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Kuldiga, Latvia

Kuldiga, the ancient town of Courland (Kurzeme), lies on the River Venta where the waterfall Rumba has formed. This used to be the centre of the former territory of the Cours, Bandava. The hillfort of Veckuldīga, that lies near the present town on the left bank of the River Venta, was the biggest hillfort of the Cours. Already in the 9th century a settlement was formed near it. In the first part of the 13th century the territory of the Cours was invaded by German knights. The castle of the Cours was burnt down but the settlement remaind for some time.

To consolidate their military power the knights started to build stone castles. One of them rose on the banks of the River Venta opposite the waterfall. They started building it in 1242 this was the very first time when the name of Kuldiga was mentioned in any kind of official documents. In the 14th century the town had already formed next to the castle. In 1368 Kuldiga became the member of the Hanseatic League. From 1596-1616 Kuldiga was the capital of the Duchy of Courland. During the reign of Duke Jakob (1642.-1682.) the Duchy of Courland and Kuldiga experienced its boom. During the Great Northern War in 1702 the Swedish army plundered and destroyed the castle so badly that it became uninhabitable.

The coat of arms of Kuldiga features St Catherine holding a torture wheel in her hand in the red background. St Catherine was the patroness of the town and the first church in Kuldiga built in 1252 was given her name. Originally it was a wooden church but in 1567 the building of the stone church was begun. During the centuries it has been renovated for several times.

The proud of Kuldiga is the ancient brick bridge across the River Venta (1873-1874) and the old town with its 17th - 18th century buildings. An original feature of every house is its entrance door decorated with wood-carvings, the skylight windows above it and the tiled roofs which are characteristics exclusive to Kuldiga.

The memory of Duke Jacob has been immortalized by naming the new open air stage in Parventa, where opera performances and concerts take place in summers, after his name.

Today Kuldiga is the district centre with 13,5 thousand inhabitants. Summer comes to Kuldiga with a variety of exciting events. The most popular event is the traditional Kuldiga Town Festival, which takes place at the 3rd weekend of July.