Recently, airBaltic became the world’s first airline to issue limited collector non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The first artwork showcased an individual Airbus aircraft with its registration as well as one of the most beloved Latvian cities – Kuldīga. The second featured the picturesque Medieval town of Cēsis, the third – the most beautiful lake town in Latvia – Alūksne and the fourth – authentic seaside getaway – Liepāja.
Now, the fifth NFT from the collection has been released, featuring a small and charming town in the Zemgale region – Bauska.
These digital art pieces serve as a tourism campaign for Latvian cities, certainly still an undiscovered destination for many.
All airBaltic NFTs have been issued on the OpenSea marketplace, available here.
Bauska is a small and charming town in the Zemgale region of southern Latvia where two rivers, the Mūsa and the Mēmele, meet to form Latvia’s third largest river, the Lielupe.
Here, one can travel back in time to major art and architecture movements from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the Baroque, Rococo, and Classicism periods as well as enjoy present-day rural landscapes. Since ancient times, Bauska was on the main trade route connecting Europe and Riga. But the area was populated already long before that. It is believed that the first inhabitants of Bauska were reindeer hunters, although today it’s an oasis of tranquility and there are no reindeer hunters to be found. However, as you stroll around town, you’ll definitely stumble upon its large castle.
Photo by Sandris Kuzmickis
The town’s fame actually rests on this beautiful structure. In the mid-15th century, Bauska Castle was built as a stronghold of the Livonian Order. In fact, the town, which was only formed in the 17th century, took its name from the castle. Whether you’re looking for something bold and historical or want to be near lush forests and absorb the local culture, Bauska is a one-of-a-kind escape only 60 kilometres from Riga.
Where to find history
Over the four centuries of its existence, Bauska has developed into a modern town. However, it still retains evidence of the many peoples who lived and visited here in earlier times. Head to the Old Town to discover how the 17th-century town was laid out in the shadow of Bauska Castle. The charming old centre is surrounded by lovely wooden residential and shop buildings (Rīgas iela 11-20, 22/5, 24; Plūdoņa iela 18, 26, 40) and several ornate brick buildings (Rīgas iela 41; Plūdoņa iela 54; Rūpniecības iela 14).
The best-known of these is the Town Hall (Rātslaukums 1), which was the largest town hall in the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia until 1740. The two-storey brick building had a wine cellar in its basement, and on the first floor were servant’s quarters and the town’s scales. The council meeting room and workspaces for officials were on the second floor.
Did you know?
Bauska is also famous for the Baltic Way campaign, a peaceful political demonstration that passed through the city on August 23, 1989. Approximately two million inhabitants of the Baltic states joined hands, forming a 600-kilometre long human chain from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius. According to the Reuters news agency, the campaign gathered 700,000 people in Estonia, 500,000 in Latvia, and 1,000,000 in Lithuania. It was a powerful gesture designed for the three countries to support each other in the fight for a common goal – regaining the independence of the Baltic states. In 2009, UNESCO included the Baltic Way in its Memory of the World Register.
Rundāle Palace in Rundāle administrative parish is the most famous and spectacular Baroque/Rococo structure in the Baltics. It was designed by architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli as the summer residence of Duke Biron of Courland.
The name Rundāle comes from Ruhenthal (Valley of Peace), the German name for the palace. Among the spaces open to the public are three staterooms in the palace’s eastern wing: the Gold Hall, the White Hall, and the Grand Gallery. The central part of the building contains the Duke’s living quarters, and the fully restored Duchess’ rooms are situated in the western wing of the palace.
The complex also includes a spectacular Baroque-style garden and a rose garden with 2400 varieties of the flower. The garden reflects the history of cultivating roses in Europe from the early 18th century to the present day. Thus, Rundāle is a perfect destination for those hungry for both history and nature.
What to do
Photo from Kugrēni winery Facebook page
At the family-owned Kugrēni winery (Liepu iela 16, Uzvara, Gailīši administrative parish), hospitable winemakers Elga and Jānis Kugrēns tell visitors all about winemaking in Latvia, a country not usually known for its wines. The winery tour includes a tasting to sample various high-quality, home-grown fruit and berry wines.
Photo from Laima Ceramics home page
While in the area, aesthetes can also pay a visit to the Laima Ceramics studio (Urštēni, Svitene administrative parish), which is known for its unique tableware made of porcelain and reduction wood-fired clay. Run by talented ceramics master Laima Grigone, the practice here embodies notions of stewardship, sustainability, and social empowerment. In addition, the studio offers guided tours and workshops for aspiring creatives and those who want to test the waters with clay.
