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14 June 2017 / leggypeggy

Oh, for a palace for the night

Rundāle Palace, Duke's Bedroom

The Duke’s Bedroom would have been just the place for Poor John and me to spend the night

As you may know, Poor John and I have set off on a week-long bike ride through Brittany in northwestern France. We covered 50 kilometres on Saturday, another 73 over Sunday and Monday, and then a meagre 20 today, but over a gravelled track that did my arm no good.

Of course to make things ‘more interesting’, we’re also camping.

Our tent is quite cosy, but it suddenly makes me long for our visit to the Rundāle Palace outside Bauska in Latvia.

This would be a great place to stay after a long bike ride. I read that in addition to being a museum, the palace is also used to accommodate notable guests. I’m guessing we don’t quite meet the criteria.

But we weren’t riding bikes in Latvia, so we arrived at Rundāle by car and took the wrong turn in, which meant we parked as far away as possible from the entrance. Never mind, a good walk gets the day started.

Rundāle Palace, corridor of antlers

Plenty of hunting trophies displayed as you enter

There was a lot of activity in the main courtyard, which meant they were probably preparing for some notable event or guests, but tours were running as usual.

We opted for the long tour, which cost an extra 2 euros and included more rooms (including the Duchess’ suite) and the garden, but not a lift to our distant car.

Tours aren’t guided (although there may be an option with advance notice) but most rooms have explanatory cards in a variety of languages. There can be hot competition for certain languages, so we read most of the cards, but not all.

Rundāle Palace, Latvia

The real front of Rundāle Palace, with a fountain in the foreground

So let’s have a look at the palace
I suppose it makes sense to start at the entrance, which is very grand, but I subsequently realised that what I thought was the back of the castle is actually the front. The give-away information was that the front has fountains. I suppose the other give-away was the rows of antlers to the right of the doors where we entered. Antlers strike me as billiards room decor and not the stuff of grand entrances.

Now I should mention that the placement of pics here does not necessarily sit beside (or above or below) any accompanying text, but everything has a caption, although you may need to roll over the pic to see it.

Rundāle Palace, Throne Room (Gold Hall)

Poor John heads out of the Throne Room. I’m about halfway back up the room

Of the rooms we saw, the Throne Room is the most elaborate in the whole palace. Also known as the Gold Hall, it is used for state gatherings. Gold wreaths and garlands surround the room and depict music, architecture, hunting, geography, cattle breeding, gardening, fishing and more.

The White Hall is the ballroom and it was being prepared for some event when we were there (probably the same reason for the outdoor activity I mentioned earlier. The stucco decorations (see JM Graff in the history) depict the four seasons and the four elements of the world—fire, water, earth and air. The rosette on the ceiling was my favourite. It depicted a sun with a stork’s nest. By the way, I haven’t been able to find measurements on any of the rooms or the palace itself, but let’s agree that it’s ginormous.

There is a porcelain room at one end of the White Hall with 45 vases from China and Japan.

Next we saw the library and the Rose Room. The latter is decorated with garlands of stucco roses by JM Graff (see history) on every wall. The ceiling, painted by Italian artist Francesco Martini and Carlo Zucchi, shows Flora, the goddess of spring and flowers.

The Duke’s Bedroom (at top) came next and if Poor John and I could have stayed there, I can guarantee you we would have made the bed. I’ll show the parquetry from that room. Most of the original flooring was destroyed over the years, and this shows some of the replacement work.

Rundāle Palace, Rose Room Ceiling

Rose Room ceiling depicting Flora, goddess of spring and flowers

Rundāle Palace, Rose Room stucco roses on wall

Rose garlands decorate the walls of the Rose Room. That’s a blue and white fireplace on the right

Are you exhausted yet? I was and I couldn’t even lie down. So we’ll press on.

About now is when the extended part of the tour kicked in. We went through a small dining room and several unnamed rooms (have included only a few pics of those). These were beautifully decorated and furnished, and I think part of the quarters used by the Duchess.

But I knew we were in her quarters when we came to her boudoir, bedroom and bathroom. I couldn’t get a decent pic of the bedroom, but the boudoir and bathroom more than made up for that. The bathroom ceiling alone is stunning. Come to think of it, her bathroom could be the other throne room. The display of her cosmetic set was enormous, and the gowns were typically ornate.

Then it was out through the ground floor to the magnificent gardens that were hard to photograph. The intricate layout really needs an aerial view to appreciate the 10 hectares of manicured cultivation (so I’ve added an aerial pic from Wikipedia, all other pics are mine). The roses hadn’t bloomed yet, but plenty of tulips were out.

And by now Poor John and I were plenty weary and still had to trudge back to the car.

