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Jacob's Road

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This is a unique small town in a certain sense, and it is the only one in the Baltic States which has remained in place since the 17th and 18th century. The town is around the small Alekšupīte River, and in some places the stream runs along the walls of the buildings. Because of this fact and the many bridges that are in town, Kuldīga has become known as “the Venice of Latvia.” Baznīcas, Liepājas, Kalna and other streets are full of interesting cultural monuments.

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This is the widest water fall in Latvia – 249 metres wide and up to 1.75 metres high.  This is an interesting natural, cultural and historical object in that it is linked to various events and legends.  Duke Jacob of Courland invented equipment to catch fish.  It was fastened to the cliffs of the waterfall, and this created the tale of a city where salmon and other fish who were leaping across the waterfall fell into the nets and were thus caught in the air.  During Jacob’s rule, there was talk about digging a canal around the waterfall to ensure shipping, and work began on the project.  During the early 18th century there was the idea that the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea could be connected via the Venta, Nemuna and Dnieper rivers.  Turkish prisoners of war continued to dig the canal, but the local dolomite cliffs were a problem.  Attempts to blow up the cliffs led to damage to nearby buildings, so the work ended.  The impressive ditch can still be seen today.  In 2012, a wooden pathway was installed on the right bank of the Venta to offer a good look at the waterfall.  It is worth visiting here during various seasons of the year, when different types of fish migrate.

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This bakery has a wood-fired stove, and it uses old recipes and local raw materials (with no GMO) to bake bread, biscuits and other treats. Small groups can take tours, learn about baking, and taste and purchase the bakery’s products.

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Renda is a very old town, first mentioned in historical sources in 1230.  During the 13th century, Renda was one of the centres of the ancient Courlandian land of Vanema.  When Courland was split up in 1235, Renda was taken over by the German Order, and local residents were forcibly drafted into its military.  During the age of the Duchy of Courland (1562-1795), the region flourished despite wars, the bubonic plague and other problems, particularly during the rule of Duke Jacob (1642-1682).   During the 17th century, Renda became something of a manufacturing centre, churning out timber products, with local lime kilns, watermills, flax weaving facilities, a glass factory and a boiling house for saltpetre and soap.  Wine, perfumes and barrels were produced in Renda, as was cast iron for nails and many other things.  The court at the Jelgava Castle loved the sour wines from Renda.  All of this was destroyed during the Great Northern War (1700-1721).  During the 19th century, a chemicals factory was built on the site of the burned Renda castle, and nearby was one of the largest leather tanning plants in Kurzeme, along with a manufacturing facility for turpentine.  Cultural life began to develop in parallel to this.  Renda suffered much during the two world wars and the subsequent Soviet repressions.  The so-called Courelian Battalion of partisans went into the forests after the occupation to continue their struggle against the Soviet regime.  Renda today is a small and quiet village with the Lielrenda Estate, a local church, the “devil’s boat” at the Abava River, and the Īvande waterfalls.

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Opposite the tower of the Church of the Holy Trinity, the monument was designed by Arta Dumpe and commemorates Latvia’s first president, Jānis Čakste (1859-1927).  It was consecrated on November 14, 2003, precisely 81 years after the statesman was elected to the important position.

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Located in the threshing barn of an old estate in Alsunga.  There is a souvenir shop where you can purchase practical items such as shawls, gloves, stockings, dishes, herbal teas, etc.  Creative workshops are available here for children, and if you contact the venue in advance, you can meet with Suiti women to learn about traditions and to sing and play games.  The centre has been awarded the "Latvian heritage" cultural sign.  

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The first stone castle in Alsunga was built in 1372, starting with the central part of the southern wing. The authorised representative of the Livonian Order, who was subject to a higher-ranking official in Kuldīga, lived here. The guard towers and other parts of the castle were gradually added between the 15th and the 18th century. The Baroque castle with its two towers is quite impressive. The castle is unique in and outside of Latvia in that it is one of the rare Medieval castles to have survived to the present day in part, but in its original historical appearance.  The castle offers an exhibition about its history.  Visitors can look at a Suiti kitchen, write a letter with a fountain pen in Barbara’s boudoir, or celebrate a special event in the romantic venue of the castle’s round tower. Renovation of the castle began in 2018, and it is closed to visitors.  Still, you can look at its exterior and tour its garden.  

