Following the footsteps of the Happy Bear... to Zemgale
Do you know where to really look for dormice and what water voles are? Have you ever imagined that dunes are not only by the sea and that you can grow up to 2230 varieties of roses in one garden?
This is a good time to find out, but also to see for yourself - after a tiring winter, spring is treating us to pleasant weather this year, and somewhere in nature is just what we need to relax our bodies and minds. So why not combine it with exploring new worlds? And it may turn out that they've been right next door to you all along - in Zemgale.
Discovering the less known
To promote local tourism and discover all that is beautiful and interesting in Zemgale, the Zemgale Planning Region, together with all municipalities in the region, has launched the tourism promotion campaign "Zemgale invites!". During the campaign, everyone is invited to see what can be found and what others have done in their surroundings in a new and perhaps completely different way, and to literally and figuratively bite into the offer of the regions with all their senses.
The campaign will run until February next year and is divided into five thematic cycles: nature, active leisure, gourmet, festivals and history, and, separately, winter activities. In other words, everyone will be able to find something of interest in what the region has to offer.
But where to start exploring Zemgale? Getting outdoors, of course!
The regions offer a wide range of possibilities for shorter and longer walks, beautiful landscapes and various interesting natural attractions. Each Zemgale region has its own nature trails, parks and gardens, where you can get inspiration and ideas for cultivating your own patch of land.
Here are just a few highlights from all this wealth in Aizkraukle, Bauska, Dobele, Jēkabpils and Jelgava counties, as well as in Jelgava city. In each of these regions you can find something special and unprecedented, which may also surprise you.
Water eaters and a camel in Aizkraukle
Aizkraukle, which may already be known to many for its picturesque Koknese Nature Trail and Likteņdārzs, the Daugava Valley and the Staburaga Memorial Site, also has some lesser-known stops. In Pļaviņas, you can see the Skanstupīte three-tiered waterfall - one of the few waterfalls of the Daugava tributaries that has not been flooded.
Nature lovers can discover not only the marsh and scenic surroundings, but also the Laimes Lācis and Spīdalas trails in Skrīveri and Aizkraukle. In the Korkuļi valley, you can see water lilies in action - these are places where water disappears in the river bed or in the immediate vicinity. For those interested in animals, the farm "Karlīnas" offers rabbits, platypus, peacocks, pheasants and even a camel. You can see, touch, taste and smell 100 different medicinal plants and learn about their everyday use at the farm "Ragāres" in Skrīveri.
Roses and virtual semigallians in Bauska municipality
You can also get acquainted with different animals and birds in the Bauska Region, where the Mini Zoo "Dobuļi" adds to its collection every year and also offers visitors a recreation area and picnic areas with tables. However, it is also worth a trip to Zvirgzdes Dune in Vecumnieki parish, which is one of the highest inland dunes in Latvia and was formed between 11 700 and 14 000 BC. A viewing platform has been built at the top of the dune, offering a picturesque view of the treetops.
Of course, this side is not without castles. The Rundāle Palace garden with its roses needs no further comment, except to remind you that their flowering time is right now - from May to mid-July.
In Mežotne Castle Mound and nearby Vīnakalna Castle Mound, you can not only walk along specially created walking trails, but also use an audio guide and get to know the virtual Zemgals Madi and Zīle with the help of the SAN application.
The search for happiness in Dobele gardens
Specially manicured gardens can be found in Dobele, a region already known to many as a lilac sanctuary in spring. But smaller gardens are also worth a look. For example, the landscape garden of the Klūga family, which the family started 30 years ago at their house near the river Bērze, is recognised as one of the most beautiful in Latvia. The owners have done everything themselves, from digging the pond to planting the grove, and are happy to share their knowledge with visitors. In the Benki family garden, the practical and the beautiful are also in perfect harmony - as well as a pretty garden with flowers from early spring to late autumn, the roots also grow here, serving as a great inspiration for those who want to beautifully and practically green up their own garden or yard.
After exploring the gardens, it is also worth stopping off at Krievkalni in Zebrene parish - the forested rampart is considered a unique landform. A footpath leads to it and its highest point rises 149 m above sea level, offering a far panoramic view of the vast expanses of Zemgale. Cycling enthusiasts should note that there are two marked cycle routes in the region - one around Auce (No 405), the other around Zebrus Lake (No 406), both of which wind over the hills, revealing scenic views. The fairytale world of the Tērvete Nature Park, which only gets more magnificent every year, is worth a walk for young and old alike.
Along the Barons' Trails in Jēkabpils
The parks of Zasas and Garsene Manor in Jēkabpils District offer not only walking, but also educational trails.
The development of Zasa Park began in the time of the Barons von Zas in the distant 18th century. Now the park is considered one of the most magnificent and beautiful walking places in Selija. The paths of the Manor Park tell the legends of the Barons' time, such as the Stone of Tears, the Islet of Love, the Sugar Hill, the Moss Pond and others.
In Garsene, the manor park with several nature trails stretches along the proud Baron von Budbergs' castle. The Cultural and Historical Trail, the Green Trail, the Barons' Trail, the Twilight Hour Trail and the Staburags Trail are of different lengths. They are suitable for the whole family and invite you to discover more than 40 unique natural objects, including beeches and beech trees, as well as a glimpse into the everyday life of the mysterious forest dwarves.
For those who like to spend more time in nature - Nordic walking, jogging or cycling - the Laukezers Nature Park in the municipality of Kūkai is worth a trip. Here you will find swimming facilities and SUP rental. Taborkalns in Sēlpils municipality, where a lookout tower has recently been built, is also on your itinerary, and you can end the active part of the day at the farm "Boļāni" with the ancient tales, truths and traditions of rural life told by the singing Selian hostess Maija.
Wild horses in the middle of Jelgava
But if you want to feel like you belong to a baronial family during your walk, head to the Jelgava Region's nature park "Vilce", where you can follow trails all the way to the castle mound, one of the most scenically beautiful places among the flat farmland of Zemgale. It is no wonder that it was once a favourite walking and hunting spot for the baron family.
In the town, the flood meadows between the rivers Lielupe and Driksa, or Pilssala, are home to an important diversity of plants and birds. There are also 80 wild horses grazing here, all of which can be seen from the almost 20-metre-high observation tower.
From watering holes to rose and inspiration gardens, through baronial trails to the wilderness in the middle of the city, you can discover Zemgale. And there's plenty more to see along the way - climb up castle mounds, see a variety of medicinal plants, orchids and butterflies, maybe spend the night glamping, and on and on. Everyone will discover Zemgale a little differently, so you should go and enjoy it for yourself!