When Lonely Planet is Hopelessly Wrong

Cēsis (24 June 2013)

It seemed sort of unfair to Latvia if I should visit only Riga. I had seen 6 places in Lithuania and I had already planned to see 2 places in Estonia. In the end, based on Lonely Planet’s recommendation, I decided to take a day trip to Cēsis.

Lonely Planet says that Cēsis is the most Latvian town and is made for wandering. I am not sure what makes it more Latvian than anywhere else in the country or how for example is Riga less Latvian. But I do know that Cēsis is not made for wandering. The town is very small and there was very little to wander about in. That is unless Lonely Planet considers a 1 hour stroll a wander.

The most interesting place I visited was the old castle in town. This is in ruins but it is still possible to climb to the top of one of its towers. What made the visit truly interesting however was when I was given a candle lit lamp to light my way up like in the old days. The lamp was quite useless in the darkest section to be honest and it got a little scary trying to climb up and down the narrow winding stairs. But it more than made up for the fear factor by the novelty factor. And so I totally forgot that I actually had a good torchlight in my bag.

Cēsis Castle

My lamp

In the yard of the castle, there was a statue of Lenin lying in a crate. This statue used to stand proudly on Vienības Square but now it lies almost forgotten in the backyard of a ruined building. The perfect reflection of the nature and current state of Communism is it not?

Poor poor Lenin

There is a small park too at the castle and this was one of the places a tourist could walk about in for a while. A simple but quaint looking Orthodox church on a hill next to the park was to me the highlight though unfortunately I was not able to enter it.

Castle park

Christ Transfiguration Orthodox Church above park

The main church in town however appeared to be the Lutheran Church of St John the Baptist. Like other Lutheran churches, its interior was simple.

Lutheran St John’s Church

Inside St John’s Church

After having walked all over the old town at least 3 times, I was ready to give up and return to Riga. I was quite happy to be able to see a bit more of Latvia than Riga, but I was bored in Cēsis. I wonder if there might have been more things to do on another day since I had visited on a Monday. But all the same, I could not see why it was more Latvian than other towns in Latvia as Lonely Planet had claimed. I remember saying to myself the whole time I was there that this little town did not look any different from any other in Europe, except for the signs on the streets and shops which were in Latvian.

Cēsis street

Cēsis street

Līvu Square

Victory Monument (it replaced Lenin) on Vienības Square

Cēsis New Castle

The most Latvian thing I encountered in Cēsis was probably this pork and peas dish that I had for my late lunch. I do not really like peas but that seemed to be all I could find in town that day.

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