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This is a pergola that is owned by Līga Reitere, who offers medicinal grasses and saunas for adults and children.  She will show you how to tie together sauna switches, fire up the oven in the sauna and create steam inside it.  You can also learn how wild plants can be used for tasty teas or salads, as well as to weave lovely crowns or grass carpets.  Master classes, creative activities, educational seminars, evening sessions and sauna sessions are all available, with Līga also being well informed about local linguistic issues and traditions.

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has a permanent exhibition that features a Suiti living room and kitchen and liturgical apparel worn by Catholic priests.  In the exhibition hall there are changing exhibitions related to the history and present of the Suiti Women ethnographic ensemble.  A special offer involves performances by Suiti women, Suiti men and Suiti bagpipe players.  Also in the building are the Alsunga Tourism Information Centre, as well as ceramics and weaving workshops.  Contact the museum in advance to arrange for performances and master's classes.  

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Dobele name in historical sources for the first time is mentioned in1254. Dobele was one of the most fortified Semigallian places; therefore from 1279 until 1289 it survived six attacks by German crusaders. In 1289 Semigallians was forced to retreat. In 1335 conquerors instead of Semigallian castle began construction of new - stone castle. On the opposite shore of Berze - on the left bank merchants and craftsmen village began to form. Town suffered greatly during the Northern War and during the subsequent plague. A significant event in the economic life was the 1927, when Liepaja-Gludas railway line was built. After World War II in Dobele and its vicinity came to the Soviet militaries, who built one of the largest Soviet tanks range "Dobele-2". Now Dobele travellers are offered a range of interesting sites to be visited.

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The estate in Milzkalne that is along the banks of the Slocene River dates back to the 15th century, when it was built as a closed complex for the Livonian Order.  It is the only fortified estate of its type to have survived to the present day, and it was once used as a hiding place for aristocrats during an attack.  The gate towers with their ornate weather vanes were built in the late 17th century, and the ancillary buildings date back to the 18th and 19th century.  A brick wall with firing apertures survives.  The Latvian Road Museum is in one of the wings of the complex, while the former mansion offers accommodations, tours and tastings of local goodies.

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The most significant period for the town is the time from 1561 to 1795, when the Jelgava district is a part of the Duchy of Courland and Zemgale. When Jelgava obtains the status of residence of the Duke of (1567t) and becomes the capital of the Duchy (1616) a rapid urban development begins, which is highest of during the reign of Duke Jacob. During the reign of last two Dukes of Courland - Ernst Johann Biron and his son Peter (1775) St. Peter's Academy (Academia Petrina) - the first Latvian Institute is founded, in 1816 is founded Courland Society of Literature and Art, in 1822 the first newspaper in Latvian "The Latvian newspaper" is published, in 1802 the first Latvian theatre building is built, but in 1898- the first building intended for museum. In 1937 Latvian agriculture camera is located in the Jelgava palace, but after two years Jelgava Agriculture Academy is opened. Nearly all the town's historic buildings and art treasures perished in the summer of 1944. After the World War II, Jelgava was rebuilt. Recently the Trinity Church tower has been restored, in which now is located one of the best Latvian interactive museums (very friendly for families with children).

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The church was opened in 1651 after half a century of sometimes interrupted construction.  It was fully rebuilt and took on its current appearance in 1876.  The church contains one of the most important church objects in Latvia – the oldest pulpit in the country (1590).  It was designed in the style of Mannerism.  The church also has a bell from a wrecked chapel of the local knighthood.  The bell was manufacture in 1450 and was installed at the church in the 19th century.  It is the oldest church bell in Latvia.  The German painter F. Wolff painted the altar painting, “Christ on the Cross,” and it, along with the altar, have recently been restored.

