“Experience the food and life of 18th century at Ungurmuiza Manor with Latvian landlords“
18th Century at Ungurmuiza Manor
Latvia, one of the three Baltic States, is well known for its beautiful natural landscapes where so many wooden farms and houses are spread between lakes, meadows and forests. For centuries, this country was a place of permanent disputes between mighty neighbors Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Russian Empire as well as the Nazis and Bolsheviks. During these turbulent times, a great number of castles and manor houses were destroyed, but miraculously Ungurmuiza Manor —the only wooden baroque-style manor that survived —is open to the public, and a good reason to road trip in Latvia’s picturesque countryside.
Ungurmuiza Manor nestles amidst beautiful nature, with majestic oak trees, swamps and green grasslands, and is now a charming museum with an added bonus: visitors can spend the night and truly enjoy the spirit of the place like its 18th century owners once did.
Two double rooms inside the manor itself are available for overnight stays. For families, three simple apartments are also available, but in the ancient barn close to the manor. All guests can stroll at any one time through the huge park, and discover the verdant surroundings and other hidden buildings of the property.
The quaint Tea Pavilion
The History of this Exceptional Wooden Manor
The Ungurmuiza Manor gets its name from the Von Ungern family, who owned the place from 1452 till 1683. Later on, in 1728, Lieutenant-General Baltazar Von Campenhausen, bought the property and began to build the Manor as we can see it today, and soon give it, its aspect so romantic. In 1736, he got married with Helene Juliane, who became the real mistress of Ungurmuiza. A strong-willed woman, she worked hard to see the manor house flourish. To suit their own tastes, they planted more trees including a huge orchard and a linden garden, creating a splendid park around the manor.
In 1732, the house was completed with the large balcony standing over its four white wooden pillars. A clock-master also installed a large clock dial that still decorates the rear façade of the manor. Then, for a period of 10 years, Hinsch, a talented wall painter, stayed at the Manor, acting on the wooden walls to create the fabulous wall paintings that can be still admired.
The linden garden was set up by an elegant garden pavilion known as the Tea Pavilion. This charming square building with three levels is covered by a baroque style curved roof whose corners are decorated with gargoyles in the shape of dragon heads. The painting of two impressive grenadiers in colorful uniforms adorn the pavilion. Close by, a tiny garden house has been built as a children’s playhouse. A bit further, the Chapel was erected to be the resting place for the members of the Campenhausen family.
Until 1939 and the sad events of WW2, for more than two centuries the Campenhausen family managed this beautiful property. Today, the manor belongs to the local municipality but the Campenhausen family gets strong links with it, providing the museum with priceless family historical materials.
18th Century Wall Paintings on the Manor’s Wooden Walls
The Fabulous History Behind the Manor History
From 1736, and for many years, Helene Juliane Von Campenhausen, became the real mistress of Ungurmuiza Manor, and as the Lady of the Manor, she decided to seriously manage it. So, she carefully listed all what has been done and all what has to be done. And that lively documentation survives and gives us a perfect vision of the true life of the inhabitants of the manor in the 18th century. Starting with the list of family members who were 29, and the needs and the duties of each one. All details were listed. Almost all family people have to receive 2.5 liters of beer per day! And in winter 20 candles were daily consumed. She brought books on flax, sheep wool and bees, in order to improve their productions in the estate.
She developed the best technics of the time for farming. Rye, spices as caraway, fruit trees, various berries, and even lemon and orange trees were among the main income products of the estate to supply the inhabitants needs. They were also used to produce different liquors and vodka that were sent, alongside rye, to the Baltic seaside to exchange for Baltic herring.
Nothing escaped her accurate management. As crayfish were found in abundance in the ponds, she organized the daily crayfish hunt : “Mikelis on Mondays, Péteris on Fridays…” One of the farmers has been given one shotgun and he has to deliver 6 pieces of wild game a week.
Everything happening in the manor is carefully recorded. But Helene Von Campenhausen was also well educated and she found time among her numerous activities to write poetry. She thought over and wrote the menus for everyday life and holidays, listing recipes such as “rice in wine, English veal, roast meat, oxen’s legs, almond cake, fried apples and milk cream…”
Ungurmuiza Restaurant in the Old Barn of the Manor
Enjoy the 18th Century Food and Hospitality
A nice restaurant is open on the ground floor of the manor’s ancient barn. There, with beautiful decor and antique furniture, some of the Helene’s recipes are proposed to all visitors for lunch and dinner. To keep the spirit of Helene’s cuisine traditions alive, a maximum of local and seasonal products used.
We went for dinner at Ungurmuiza Restaurant and, bad luck for us, the slow braised veal in red sauce, totally inspired by the 18th century handwriting of Helene Von Campenhausen, was not available. A group of guests had just ordered a few minutes before we sat down, scooping up the last veal portions of the day! But the menu offered us a nice choice of meat or fish dishes, with some vegan options too. We opted for the duck breast roasted in linden-blossom with oven-baked seasonal vegetables and spicy cowberry-honey sauce. The duck fillet was tender and cooked to perfection, and the vegetables were deliciously and slightly oven-baked, resulting in a real culinary delight.
For dessert, we decided to share the hot chocolate cake with berries and homemade ice cream and the fresh cheesecake with sea buckthorn dressing and fresh local berries served in a jar, and were not disappointed.
Then, as the other restaurant guests did, we went out into the beautiful park for a post-dinner stroll under the trees, taking advantage of the last beams of daylight. In Northern Europe during summer, the days are long and the nights very short.
Mouth Watering Dessert at Ungurmuiza Restaurant
The Roasted Duck at Ungurmuiza Restaurant
BeSeeingYou In: Ungurnmuiza Manor is 40 kilometres northwest of Cesis town, in Latvia
Good to Know: Latvia is one of the three Baltic countries, part of EU and so, the Euro is the official currency.
WOW! Factor: From beaches to countryside, Latvia offers beautiful natural landscapes. The protection of nature is part of Latvians’ way of life.
Tip: Summertime is the best season to drive in Latvia with a mild climate. Latvian winters are often very cold and snowy.
Author Bio: Frederic de Poligny
All photos ©Frederic de Poligny