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We made a short side trip to the town of Cesis, which dates from the 13th century. Our tour was brief and, unfortunately rainy--many of the photos we took were unusable, but what you see here is a brief overview of our visit. We walked from the outskirts of the city to the city center (photo to the left). Visible in the background is the church we would visit on our return. On the right is a photo of the cafe where we enjoyed some pastries and tea as we waited for the rain to abate.

We then journeyed down Liela Skolas ieala, which appeared to be the Rodeo Drive of Cesis, lined with stately buildings whose windows were filled with luxury goods. This may be seen in the photo to the left. Continuing up the street, we arrived at Unity Square, marked by the stelae in the center, and offering a view of the regional court building, both shown in the photo to the left.

From the Unity Square we headed west on Pils iela towards the Cesis Castle. Ironically, just opposite the Proscecutors Office was a Museum to Sirdsapziņas Ugunskurs or the Burning Conscience Museum, a former Soviet  prison that is now  dedicated to telling the story of Lavian resistance to the Soviet occuption. The exhibition's multimedia displays provide deep insight into the local community's patriotism and motivation. A timeline covers major events from 1939 until 1957 and extracts from local newspapers draw parallels between propaganda and Soviet regime policies. Below is a video of the museum.

Sirdsapziņas Ugunskurs (Burning Conscience Museum)

Visiting the Castle:
One of the highlights of visiting Cesis is touring the Cesis Castle, one of the most iconic and best preserved medieval castles in Latvia. The foundations of the castle were laid 800 years ago by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. The most prosperous period Cēsis Castle experienced was during its next owners, the Teutonic Order. It became one of the key administrative and economic centers of the Teutonic Order in Livonia and was a seat of Landmeister in Livland. We gained access via a gate just down from theSirdsapziņas Ugunskurs (photo to the left). The gate opened unto a grassy square, and around the square were the Cesis Exhibition hall (photo the right) which unfortunately was closed, and the Art and History Museum, where we purchased our tickets. This was no small feat, as we were within an an hour of closing time and it took strenuous persuasion by Sergey for us to gain admittance, Exiting the Museum, our first stop was the building across from it, which housed the Ancient Jewellry Smithy, where the master craftsman reproduces jewellry from the time period of the castle. This is shown in the photo to the left. From there we journeyed down a path to the castle proper.

Like most castles, the Cesis Castle is surrounded by a moat and access is gained via a long and rather new looking wooden bridge, shown in the photo to the left. The moat itself is now just an empty gully. Passing under the entrance gate and into the ruins, our first stop was a courtyard toward the end of the ruins, where we rented a lantern, which is needed to navigate the dark inner recesses of the castle. This is shown in the photo to the right.

Our first ascent up the dark and winding stone stairs, stairs built for people shorter than ourselves, was to tour the West Tower, the best preserved of the three remaining Towers. As expected, it is a series of circular rooms with wooden floors and narrow windows, much like those at the Turaida Castle we visited earlier in our travels. The photo to the left shows the ground floor. The real attraction, however is at the top of the tower, the Master's Chamber. It features a domed ceiling and provides excellent views of the area. This is shown in the photo to the right.

Our next darkness-cloaked trip was to the top of the Southern tower, another candle-lit ascent to the top, but this time the scene was quite different than the climb to the top of the West Tower; while both offered splendid views, the room itself had none of the grandeur of the Master's Chamber, as shown in the photo to the left. However, the most spectacular aspect of the tower is only visible on the descent from the top of the tower--the splendid multimedia show that uses the castle's turret as a backdrop upon which are projected images detailing the history of the storied castle. The photo to right shows this presentation, and it is shown in greater detail in the video below.

Multimedia Exhibition in the Western Tower

Exiting the castle, we took in two more sights before leaving the castle grounds. To the left of the castle entrance was an area displaying medieval life in all its forms--dress, cooking, and the creation of everyday objects. In the photo to the left, a craftsman explains how Latvians made the tools of everyday life.  Following this we took in a bit of the Garden Park, a lovely green area that has the castle as its picturesque backdrop (photo to the right).

Capturing the Cesis Castle Experience:
Static photos are limited in how they can capture an impression of the place, as they are static images in a linear order. In respect to Cesis Castle, this results in two short comings. First, there is no way to connect the dots, establishing the relationship of the photos to one another. In order to address this limitation, we have included a video screenshot of the virtual tour included on the Cesis Castle website. This will give readers some sense of how the photos are connected. The second limitation is that the darkness of the castle ruins really preclude photos and thus do not give a very real impression of touring the castle. In order to address this, we have included a snippet of a YouTube video by AK Wolverine, a tour of the southern tower of castle, in the hope of capturing some of the atmosphere of the castle tour. It may be found below the video of the castle virtual tour. To see all of the video, click here.

Tour of the Castle Grounds (from https://cesupils.lv/)

A Tour of the Southern Tower

St. John's Church

Our last visit was to St. John's Church, one of the oldest medieval architectural monuments in Latvia. It was built in the beginning of 13th century during the Christianization of the Baltics by the Livonian Holy Order. The order was located in Cesis, and therefore the church and the town became one of the most important centers of German power, and a key player in the Hanseatic League. The church is 65 m long and 32 m wide three-sphere basilica. Its western end has a massive 65 m high bell tower with a 15 m high Gothic spire. The altar is shown in the photo to the left, while its renowned organ is shown in the photo to the right. The church is the site of an international organ festival. Below is a video of the church's interior.
Video of St. John's Interior

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