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This farm is in a lovely location on the western side of the Talsi hillocks, offering a look at Talsi and its area.  This is an open farm with grows and processes apples (dried apples, apple chips, apple juice).  Visitors are offered an informative tour, with a chance to taste and purchase the products.  The farm is in a protected natural area -- the Talsi Hillocks Nature Park.  There is an area for tenting during the summer.  The owners will teach you to produce a crown from fruit tree branches.  It also breeds escargot.  The gardens of the farm stretch across the hillocks, and there are several types of local apple trees that are nurtured by the lady of the house.  An informative stand alongside the farm features information about the most important values of the nature park.

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The Buse (Matkule) castle hill is near the Imula River. From the castle hill and from the opposite shore of the river, you can find one of the loveliest views of Kurzeme’s small rivers. Their appearance is best when trees and other flora are bare and the view is unimpeded. A wonderful view of the Imula valley is also seen on the road to the castle hill – near the Buse homestead.
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Adults and children will be able to learn about farm animals, view a collection of ancient tools, enjoy a country sauna with birch and juniper switches, drink herbal tea with honey, and taste carrot buns. During the summer, accommodations are offered in the granary or on the second level of the sauna.

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Found on the right bank of the Saka River at Dzintaru Street 1, the museum is in the first red brick and fieldstone building in Pāvilosta.  It was built in 1879 for ship pilots.  The museum focuses on the history of the local region, particularly in terms of fishing and seafaring.  Among the exhibits are stone and bone axes, bronze brooches and belts, as well as a unique honey press, all of which have been found in the Saka Parish.  Alongside the museum is a boathouse with larger exhibits.  A mansard that was opened in 2012 is a site for exhibitions and thematic events.  The museum’s phone number is +371-6349-8276.  Make sure that you also visit the oldest part of Pāvilosta – Āķgals, which is a typical coastline village from the 19th and early 20th century.

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The church was built between 1640 and 1642 as a mark of respect for the king of Poland.  It was commissioned by Duke Jacob Kettler and has a confessional bench with allegoric paintings (1691), as well as three altars decorated with Rococo carvings.  There is a 16th century sculpture of the Madonna and her child.  Contact the church for a tour.

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The museum offers information about the history of chocolate, allowing you to learn all about the process, from raw materials to finished products. You can also prepare and taste your own bitterly sweet treat in the creative workshop. Products are available at the little store that is next door to the museum.

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The Jelgava Castle stands between the Lielupe and Driksa rivers. The Baroque castle was designed by the well known Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, and this was the most important piece of early work that he did. The Latvian Agriculture University is housed in the castle today. A museum was established in 1968. +371-6300-5617. The socle story of the south-eastern wing has the graves of rulers from the Duchy of Courland – members of the Kettler and Byron dynasties, which ruled from 1569 to 1791. There are 18 restored sarcophagi here.

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Work on a new church began in 1574 at the commission of Duke Gotthard Kettler of Courland and Zemgale.  The steeple was installed between 1686 and 1688, and in 1862 its height was increased to 80.5 m.  The church burned down because of Soviet bombardment on July 27, 1944, and in 1954 the Soviet military blew up its ruins.  Reconstruction of the steeple began in 2009, and it now has an outstanding interactive museum that is particularly interesting for children, along with a glassed viewing platform.

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This path is found on the right bank of the ancient Abava river valley. The visitor will be able to view places where underground streams create wetlands, various kinds of meadows, a stand of juniper bushes, etc. The area is “managed” all year long by “wild” cows. The shore of the ancient valley can be climbed (some 200 steps), and the view is magnificent. It is recommended that the trail be visited in the company of a knowledgeable guide. There is a shorter path that is 600m long, along with a longer one that is more than a kilometre in length. It will take an hour or so to traverse it. Objects are found in the ancient Abava valley nature park.
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The Gardening Institute is the leading scholarly centre for fruit and vegetable research in Latvia.  The institute specialises in selection and introduction of plant cultivars that are suitable for cultivation under the agro-climatic conditions in the Baltic countries, have high nutrition value and are rich in fibre content.

