On a warm Sunday afternoon, Lēdurga, 75 kilometres northeast of Riga, feels like any other pretty Vidzeme village. Customers flirt with the cashier in the tiny grocery store. Families stroll through the old manor park, notable for its enormous oak trees. Residents potter in their gardens, some off which are next to hewn log houses; these look to be in remarkably good shape for structures rarely seen outside of ethnographic museums.
But if you scratch the surface, you discover this sleepy hamlet has produced some bold personalities with big ideas. To encounter one of them, stroll up the hill to the impressive Lutheran church. Unveiled in 1772, it is one of the few churches in these parts to survive World War Two. With room for 600 worshippers, it’s a big one by Latvian country standards, testifying to the prosperity the district once enjoyed.
In the church yard is a bust commemorating the Baltic German intellectual Garlieb Merkel. The son of Lēdurga’s pastor, Merkel’s book The Latvians (published in 1796) was a damning indictment of how the German gentry treated the local peasants and played a major role in the abolition of serfdom in the Baltic provinces.
At the other end of town is a monument to just how productive those green-thumbed Letts can be. In 1973, local gardener Arvīds Janitens decided to make good use of a boggy area by planting exotic trees, shrubs and perennial flowers. With the help of a few friends, he eventually created Lēdurga Dendrological Park.
This lush and lovely space covers 47 hectares. The 1,000 or so botanical species on display are complemented by wooden sculptures created by visiting artists, and there’s a large stone where pagan Livs once made offerings to their gods.
In the midst of all this, the park’s managers have also installed a disc golf park. Rather than ruining everything, it’s actually a quiet and mindful sport which helps you appreciate the natural beauty of the place even more. And there are picnic tables to make it an ideal family destination.
Need to know
- There’s one bus a day from Riga to Lēdurga, as well as a few from Sigulda and Limbaži. Driving takes a bit over an hour.
- There are no cafes in town. Bring your own picnic lunch.
- Admission to the park is 3 euros for adults and 2 euros for children. A hired golf disc will set you back one euro.