Rundāle Palace, Duchess' bathroom ceiling

Ceiling in Duchess’s bathroom

Rundāle Palace, Duchess' bathroom

Duchess’ bathroom with a glimpse of the ceiling

A bit about the palace’s history
Rundāle is one of two baroque palaces built in Latvia for the Dukes of Courland (the other is Jelgava Palace, which we didn’t visit).

It took eight years to build Rundāle Palace, and it was done over two bursts from 1736 to 1740 and 1764 to 1768. I thought it was interesting that work on Rundāle progressed slowly because the duke of the time, Ernst Johann von Biron, was more interested in the other palace. As a result, he had materials and workmen shifted from Rundāle to Pelgava.

Biron fell out of favour in 1740 (probably over religious disagreements), and the palace remained empty and unfinished for about 24 years. That’s when Biron managed to return from exile (not sure how he managed that).

At that time, Italian architect Francesco Rastrelli supervised the completion of Rundāle, which included lavish decorations by Johann Michael Graff, a German Rococo sculptor and plasterer. Rundāle Palace and Schönhausen Palace in Germany are among his most celebrated works.

In the end, Rundāle became the duke’s favourite palace and he lived there until he died in 1772.

The palace later passed through many hands and fulfilled many roles.

It was a hospital for Napoleon’s army during the French invasion of Russian in 1812, and a German hospital and commandant’s office during World War I. It was severely damaged in 1919 during the Latvian War of Independence.

Rundāle Palace, garden

Looking out to the 10-hectare garden

In 1933, it was taken over by the Ministry of Education and reconstructed as a school. In fact, some of it remained as a school until 1978, although part of it did a stint as a grain store.

In the 1960s, the palace was declared part of the Bauska local history museum and restoration works began in 1972. This work has been ongoing and was only officially completed in 2014. The works cost 8.5 million euros.

Today the palace is on one Latvia’s major tourist destinations. It and it’s gardens are also a museum and a centre for research into Latvia’s history.

A final few comments
Rundāle Palace and Versailles near Paris are the two most elaborate and beautiful palaces I have ever seen. I haven’t written about Versailles yet, but I promise to do so. So much to tell about and so little time.

Plus, I’ve been without internet for two days and don’t expect to have it again until late Thursday. So cheers for now.

P.S. Still 44 kilometres of bike riding to do and too much of it uphill. Ugh!

Rundāle Palace, tulips

Aerial view from Wikipedia

85 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. David Folstad / Jun 14 2017 5:04 am

    Absolutely stunning palace. I and my wife would have enjoyed seeing everything. Lavish and thank you for the time and detail in your blog. So much appreciated, I am glad to be a follower.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 5:13 am

      Thanks so much, David. I’ve been short of electricity and wifi the last few days and have been working on this when I could. Had a good connection this afternoon so went for it.

      Like

  2. beetleypete / Jun 14 2017 5:30 am

    That’s a palace for sure, Peggy. Small wonder they had a revolution!
    I hope that uphill riding isn’t intolerable. Rather you, than me!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 5:34 am

      I’ve resigned myself to walking if necessary. Hard pushing a fully loaded bike uphill, but I’ve got two days to do 44 kilometres. There is some downhill too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Robert Parker Teel / Jun 14 2017 5:39 am

    I cannot believe I’ve never heard of this place before, it’s spectacular. I’m not very fond of overly elaborate decorations, but all these floral embellishments are actually very charming and cheerful. I wonder if the duchess was still recognizable, after she got done layering on those tureens of cosmetics! This was an excellent article and professionally photographed, too. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 5:43 am

      Thanks so much. I had never heard of it either. I was glad they let people take photos. It was really worth recording and sharing. I was in a castle recently where photos were taboo. As if we’ll ruin the stone walls? And yes, the duchess probably was unrecognisable and unable to stand up once she was all dolled up. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. spearfruit / Jun 14 2017 5:40 am

    Simply amazing Peggy! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alexander Lautsyus / Jun 14 2017 5:50 am

    You are Guys brave and strong! I am amazed!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. paolsoren / Jun 14 2017 5:53 am

    What an amazing look at the palace, Peggy.. Your photos were as brilliant as usual.But where did the money come from to build such a place. One thing that always amazes me is that such places actually existed before Australia was discovered.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 6:35 am

      Thanks. It is incredible what was going on in the world all those centuries ago. But a lot was going on in Australia too. Just not much evidence remains. See if you can find the book ‘Dark Emu’ by Bruce Pascoe. Fascinating.

