Friday 7th July
We spent the morning practising some acroyoga, much to Lex’s distaste. Eventually, we laid out a bit of tarp for him over the grass, which pacified him somewhat. Lex’s never happy about having to sit directly on the ground, like some sort of animal. And he really hates acroyoga.
We decided to split the pack today, in a controversial turn of events. I set off to explore the nearby Cesis castle, a non dog-friendly activity, while Lex & Morgan hung out at the campsite cafe, enjoying their wifi and electricity. Much to my dismay, the only parking at the castle was of the parallel variety, and it was extremely busy. It seemed a wedding was happening at the castle, and after the 5th well-dressed person walked out in front of me without even looking, I circled away from the town centre and found a dirty and dystopian car park 10 minutes walk away. Perfect.
I looped back towards the castle on foot, and as I entered the ticket office I came face to face with the bride, taking photos with her bridesmaids! In the erm, ticket office. I walked past them, slightly worried the castle was closed and I was massively interrupting. But no, the castle was open for business as usual, despite the wedding!
Some cool things about the medieval castle at Cesis:
One of the towers is so pitch black that they give you a candle lantern upon entry, so you can light your own way up the spiral staircase.
At one point you’re encouraged to descend a slightly precarious metal ladder into a dark and dank dungeon. Just for fun.
Ivan the Terrible besieged the castle in 1577, and eventually cracked its defences using a cannon called “the wolf.” The castle’s inhabitants chose death over enslavement, and set off their own gunpowder supply as a dramatic mass suicide. Quite a surprise for the castle restoration team, when they came across the bodies hundreds of years later.
Something I’m particularly enjoying about Latvia so far is the myriad of references to the USSR, and just how pissed off they still are over the whole affair. There are numerous plaques remembering those who were exiled to Siberia during the “Soviet occupation,” as they fondly dub their time in the Soviet Union. I particularly enjoyed this toppled Lenin statue, shoved unceremoniously into a box in the outskirts of the castle grounds.
I actually have such a grim fascination with Communist memorabilia that I’ve ended up travelling across the world to lay eyes on the bodies of three different embalmed communist leaders. Can you guess which ones?*
We found a pretty little parking area next to a river to sleep in for the night, inside the Guajas national park. Just as we were washing up our dinner pots, a large car decorated with ribbons pulled up next to us. It was another wedding! We watched as the groom carried his bride across the metal bridge, then they stopped to pose for photos. We ducked behind our car at this point, so the poor people didn’t end up with our dirty dinner plates in their wedding photos.
A couple of hours later another couple parked up by the bridge, and this man also carried his wife across the bridge! We decided to see what all the fuss was about ourselves, so after these two left, we headed over to check out the bridge. Lex had other ideas though, and flat out refused to put a single toe on the metal grid of the bridge floor.
So as it ended up, Lex got the luxury carry over the bridge instead.
* Mini-quiz answers: Ho Chi Min in Hanoi, Mao in Beijing and Lenin in Moscow. I (probably) draw the line at visiting the Kims in Pyongyang.
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