Ēdole Castle

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Alexander von Behr, circa 1892

20 September 2011: I was intrigued by the countryside of western Latvia, the region of Kurzeme, which unfolded as we travelled by bus from Riga to Kuldiga and on to the Baltic coast – not quite like any landscape I have seen before. It was like a cross between the typical flat Finnish landscape with its mixture of birch and coniferous forest, and the rolling parkland of the great English country estates, with gently rising ground punctuated by avenues and stands of oaks and other deciduous trees. Some fields had been ploughed, or had had cereal crops recently harvested, but most of the terrain was grassland, with few interruptions in the form of fences or hedges, just the occasional farm house. Most of the roads we drove along had no kerbs or markings, and it felt like we were somehow enveloped within the expanse of the landscape. And another new experience – I saw some beautiful grey cows (they were in fact, as I found out subsequently, ‘Latvian blue cows’).

This is the territory which used to be known as Courland, and much of it was owned up till the First World War by Baltic-German barons. A number of their fortified manor houses and castles remain, and some can be visited.  We got on a local bus in Kuldiga and went off to visit Edole castle (or ‘Edwahlen’ in its Germanic form…). The place was a bit down-at-heel, but all the more atmospheric for that.  It was not hard to imagine it in its heyday, with the von Behr family entertaining their guests at weekend house parties, picnics and hunting expeditions. Climbing up into the top-most turret was rather an alarming experience, but the view over the surrounding countryside made it worthwhile.

We were lucky to be given a lift back to Kuldiga by a kind lady who worked at the castle. We realised we were waiting at the wrong place for the last bus of the day when we watched it hurtling past us.

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