Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Visit to Cesis, Rauna and Drusti on 9 July 2013

Gigantic beer pot sculptures with potted plants as a head 
On 9 July, we set out to see Cesis, a regional capital, and one of its subordinate municipalities, Rauna which  contains the town of Rauna and the village of Drusti.. Vija's paternal grandfather, one Eduards Lacis was born and baptised in Drusti Parish and her paternal grandmother, Katerina Bukse was born and baptised in Rauna parish, both being of the Evangelical Lutheran faith.

We really enjoyed Cesis with its great town square, its Lutheran church and many attractive builldings and its ancient castle remains and parks. There was also an extensive children's playground area with lot of fine equipment mainly of timber. We have observed that Latvians may lack many things we take for granted but when it comes to children's  playgrounds, they far exceed Australia's offerings in both terms of quantity and quality and all without resorting to plastic garbage and our nana-state offerings. And they are very popular.. It is very rare to see one not being enthusiastically used. Cesis is  the home of Cesus Alus (alus is their word for beer) and their brewery is the biggest in Latvia. (it's okay but Latvia has other better brews in my opinion). The price of beer is reasonable and is the drink of choice for most ethnic Latvians.

Lutheran Church at Rauna
From Cesis, we went onto Rauna which reportedly has a population of about 1300 and we were astonished to find a very large and ancient church originally built in 1262 and obviously still largely intact other than for obvious repairs most notably it terms of roofing which is,of course, essentiall for ensuring building integrity. We could find no literature on this church which is surprising giving its uniqueness. However, the history of Rauna Castle provided us with some very valuable clues.
Substantial remnants of Rauna Castle remain which is remarkable considering that over the centuries it has been damaged and ransacked by invading forces a total of seven times. But the big clue was that the castle was originally built, like the church, in 1262 by Albert II,  Archbishop of Riga,  as the Archbishop's Summer Residence, which tends to explain why Rauna was provided with such a large and substantial church. We could not gain entry to the church. An outstanding feature is the two reliefs over the main and the side entry. They are extremely crude and archaic which suggests that they were original to the church (see the photographs in our album about this day).  The town looks relatively prosperous with modern municipal offices, a new shopping centre being built, new accommodation erections and many large modern houses in the town. Most surprisingly, the town has two modern toilet blocks and they are free and unlocked! We have not seem even one municipal toilet block anywhere else in Latvia - not even in Riga. Elsewhere, Latvia is a country where is can be very difficult to find any readily available toilet facilities when you need then and if you get lucky you may well need about 30 cents in loose change to gain entry. It was the same in Estonia also.  The town also had some very modern sporting facilities as well.

Lutheran Church at Drusti
We went on to Drusti which has a reported parish population of about 300. It is a small town featuring an astonishing Soviet-built water tower, large school premises, a couple of understandably insignificant shops, a modern town administration centre, and, pictured here, a Lutheran Church of untypical design. This church appears to be a simple hall (no cross shape) has massive columns at the front and a sort of dome in lieu of the usual Lutheran steeple tower. Even our tourist guide was astonished. The church was built in 1832 and my guess is that its design reflects a lack of funding combined with some Russian classical influence. We were even more surprised to find that there is a virtually identical church at a nearby village. We will pursue this further as we have contact details for the church officials. This town also featured partisan memorials and has two plaques featuring the names of several victims of "communist terror" listing those executed as partisans, those sent to gulags and those exiled to Siberia. Have a look at the photos in the album - survival appears to have been consistently short. Two "Lacis" residents are included in the exiles and may well have been Vija's relatives. Drusti now appears to be a relatively successful farming community - mainly wheat farming. Houses are mostly modern and of cottage sized but with good-sized yards. There is a block of flats as well.

Be sure to take a look at the album for this trip.

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