Krimulda Castle, Latvia

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Ruins in Krimulda, Latvia

Ruins always hold a certain charm–reminders to us that even the best eventually crumble and nothing lasts forever. And yet–they are romantic too, inspirations for artists and poets, writers and songwriters. And the more remote and less well-known they are, the more charm they seem to percolate. To reach the ruins of Krimulda Castle from the train station in Sigulda, one must first cross the desolate yet beautifully scenic Gauja Valley–in a cable car! Step into this adorable little yellow car, and spend the next twenty minutes dangling over the gorge, eyes glued to the window as the turrets of Turaida Castle rise above the treetops. As you land on the right bank, delve back into the solitary Latvian woods via a quiet hiking trail at the edge of the ruins. The odd way of reaching this remote place you never even knew was there–such as the Krimulda ruins–only makes it that much more…amazing. Built in the 14th century by Prince Liven, the castle of Krimulda was constructed on the right bank of the Gauja River Gorge. At the time, the gorge marked the frontier between the lands controlled by the Archbishop of Riga (including Krimulda and Turaida), and the Order of the Brethren Sword (what a name!), where Sigulda is currently located. The first year of the 17th century, during the Polish-Swedish war, the Swedes took control of the castle…so, rather than lose control of it, the Poles burned the castle to the ground, leaving it to become the ruins we see today. What a life people lived back then.

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Krimulda Manor House, Krimulda, Latvia

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Krimulda Manor House, Krimulda, Latvia

Just the thought of a quiet village located on a cliff in the woods of Lativa is a bit eerie. Throw in a creepy old decrepit manor house, a windy grey sky, leafless trees, and the fact that you are totally alone in this abandoned corner of Latvia and can hear every single noise the world tosses your way, and suddenly you’ve got shivers on your spine (and that’s not just because you’re too cheap to turn on the radiator). Built in 1822, the Krimulda Manor House seems like it hasn’t seen much care ever since. Well, nothing in Krimulda has, which is just a small collection of houses barely qualifying as a village crossroads. (Though there are some small ruins of an old castle there, which are actually quite fascinating.) The Manor House however, is another story. Built by persons called (wait for it…) Counts von Lieven, in neo-classical style (aka creepily curving roof and huge scary porch with peeling columns style), its peeling paint, faded facade and creaking shutters scream Scooby-Doo-esque frights. The fact that it is now a sanatorium…well, that ends that. Creepy, creepy. Needless to say, I consulted the map, found the trail, and practically ran for the safety of the woods.