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Most of the great tree’s mighty branches are gone, and among those that are still there, the thickest ones are held up by supports, and the tree’s hollow centre is protected against snow and rain with a little roof. This is the thickest Common Oak (Quercus robur) in Latvia and the Baltic States. Indeed, it is one of the thickest oak trees in all of Northern Europe. The tree is a gorgeous part of the surrounding landscape. There is a car park and an information stand nearby.
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The Old Town of Kandava is located around the old Market Square and dates back to 1881, after a fire in the town. The urban environment in Kandava is made up of farms with various buildings, closed yards, passageways and walls made of fieldstones. These can be seen in Talsu Street and Sabiles Street. Uncommon for Latvia is Lielā Street. At the foot of the Bruņinieku Castle Hill is a model of the Castle of the Livonian Order that was created in 2010.

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Kandava is first mentioned in the articles in 1230. In 1253 the Livonian Order built a stone castle at the upper part of Abava valley shore, at the foot which of an urban area formed. In the 17th century Kandava became an important trading centre. The plague epidemic and developments of World War I hit the town and its people hard. Kandava got the town rights in 1917. During soviet Soviet times, Sports Complex of Jaunkandavas agricultural Technical School became a popular training venue.

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The graveyard that is alongside the Lestene Lutheran Church is the final resting place for more than 900 soldiers who fell during World War II, particularly during battles at the so-called Fortress of Kurzeme, as well as in Zemgale and Vidzeme.  The sculptress Arta Dumpe designed the commemorative monument “Mother Motherland – Latvia.”  The cemetery of the brethren is the second largest resting place for soldiers from World War II after the Cemetery of the Brethren in Rīga.  The names of some 11,000 soldiers are engraved on the gravestones.

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The late Baroque and early Classicism building was commissioned by Duke Peter Byron of Courland and Zemgale, and it was built between 1773 and 1776 on the basis of a design by a Danish architect.  It was the castle of Duchess Anna.  The first university in Latvia, Academia Petrina was established here in 1775 and named after Duke Peter.  The first observatory was installed at the academy in 1772, and a high school was in the building during the age of the Russian Empire.  Among graduates are distinguished Latvians such as Krišjānis Barons, Jānis Alunāns and Jānis Čakste, as well as the Lithuanian Antanas Smetona.  The Jelgava Museum of History and Art took over the building in 1952, and in 1975 it was named after the Old Master Ģederts Eliass (1887-1975).  The exhibition speaks to the history of the city and surrounding area during and after the period of the Duchy of Courland and Zemgale.  Outside the impressive building are four cannons from the period of the duchy, as well as monument to Eliass that was designed in 1987 by the sculptor Jānis Zariņš.  Another monument, “Lāčplēsis and the Black Knight,” was designed by the sculptor Kārlis Jansons and commemorates the liberators of Jelgava.

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Ancient legends say that ship sank in the sea near the old cemetery during a storm and during a worship service. The pastor and members of the congregation volunteered to use a rowboat to save the crew of the ship.  Some of the men were rescued, while others were washed ashore.  In honour of this tragic, but also happy solution, the captain called the place Feliksberga, or the Lucky Shore.  Later it became known as Pilsberga, and it was renamed Jūrkalne only in 1925.

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The square structure with walls that are nearly two metres thick became known as the Gunpowder Tower during the rule of Duke Jacob, because that is what was stored here.  There might have been a well here, because groundwater is close to the surface.  The tower and the castle were linked by a 12-metre bridge on one pillar.  The tower is only visible from the outside.

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The open-air museum was proposed in 1992 by the sculptor Ojārs Arvīds Feldbergs, and it is located on the banks of the Ancient Abava River valley and on land that was once part of the Firkspedvāle and Briņķpedvāle estates.  The park features contemporary art, and the museum also organises symposiums, creative workshops and other events.