Where to hear legends
Bauska Castle is the only restored Renaissance-era castle in Latvia. The ensemble consists of two sections. The older section, built in the mid-15th century, was linked with the Livonian Order; today, only ruins remain of it. A more recent part of the castle complex, built in the late 16th century, served as the residence of the Kettlers, Dukes of Courland.
There are many legends about Bauska Castle, including the ghost of the construction manager of the old Livonian castle, who is said to still wander the premises. Also, it is believed that treasures belonging to local lords and the golden chariot of the Dukes of Courland are hidden in the underground chambers of the fortress.
Where to find the best views
Bauska Nature Park is a perfect way to experience natural beauty combined with sights and soothing natural sounds. The park offers several stunning panoramic views of the Mēmele and Mūsa rivers. Probably one of the most spectacular sights is that of the tower of Bauska Castle.
Where to get a rush of adrenaline
Photo from Mūsa Raceland home page
Mūsa Raceland in Gailīši administrative parish is a motorsport adventure park for the whole family. It has a European-class track where you can compete by driving a Volvo 740S with a steel cage on a special rally track. If you’re more of an off-road fan, you’ll enjoy the impressive off-road track with deep water holes, ditches, and hills of various height. For the youngest family members, the park offers a buggy track and a whole world in miniature with tiny houses and a garage.
Where to please car enthusiasts
Photo from Bauska Motor Museum Facebook page
See vintage vehicles and feel the touch of history at the Bauska Motor Museum (Sarkanmuiža 6, Code administrative parish), a branch of the famous Riga Motor Museum. The exposition reflects the history of farm machinery, cars, and motorcycles in Latvia and globally. In one of the halls visitors can explore vehicles from the 1930s that were once owned by wealthy families, and in another hall they can experience the vibe of the Latvian countryside in the 1920s.
Where to go with children
Mini Zoo Dobuļi (Dobuļi, Iecava administrative parish) is a good stop on the way back to Riga for those with children. The zoo offers a nice collection of wild and domestic animals, including kangaroos, llamas, dwarf pigs, sheep, goats, and rabbits. Here one can also enjoy the tranquility of the countryside while watching waterbirds and spending quality time with the family.
Another option is Rabbit Village (Pilsmuižkungi, Code administrative parish), the only place of its kind in Latvia. Here you’ll find more than 65 different kinds of rabbits running loose around the garden and in the rabbit village consisting of 35 wooden houses. Marvel at the owners’ creative spirit; they’ve created everything from fairy-tale houses to a castle with matching flowers planted all around!
Bauska is renowned for having been the site of the prestigious Kaucminde school of home economics, and many traditional recipes are still honoured here today. One of these is a chocolate ‘sausage’ known as Saldā brunete, or Sweet Brunette. According to legend, a rich mayor’s wife wanted to surprise her guests with a sweet dessert. Instead of a traditional castle-shaped cake, she decided to create romantic castle ruins with a slightly crunchy texture. Shop for locally produced Sweet Brunette at Poļu nams (Draudzības iela 1, Code administrative parish).
Where to dine
Photo from Rožmalas Facebook page
Rožmalas (Nameju iela 2, Ceraukste) is a spacious leisure centre and family-style restaurant in the Zemgale countryside. It’s one of the top dining destinations in the area, serving delicious and healthy dishes reflecting international cuisine. Don’t miss the homemade bread made at the nearby Ribbes Mill. After a night of feasting, visitors can also stay overnight and relax in the spa here.
Photo from Rezidence home page
On the other side of Bauska, Rezidence (Ābelītes, Pilsrundāle, Rundāle administrative parish) combines an art gallery and restaurant in one place. It doesn’t go unnoticed that the interior features spectacular art by painter Gundega Dūduma. The industrial-style establishment serves seasonal local produce and refreshing cocktails and prides itself in its very own selection of homemade cheeses.
Where to stay
Photo from Mazmežotne manor home page
The historical Mazmežotne manor house (Mazmežotne, Rundāle administrative parish) is a Swiss-type villa with extraordinary appeal, and its interior was created with a feeling of antiquity in mind. The manor house is located in the tranquil countryside on the banks of the Lielupe River and is a great place to relax from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Nature lovers will definitely adore everything the surrounding nature has to offer.
Read more about Bauska at tourism.bauska.lv