RIGA, Latvia -- When the Knights of the Sword, a German order of
crusaders, completed its conquest of modern-day Latvia and Estonia
in 1207, the Gauja river was chosen as the boundary between the
territory of the knights and the domain of the Archbishop of Riga.
The parties built castles within a few miles of each other; the
knights' castle on the south side of the river, the archbishop's on
Nearly 800 years later, these castles are still the prime
attraction of Sigulda, an area about 30 miles northeast of
From its perch on the bluffs above the Gauja, the castle of the
Knights of the Sword, completed in 1226, commanded the south bank
of the river valley.
The castle stood for about 500 years, but was destroyed during
an early 18th century war between Russia and Sweden. The Great
Northern War, propagated by Russia's Peter the Great, drove Sweden
out of the Baltic states.
Now the castle is in ruins, with a few imposing walls still
standing. From the knights' castle, it's possible to see the
rebuilt Archbishop's castle. Turaida Castle, as the Archbishop's
fortress was called, was founded in 1214 and also was destroyed
during the 18th century. However, the Soviets rebuilt the castle,
and the result is a red brick structure dating from the late 20th
The reconstruction includes the 140-foot-tall Donjon Tower,
which provides an excellent view of the Gauja river valley.
Turaida is surrounded by other attractions, including a
sculpture park on the bluffs above the Gauja, and a church that
dates to 1750. Visitors to the church may discover the grave of the
Turaida Rose, a young woman who died in 1620.
Legend has it that the woman, named Maija, loved a man who lived
at Sigulda Castle on the other side of the river. The two
frequently met at a cave on the northern side of the Gauja near
Turaida Castle. Like many legendary love stories, it ended
tragically. A jealous suitor lured the Turaida Rose to the cave,
and killed her.