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Tukums in the historical sources is mentioned in 1253 agreement of the Livonian Order and the Bishop on the division of Kursa. If the town's name is translated from the Liv language, it means "a pile, mountains of sand". at the beginning of 14th century German merchants and craftsmen settlement was formed at the Livonian Order stone castle, whose flowering was facilitated by the proximity of Riga - Prussian road. Later the city was largely influenced by the construction of Riga - Tukums railway in1877. During the Soviet period the on the eastern outskirts of Tukums, the largest Soviet military airfield and military town in the Baltic States was deployed. Today Tukums is a district centre of the same name with a wide range of services offered to tourists.

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The German order built a stone castle here in 1242, and only a few fragments of it remain along with a vaulted cellar in which local wines can be tasted if you register in advance.  The castle of the Duke of Courland was here later, but it was destroyed during the Great Northern War in 1701.  Reconstruction of the park involved wooden pathways and bridges, information stands, a pergola and a fountain.  There are 22 sculptures in the park that are the work of Līvija Razevska.

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In the Berzini homestead they bake exceptionally tasty wheat and rye bread in accordance with the old folk recipes. The taste and smell is the result of baking bread in a special oven which is more than 70 years old. It is possible to order bread, or, having booked a visit beforehand,  to make and bake your own bread loaf. The owners will teach you bread baking traditions and use recipes from their ancestors to bake loaves in a true bread oven.

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This is the only place in Latvia where old organs are restored and new ones are built.  The workshop also manufactures music boxes.  Tour groups can learn about the history and principles of organ building and about the instruments as such.  The workshop was installed in the stable of a former manse in 2004, and it is owned by Jānis Kalniņš.

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The Wine Hill of Sabile has been known since the age of the Duchy of Courland as the northernmost place where grapes were grown to produce more or less sour wine for the duchy. A wine festival has been held each year during the latter half of July in Sabile since 1999. The hill offers an excellent view of the small town that is on the banks of the ancient Abava River Valley.

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This convent-type castle was built in the mid-13th century by the bishopric of Piltene.  Annexes were added in the 16th and 19th centuries to create a typical internal courtyard.  The Neo-Gothic forms of the castle’s façade date back to the 1830s.  From the 16th century to the 1920, the castle was owned by the noble Behr family.  After it was burned down during the 1905 Revolution, the castle was rebuilt in two years’ time.  The castle is known for ghost stories, tales of elf weddings, and stains of blood in the Red Room that are supposedly the result of a murder.  A fireplace was built to hide the stains, but they reappeared.  Since the privatisation of the castle, the interior has been restored with halls and cellars that are decorated with elements that are typical to the castle.  Its rooms and viewing tower are open to the public.  In the park, visitors will find the Alley of Love and the elf oak tree.

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Documents show that the first windmill was built here in the 13th century along with the Kuldīga Castle.  During the rule of Duke Jacob, gunpowder was manufactured at the windmill, and it later became the first place in Kurzeme where paper was manufactured.  The building took on its current appearance during the 19th century.  During the Soviet occupation, a metal processing workshop was in it.

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This tavern is in the centre of Alsunga, which is the capital of the Suiti people.  The Suiti have always known how to work hard, sing well and eat tasty foods.  The tavern offers for tour groups to taste a delicious Suiti meal made from ancient recipes, after which participants can learn how to cook those foods – carrot buns, soured porridge and other masterful dishes from this part of Latvia.  A very effective performance by  Women of Suiti will make the meal truly unforgettable.  You’ll also be able to purchase carrot buns and sourdough bread that is baked only here.

Latvian cuisine: Sourdough bread, dumplings, dried ribs.

Special foods: Homemade carrot buns.

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The first wooden church was built here in 1252, and the brick church was built in 1665.  It burned down and was restored in 1672, but it was rebuilt in later years.  There are important artistic monuments in the interior of the church – the altar, the pulpit and the painted organ.  Legendary Duke Jacob Kettler of Courland (1610-1682) was baptised in the church and married Princess Charlotte Louise from Brandenburg in it.  During the Soviet era, the church housed a museum and a concert hall.  According to legend, the name of the church is based on a woman called Catherine, who donated funds to build the church, was subjected to lies, tortured and then proclaimed as a saint.  Above the side entrance is a medallion of a woman with a crown of thorns, torture equipment and a sword in her hand.  Elements of this story can also be seen in the herald of Kuldīga.  The steeple of the church offers a good look at the roofs of the ancient part of the city.

