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Cesis – Ancient History with a Modern Touch

Out of Riga
By RigaNow!. 27.08.2015

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This is one of the oldest towns in Latvia, where since the middle ages the original network of streets and fragments of stone fortifications has been preserved, as well as the oldest stone buildings in northern Kurzeme – the Castle of the Livonian order and St. John’s Church. And, speaking about history, it’s worth mentioning that the ancient chronicles say that here the Latvian red-white-red flag was born! Incidentally, exactly Cesis has been selected as
an example of good practice, together with 69 other European capitals of culture, in which successful urban and regional development has been based on culture. European Commission research shows that Cesis ranks among Amsterdam, Madrid, Lisbon, Liverpool, Vienna, Bologna and Barcelona.

But not only ancient history is important in Cesis. Here, for example, the largest children’s science center in the country operates where you can not only see exhibits but also touch, for example, the inventions of the genius Leonardo Da Vinci. The center offers interactive exhibits that allows visitors to try different technologies and examine the laws of nature: to study mathematics while jumping, enjoy gravity swings, understand what friction is by driving karts, to see sound, study the principles of springs, build robots, see lightning, and move objects through the power of the mind. Altogether “Z(in)oo” offers more than 30 different expositions.

Cesis inhabitants say there is no other Latvian city with such beautiful parks. The city’s symbol – black swans – arrive only in spring, but the parks never sleep, even in winter. At the beginning of the 19th century the owner of Cesis Castle, Count Carl Gustaf Von Sievers, created a park that is considered to be one of the most outstanding and original. The landscape includes the impressive nut Hill (Riekstukalns) used by ancient vends.

But, of course, one of the most beautiful walking areas in Cesis is the fantastic Gauja valley with its limestone outcrops. However, the Cesis riverbank is worth seeing not only because of nature. Wooden buildings from the last century were designed by the best Latvian architects. Narrow ancient streets offer excellent opportunities to re- cover your strength in cafés and pubs. There you should definitely try the special Cesis beer, brewed since 1590, which is also considered to be the year Cesu Alus was established. For more than 400 years the great secrets of ancient brewing have been kept and handed down from generation to generation. Powers and political systems have changed during the centuries, but the beer has remained unchanged as the best thirst-quencher, in the past and today.

The story of Cesis as a special all-latvian cultural center is not based on tour guides’ tales or the thoughts of Cesis inhabitants. this is where the global Center for Latvian art operates. There you can see different Latvian works of art and art lovers from all over the world. The collection is designed to facilitate the study of Latvian art produced around the globe and its incorporation into Latvian art history.

It’s impossible not to mention the new concert Hall. The new silhouette of this palace of culture rises above the picturesque rooftops of ancient houses and tree- tops, mirroring St. John’s Church steeple and offering
a view of Vidzeme’s beautiful nature. Cesis Concert Hall welcomes great musicians both from Latvia and abroad and is a place where the historical cultural heritage rubs shoulders with contemporary art, creative people and a youthful spirit.

There are lots of interesting things to see not only in the city but also in the surroundings. For example, the Organ Cliffs (Ērģeļu Klintis) are a mighty majestic wall that rises out of the Gauja river. These are the Gauja’s most impressive cliffs, characterized by a continuous monolithic sandstone surface. Legend has it that an echo against the rock sounds like an organ, which is where it got its name. And there’s another option! Near Cesis there is a town called Ligatne where a hundred years ago there was a paper mill, whose building is preserved to today. In the 1920s and 1930s it had the most advanced production equipment and was one of the finest fine paper manufactures in Europe.

Not far from there you can see a real wonder, and evidence of the Cold War era – a soviet-era top-secret bunker with the codename the Pensionate. In reality
it was a bomb shelter built in the 1980s for the needs of the political and state power elite in the event of a nuclear war. All the authentic underground equipment has been preserved.

At Araiši, on your way to Cesis in the Gauja national Park, the archaeological museum Park can be visited, one of Latvia’s most popular archaeological tourist attractions with a 9th-century lake dwelling site (Ezerpils).

Presented as it looked at the time as well as a stone and bronze age open-air exhibition with three separate building reconstructions. Ezerpils is a unique project
in northern Europe. Almost every weekend in summer events take place there and you can learn about ancient history and gastronomy.

From organ Cliffs you can drive down a winding road or go on foot from Berzaines grove, take a
boat along the Gauja or go by train – no matter how, but you must get there! Best of all is to come for several days to view the picturesque, rich, historical, cultural and natural attractions in and around Cesis. There are different places to spend the night – at the Kolonna Hotel Cesis situated in the heart of the town and fitting perfectly into the historical landscape near the ruins of the Castle of the Livonian order and St. John’s. There’s also the Hotel Jonathan spa estate,
a truly extraordinary place surrounded by a picturesque landscape, combining the elegant ambience of untouched nature with exquisite interiors. or stay at one of numerous guest houses. And don’t forget that summers in Cesis are very popular among travelers, so book a room in advance. 


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