exciting things to explore. Many folklore events take here during the summer, and Turaida Museum Reserve is one of the rare places today where Midsummer’s solstice is celebrated traditionally, exactly the way our ancestors used to.