Latvia

the legend of the rose of turaida

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When we travel, we are always fascinated by the different tales, folklores and legends from different countries and places we visit.

Have you heard about the legend of the Rose of Turaida?

If you ever visit Turaida Castle in Latvia, you will be sure to pass by and see the grave of Maija – the Rose of Turaida.

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The legend goes a little like this:

In early 17th Century (1601), the Swedish troops captured Turaida Castle. There was a young orphan girl discovered by the clerk of the castle, who adopted her as his own daughter and named her Maija.

Maija grew up to be beautiful young woman and the people named her the Rose of Turaida. She was engaged to a gardener by the name of Victor, who lived at Sigulda Castle. In the evenings, they would secretly meet each other at Gutmanis Cave.

A man named Adam who worked at Turaida Castle was interested in Maija and proposed to her. She rejected his proposal and Adam decided to win her over by deceit. He wrote a note to Maija inviting her to meet at Gutmanis Cave, as if the note were from Victor.

Maija turned up to the cave wearing a red silk scarf and realised she had been tricked, and chose to die rather than be unfaithful to her fiancé, Victor. She told Adam that the scarf would protect her neck from any sword and that he should attempt to cut her neck. Adam tried and Maija’s lifeless body fell down at his feet.

It was Victor that discovered his love murdered. In despair, he raced off to find help but in the meantime had dropped his axe. Suspicion arose and he was arrested and tried for her murder. It was only after a comrade-in-arms to Adam testified of the truth, which resulted in Victor being freed. Maija is now buried at the edge of Turaida graveyard, where Victor planted a linden tree on her grave.

What a tragic love story!

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Where have you been that has a similar historical tale behind it?

Share with us your thoughts.

And remember, if you want to how we are getting on during our Camino, we are posting daily videos on our Facebook Page.

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bremen town musicians in riga

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In the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale: “Town Musicians of Bremen“, the 4 animals (donkey, dog, cat and rooster) are standing on each other’s backs peering into a house of robbers feasting.

The statue, gifted to Riga by their sister city Bremen, has a political satirical connotation.

Wise Monkey Trivia: The 4 animals are standing on each other’s back but are looking through the “Iron Curtain”. 

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As always, we welcome any comments or thoughts here

our first month in review

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We have been away exactly a month now and we have enjoyed every moment and experience! We have seen some mind-blowing, spectacular and confronting things. And we have learnt soooo much more about European history from the countries that we have visited.

Here is our first month in a quick review:

Our first stop was Russia where we visited Moscow and St Petersburg. There we saw some amazingly opulent palaces and got a sneak peak into the lives of the past royals. Our standout moment from here would be setting eyes on St Basil’s in Red Square for the first time.

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The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were next on the agenda. We learnt about the Singing Revolution which we had no idea about and also learnt about the Baltic Way – 2 million people holding hands across the 3 countries to make a 600 km human chain to stand up for their independence. A few of our favourites in this area would be visiting the Hill of Crosses and experiencing the old towns of each capital city

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Poland was definitely a little surprise package for us. We enjoyed what the country had to offer; its history, food, people and culture. Here we experienced awe as well as sadness. There were moments of joy and wonderment as we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mines, walked around the Old Town of Krakow and be impressed at the restoration efforts of Warsaw. Then there were moments of heart-break where we shed tears for those who lost their lives during World War II especially when we visited the concentrations camps.

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We had a small taste of Czech Republic back in 2006 when we visited Prague for a few days. This time, we had an opportunity to visit Cesky Krumlov as well. One of our highlights in Cesky Krumlov was definitely getting a tour of the Zámecké Divadlo (Castle Theatre). One of the last few remaining wooden theatres still with costumes, props and stage sets. Prague was nothing like we remembered, probably because we came this time with “older” eyes and a different mindset to travel. A highlight would have to be seeing the Astronomical Clock again and really appreciating it for what it was this time.

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Now we are in Bordeaux, France and we are loving France all over again. Despite common belief, the French people are very friendly and always willing to help. Two memorable experiences amongst the many so far (as we still have all up another 10 days or so) was watching Moulin Rouge and seeing Mont St Michel. Next stop Carcassonne 🙂

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Have a great week ahead, folks!

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black magic in riga

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It was in this very apothecary that a pharmacist concocted a remedy to cure Catherine the Great after she fell ill while visiting Riga. Riga’s Black Balsam is a mixture of 20+ ingredients (i.e. herbs/roots/oils etc) mixed with vodka and is said to cure over 100 diseases. It is now added to desserts and drinks.

As we step through the front doors of “Riga Black Magic”, the décor catches our eye before the display of chocolates and sweets do. Just inside to the left is an apothecary counter, and to the right a library with beautifully upholstered armchairs.

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There is a hidden passage behind a bookshelf, there are flasks and glass bottles on the beams and along the walls.

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Walk a little further in, and we are in an era when there is no electricity and the only light comes from the flames of candles. But the dimness does not create a sinister ambience. Although, the idea of being in a “black magic” bar could conjure up images of potions and concoctions, it is in fact, the contrary; with the classical music in the background, the atmosphere, to us, almost feels like an elegant dinner party.

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In the back room, we take a seat on a comfortable lounge and staff in medieval costume take our order. We can now sit back, sip our hot chocolate, absorb our surroundings and rest our feet after a day’s walking around the old town.

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What a lovely little place to visit: to taste delectable chocolate, Riga Black Balsam or for a sticky beak of the fit-out. Add “Black Magic” to your list if you are ever in Riga.

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