Turaida Castle, Latvia
Greeting you as you traverse forgotten paths through dark forests, turrets rise through the waves of golden trees like a fairy-tale castle. This is the beautiful Turaida Castle. To get here, there is (supposedly) a bus. But a far more enjoyable way to find Turaida Castle is to be mistaken for a German tourist at the Sigulda train station, be handed a map in German and told to follow it through the town of Sigulda, past the first, then second set of ruins, over the impressive Gauja River Gorge in a little yellow cable car, through the magnificent (if not eerie) woods, past the magical Gutmanis Cave, and finally, to the turrets of Turaida Castle itself. Built in 1214, demolished in 1776 by fire, then partially restored in the last decade, “Thor’s Garden,” as it translates to in Livonian, is a medieval castle on the Gauja River built by Albert, archbishop of Riga. It may still be an impressive place when arriving by bus or by car – but following the Sigulda train station’s tourist map, and exploring the region on foot in the journey described above is what truly makes visiting this castle a magical experience fit for a modern explorer time-travelling to the Middle Ages.