      Like

  7. lexklein / Jun 14 2017 6:31 am

    I always think these northern European palaces are going to be simpler because their exteriors are usually less ornamental (I always love the bright paints with white accents), but nope – they are as extravagant and ornate as palaces everywhere!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 14 2017 6:50 am

    I know these places are money pits, but these are important for history and to understand how we got to where we are. (Love the little white stork on the ceiling – so much elaborate detail work, it’s easy to miss little bits – but such care given to even the tiniest details.
    Pedal on! (we’re running to keep up with you)

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 2:59 pm

      The stork was one of my favourite things in the whole palace. That and the rose garland and the ceiling of madame’s bathroom. Setting out on today’s ride in an hour or so—I think I can, I think I can.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ilze / Jun 14 2017 7:26 am

    I guess it’s time to visit Rundale for me too… I was there 15 years ago and it wasn’t that beautiful…. Or I wasn’t that much interested 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 3:00 pm

      Oh you must go again. You probably were interested 15 years ago. But it would have changed a lot because renovations were only fully completed three years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ilze / Jun 14 2017 5:41 pm

        oh! you know better than me! Good! Than we have to go for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Dorothy / Jun 14 2017 7:35 am

    What a lovely palace. You did well to get all the way through the tour after all your cycling. I would not have the energy. Your efforts are appreciated by your couch surfing followers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 3:05 pm

      Thanks Dorothy. So glad you are enjoying the posts. I have to admit that our tour of the palace was a few weeks ago—long before the cycling—so we drove there.

      Like

  11. annabelletroy / Jun 14 2017 7:58 am

    so elegant…I could live there easily!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Yahooey / Jun 14 2017 8:29 am

    A baroque beauty. I see a fair number of similarities to Versailles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 3:08 pm

      Yes, it will be interesting to compare when I finally get the Versailles post done.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. gerard oosterman / Jun 14 2017 9:19 am

    Very interesting, Peggy. It shows that Latvian nobility had as much need for the porcelain as any others. The bathroom had two of these, nicely covered with matted cane. I imagine that the popularity of shared ablutions was well established in this Palace.
    It is all so mind-boggling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 3:11 pm

      It is mind-boggling. The creativity, the time it took, the opulence, the cost!!!! And your comment about the shared ablutions reminded me of the two-seater a few posts back. 🙂

      Like

  14. pvcann / Jun 14 2017 9:33 am

    Stunning, such an array of art and culture.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Christy B / Jun 14 2017 12:15 pm

    Wow, that palace… it goes on and on.. and the ceiling in the rose room, oh my!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 3:14 pm

      I could have posted many more ceiling photos, but that was one of the really special ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Catnip Blog / Jun 14 2017 12:53 pm

    Paint the poles of your tent gold and hang a light bulb in the center, close your eyes, breath and imagine you are sleeping in the palace. . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Alison and Don / Jun 14 2017 1:04 pm

    What an extraordinary place. Very beautiful. These old palaces always blow me away – this one, Alhambra, Versailles, Top Kapi, the Vatican – so much detail and artwork in the decor.
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 14 2017 3:15 pm

      Oh yes, and you’ve reminded me that I still need to post about Top Kapi. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Jun 14 2017 3:40 pm

    I would be happy to write you a note stating that you are indeed noble and should be welcome to stay the night in the Duke’s bedroom.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Coral Waight / Jun 14 2017 4:03 pm

    Gosh! Pretty exotic.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Andrew Petcher / Jun 14 2017 5:09 pm

    What a place – thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. heidi ruckriegel / Jun 14 2017 6:41 pm

    Beautiful. Reminds me of the palaces in my home town, Bayreuth, although they’re a little smaller. I remember that the china (stoneware?) stoves were managed from the back, via narrow passages behind the walls, so the nobility wasn’t disturbed by muck or servants stoking the fire. The thermal mass means they keep warm for a long time. My aunt in Germany has a simpler version in her house and farmers also used them, but less ornate ones.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2017 12:22 am

      Thanks for the detail about the stoves. They were in every room of the palace. At one stage we saw the rooms behind where the stoking would occur. Fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. DreamTemples / Jun 14 2017 6:42 pm

    Such a beautiful palace and lovely pictures.Thank you so much for this post. Hope you complete your bike- tour and take a lovely long rest.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2017 12:23 am

      Thanks. Looking forward to a long rest off the bike. Completed another 29 kilometres today. Only 20 to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. derrickjknight / Jun 14 2017 7:18 pm

    Wonderful tour of the palace. Glad you are able to keep going after the train crash

    Liked by 1 person

  24. The Year I Touched My Toes / Jun 14 2017 8:12 pm

    I’m in colour heaven from this post. Love the first shot. I love the hot pink room, the bigger green room ( again is that wall paper or silk?) Oooh and the little day bed in the nook. Lovely, Thanks for the tour. Louise

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2017 12:26 am

      You are most welcome. I loved the colour too, and it’s why I shared an array of pictures. I’m a sucker for pink and green. The patterned wall coverings in every room were fabric. Not sure if all of it was silk. The little day bed in the nook is actually two seats.

