In the north-east of Latvia, in the Aluksne highland, at the shores of Lake Aluksne, stands a picturesque town with a rich historic and cultural heritage, with a contemporary feel and a dynamic growth.
Its location is strategically important - several routes to the neighbouring countries Estonia and Russia cross here. The territory itself is rich in lakes, rivers, and forests, therefore, the first settlements were established already a long time ago.
The Livonian Order stone castle was built in 1342 on the Pils or Maria Island, the biggest island on Lake Aluksne. During the subsequent centuries it was inhabited by Germans, Russians, Poles, and Swedes. In 1658 Aluksne was taken by the Russian troops lead by Afanasiy Ovdim Nashchekin. In the Easter of 1661 he received the envoy of Austria - headed by baron Meierberg - that was on its way to Moscow. From this time a drawing of the castle made by artist Storno has survived. In 1702 the castle was surrounded by the Russian army. Since the Swedes did not want to leave it to the Russians, Swedish Captain Wolf blew it up. The inhabitants and locals hiding in the castle were taken prisoners. Among them were also Ernst Glück, the translator of the Bible, and his stepdaughter Marta Skavronska, later to become empress of Russia Catherine I.
Today the castle ruins encircle an open-air stage with 3000 seats.
The Temple Hill is situated on the south-western part of the Cemetery Peninsula. In 1807 a granite rotunda or temple of glory was built on the hill in honour of the faithful fighters of the Northern War - Swedish Captain Wolf and Russian Field-Marshal Sheremetiev.
One of the most popular of the many legends tells that during the war the warriors had brought soil to the Temple Hill in their hats to have a better shooting range across the lake to the Aluksne Castle.
To make the surroundings of the town more beautiful and attractive, the Tourism Committee started to build different objects in 1937. The Sun Bridge on the Temple Hill was built in 1938, restored in 1995.
Lake Aluksne is the eleventh biggest lake in Latvia. The lake is situated 183.7 m above the sea level. There are four islands - Cepurîte (Little Hat Island), Garâ (Long Island), Tîklu (Net Island), and Pilssala (Castle Island), and the Cemetery Peninsula. They all are significant in the history and culture of the town. The lake is a favourite place for fishing and relaxation all year round. The most common fish are pikes, breams, sanders, tenches, perches, roaches, European ciscos, eels, and whitefish. It is told that the European ciscos were taken from Aluksne castle to the courts of Petersburg and Berlin.
The New Castle of Aluksne was built between 1859 and 1863 in Neo-gothic style by the order of Baron Alexander von Vietinghoff. The main facade with a polygonal hall is buttressed to the north, towards the park terrace having a wide view to the lake. In 1924 the building was given to the 7th Sigulda Infantry Regiment, but today it hosts the Museum of Local Heritage and Art, the Museum of Nature, the cinema, Children and Youth Centre, and the ceramics department of Aluksne Art School.
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