Mind Your Manors

As I mentioned in my last post, our third day of biking was to start in Otepää, Estonia, billed by our tour operator, Baltic Bike Travel, as the “Estonian Switzerland.” Having now completed the ride, I’m mystified as to how they settled on this description. For the most part, we peddled through countryside and vegetation that very much resembled Whatcom County, Washington. Oh, and the weather was similar, too.

Today was to be a shorter ride than the first two biking days: 25km, about 15 miles. As you can see, it didn’t look much like the Swiss Alps.

Granted, we are on a self-guided cycling tour, but a little more accuracy and detail in the biking directions and descriptions would have been appreciated.

Toward the end of this day’s ride, the direction sheet said: “21 km at the next junction turn left from the main road (follow cycle route No. 6). Cycle further to Sangaste castle (app. 4 km). 25 km meet your driver at Sangaste Castle….” 

So, following Cycle Route No. 6 to where our bikes’ odometers read 21 km, we found a sign that said, “Sangaste Castle ➡️,” so we pedalled to the right down the rock road indicated by the sign. At 25 km, still no sign of a castle, although we had passed a couple dairy farms. Same at 26 km, although at this point the gravel road had intersected with the paved road and Cycle Route No. 6 that we had previously ridden. Frustrated, we decided to ride back down Cycle Route No. 6 to where we had seen the “Sangaste Castle” sign and just wait for the bus there. To our chagrin, when we reached the sign, we noticed a small, gravel driveway to the left of the sign and what looked to be a modern, brick manor house at its end. You guessed it, “Sangaste Castle.”

Constructed around 1880, I wouldn’t call it a “castle,” even though it did have a turret, of sorts:

Since we were (again) the first to arrive, we decided to go in and find our way to the highest point. It was a beautiful view, made even prettier by the extra 10 km we pedalled to get there (35 km or 21 miles for the day).

Our bus and cycling compatriots showed up not long afterward.

After a coffee break, we packed the bikes and climbed aboard the bus, bound for Sigulda, Latvia, with a sightseeing stop in Cēsis, Latvia. Cēsis is a medievel town located on the Gauja River. When the German crusaders first arrived here in 1209, they built a castle; it was destroyed 500 years later during the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia for domination of Livonia. We wandered through the castle ruins (this was a real “castle”) and up one of the towers so I could take a photo of the church and town from there:

In the late 1700s, part of the castle ruins were restored and turned into yet anther manor house by a German Count. When we arrived, it was being used for a wedding (that’s the lucky couple’s get-away car with the bouquet on the hood).

We had just a brief stay in Cēsis before returning to the bus for the drive to our “hotel in Sigulda, the most popular resort in Latvia.” Well, this “hotel” must have been owned by somebody’s cousin. It was not listed in any of the tourist brochures or travel guides as one of the numerous accomodations in Sigulda and it was on the opposite side of town from where we needed to be, next to a couple houses whose occupants partied well into the night. And no curtains. Suffice to say that we didn’t get much sleep. But before this post turns into a rant with me appearing to be an unappreciative traveler to these parts, I will stop my complaining here and leave you to ponder this notice posted next to our bathroom sink in Sigulda:

Oh, thank goodness. That makes it all worthwhile.

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