There were two excursions scheduled for Friday December 7th. One was for the students, to Sigulda, the other was for the teachers, to Bauska Palace and Rundale Palace.
The enormous complex of Rundale Palace lies around 70 kms from Riga, and the participants were most impressed by it. It was the Duke of Courland’s summer residence, designed by the Italian architect Francesco Rastrelli, and is a real palace – it’s the only word for it – set in the middle of the fields. Its resemblance to the palaces of St Petersburg is more than obvious. The baroque-style gardens cover 85 hectares and their layout alone in summer must be enchanting. Not to mention the inside of the building, for which we had an extremely well-informed guide. We all even had to put on shoe covers to avoid soiling the floors. On the walls were dozens – if not hundreds – of paintings, often of the Flemish school, tracing through the centuries the family history of Ernst Johann Biron.
After this extraordinary visit of discovery, it was now time for refreshment at the ‘Berzkalni Guest house’ in Bauskas, where the guests could enjoy a dish of either meat or fish, with a generous serving of vegetables.
The second part of the excursion at 14.00 was a visit to the ‘Bauskas Alus’ brewery. In this flourishing establishment, the participants were divided into two groups who then took turns to taste the products of the brewery, with a copious commentary translated by a teacher from the School. On this occasion the visitors learned that the beer made here was not pasteurised and therefore had a reduced shelf-life. A glass display cabinet contained the many trophies which had been awarded to the company.
Finally there was a visit to a fortress, still in the same area of Bauskas, where this time we were initiated into medieval dancing by a dancing teacher in medieval costume who had really good teaching ability as, after only half an hour, what had at first been useless hopping around became – almost – dancing, accompanied by lots of bursts of laughter.
At around 16.00 it was time to return to Riga for the rest and … the end of the programme, that is to say the Gala Evening and the Farewells. But not without getting a ‘taste’ as we entered Riga of the traffic jams usual in a capital city on a Friday evening.
STUDENT OUTING TO SIGULDA: as I can’t be in two places at once, I can’t tell you how this excursion went. However, according to one participant, this outing was of enormous interest to the students.