      Like

  25. Devraj Infosys / Jun 14 2017 9:53 pm

    I cannot believe I’ve never heard of this place before, it’s spectacular.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2017 12:26 am

      I hadn’t heard of it either, but I sure loved the tour. Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  26. Hemangini / Jun 15 2017 12:57 am

    Just beautiful, everything. The walls, the pictures and the crockeries and art are breathtaking… You have a knack of taking pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2017 12:59 am

      Thanks so much. I confess that I take a lot of ordinary pics before the good ones appear. 🙂

      Like

  27. mistermuse / Jun 15 2017 1:47 am

    You didn’t mention how many toilets there are in the Throne Room….also, why, in such a luxurious palace, there is only one Throne Room (perhaps it’s unisex). Even in my humble abode there is more than one Throne Room, but perhaps Duke von Biron preferred gold-platted chamber pots in his bedrooms for convenience sake. Or maybe he couldn’t get a plumber to do the job; they were probably few and far between in the 1700s — unlike today, when you can get a plumber within months!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2017 2:05 am

      Oh too funny, but darn right. You can get a plumber within months. “)

      Like

  28. fl2native / Jun 15 2017 5:17 am

    Quite a beautiful interior, although the outside of the palace is rather plain! I would love to see the gardens here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2017 1:48 am

      Yes, the exterior is very plain. The gardens are lovely although hard to photograph. Google has some great images.

      Like

  29. Dave Ply / Jun 15 2017 6:50 am

    Amazing a place like that would merely be a “favorite palace.” As if he’s got palaces scattered around willy-nilly.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. BoomingOn / Jun 15 2017 10:43 am

    Yep, I’d be voting for the castle.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. poshbirdy / Jun 16 2017 12:35 am

    Oh, those ceilings!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2017 2:03 am

      Yes, and a ceiling is a part of a room that is often neglected.

      Like

  32. Anita / Jun 16 2017 5:26 pm

    Wow what a beautiful place, thank you so much dear Peggy for good sharing
    Have a very nice end of week end
    Kisses

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Brenda / Jun 16 2017 9:05 pm

    I had the same reaction to this castle that I had to Versailles–all that ornate, gilded, fussiness makes me look for the exit! It’s as if I just need some open sky and straight lines to counteract all the curlicues. I hope you are still healing despite all the bike jouncing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 17 2017 5:32 pm

      Thanks Brenda, the healing is going very slowly.

      Like

      • Brenda / Jun 18 2017 6:33 am

        I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe you need a few days in a hammock with a good book and some white wine. Followed by a massage and long soak in epsom salt and lavender.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 18 2017 6:37 am

        Thanks I might get around to that when I get home, except that we no longer have a tub! 🙂

        Like

  34. kunstkitchen / Jun 17 2017 8:09 am

    Oh what a treat to see this palace. Thank you for including some of the artwork! Magnificent tour for us armchair travelers.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Phil Huston / Jun 17 2017 11:06 am

    I appreciate your sharing these treats, but the background noise, for me, of this part of your trip is it makes my butt hurt to think of how you got there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 17 2017 5:33 pm

      if it’s of any consolation, it makes mine hurt too. 🙂

      Like

  36. Deb / Jun 17 2017 11:38 am

    You should have brought your bikes to the palace, looks like there’s plenty of room to ride them there, both inside and out!! Yes the bedroom would have suited you well. I’ve never been to a palace but would love to visit one or better yet, stay in one! Those flowers are beautiful. Keep on truckin’ 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 17 2017 5:33 pm

      What a brilliant idea. I can just see me pedalling up and down the halls of the palace.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deb / Jun 17 2017 11:27 pm

        How fun that would be!! Hehe. 😃

        Liked by 1 person

  37. chattykerry / Jun 20 2017 9:34 am

    Wonderfully ornate!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Ellen Hawley / Jul 13 2017 8:45 pm

    …a modest little place.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. milliethom / Jul 14 2017 6:30 pm

    Such a grand and elaborately beautiful palace, Peggy. As I was reading, I kept thinking about Versailles (which I’ve never been to, so I’ll look forward to your post about that) so I wasn’t too surprised when you mentioned Versailles at the end. It’s funny that, although visiting such places is always a ‘must’, just to see for ourselves what they’re like . Yet they’re somehow too elaborate and showy for me to like them over much! I’m a simple gal, you see. 😀 Your post was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed taking the nice long walk from the car with you and viewing this sumptuous palace. Loved the history about it, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jul 14 2017 7:02 pm

      Thanks Millie. I agree with your assessment. These places are so over-the-top that it’s hard to imagine that people actually ever lived there. It’s almost as if they were built and decorated just for visitors. Stay tuned for Josephine Baker’s mansion, which does look lived in.

      Like

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