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An ancestral farmstead on the former Labrags estate. Country sauna and good cuisine. Everything is like in the olden days, but one feels right at home.
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The Jaunpils Castle crusaders built in 1301, and its ancient appearance has remained in place to the present day.  The ancient walls offer leisure in Medieval apartments and modern rooms, along with event halls and tours led by characters from the castle’s history.  A Medieval saloon welcomes guests every day.  This is such a romantic place, because the castle is 700 years old.

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A country farmstead in vicinity of Valdeķi. A room for guests in the hosts' home. Guests can see farm animanls. Country sauna with birch and juniper besoms, herb teas. Volley-ball grounds, 10 tent places.

The owners have a large collection of old-time tools and can talk about how they were used at the farm. Families with children can help to take care of livestock in the evening (feed the animals, milk a goat, etc.)

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This little building is on the left bank of the Venta River beyond the ancient brick bridge.  It is located at Pils Street 4.  The hut was built in 1735, using rocks from the damaged castle of the duke, and it was built on a terrace that is the last fragment of the walls that surrounded the castle.  Also known as the Hangman’s hut, the building was rebuilt during the 19th century.  It can only be viewed from the outside.

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The "Caunītes” farmstead carries on Latvian traditions and demonstrates them to visitors. The house is designed and decorated in the traditional Latvian style and exudes an authentic ambience while having modern facilities. The heart of the farmstead is a barn with a bread baking stove. The hosts offer to enjoy various traditional seasonal activities. Please arrange your visit in advance.

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On the banks of the Venta River is a treasure of wooden architecture – the so-called Bangerts Villa, which relates to romantic stories and legends and was recently restored.  It is said that a man known as Captain Bangerts bought the villa as a gift to present to his Parisian bride.  The Kuldīga Administrative District Museum has been in the building since 1940.  Since reconstruction, unique wall paintings and other interior design details have been restored, and the flat of the Bangerts family allows people to see how wealthy residents of the city lived in the early 20th century.  Also on display are some of the sets of playing cards that have been collected by Jānis Mētra.

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3 km to the south of the centre of Jūrkalne, near the old (gravelled) road between Liepāja and Jūrkalne, is the place where the three-year Feliksberga Maritime School existed between 1871 and 1902.  The building is long gone, and the memorial has involves an oaken boat with two wooden poles on which old ownership signs have been engraved.

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The farm specialises in dairy farming. Students and others can go on an educational tour, “The Route of Milk,” during which they will be able to churn butter and learn about how dairy products are produced.

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Piltene is one of the smallest and oldest cities in Latvia, first mentioned in 1295, and being granted the rights of a city in 1557.  Between the 14th and 16th century, Piltene was the administrative centre for the Bishopric of Kurzeme.  The historical streets that surround the castle ruins feature wooden buildings from the first half of the 19th century.  The bishop’s castle in Piltene was built at the turn of the 14th century and used until the 16th century.  Only its foundations and fragments of its tower on the banks of the Vecventa River survive.

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Painted in dark colours, this building dates back to the 17th century (the square around it is cited in documents).  The city’s first prison was in the cellar of the building, and the square was historically a place for residents of the city could gather and suffer punishments.  A pole of shame was at the south-eastern corner of the square.  The building now houses the Kuldīga Tourism Information Centre and a workshop for weavers.  Visitors can purchase products and souvenirs from Kurzeme and watch weavers at work.

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The birthplace of Latvia’s first prime minister and, later, president, Kārlis Ulmanis (1877-1942) was turned into a museum in 1993.  The homestead has undergone unbelievable transformation during the past two decades.  The landscape has been cleaned up, and buildings that were lost or were in poor shape have been rebuilt.  There are a house, an ancillary building, a cattle shed and barn and a granary.  The exhibition focuses on the life of Ulmanis, featuring an impressive collection of agricultural equipment and instruments, including Latvia’s largest wooden butter churn.