Daugavgrīva

Swedish Livonia lasted for less than a century, and Swedish rule managed to fortify this important overseas territory less than its other provinces. Indeed, Swedish fortifications in modern Latvia are sparse, but along with Riga itself the mouth of the Daugava was also fortified against possible incursions.

The Livonian Order, who ruled these lands before the 16th century, had a castle on the right bank of the Daugava. When the Polish took over in the mid-16th century, they continued rebuilding that stronghold—but the Swedish conquest of Livonia also saw them start the construction of a new fort, now on the left bank of the great river.

The new fortifications, started in 1608, were named Neumünde. This fort was further strengthened in 1649 with a shoulder bastion and two gates added on to the previous structure. The castle remained Swedish until the final year of that century when Saxon armies conquered it for a short while. Less than a year later, Saxon Augustusburg was once again conquered by the Swedish.

In 1710, the fort passed into Russian hands who remained its overlords for two more centuries, with major reconstruction happening here before the Great War. The location retained military importance until the end of the Second World War, during which the Soviet Navy had retained troops in it.

Looking onto the main entranceway

Today, the fortress is a place for festivals and cultural events. Yet, it was overgrown inside, and clearly more care could be given to preserving it. The other recent European star fort I have been in is the Kastellet in København though even that was a few years back, but that had a good walkway around the bastions. The fault with expecting something of a location is that it is easy to be disappointed—and, yet, I cannot say I was.

Some forsaken barracks

The fort wasn’t what I expected, but the more fool me for expecting something. There is a very resonant beauty to such a fort that nature has started to reclaim. Most of the structures inside the stronghold were in ruins, but that’s perhaps more a surprise given their varied history. The scenery also added some magic to the small gems of history that one could uncover—for me this mostly included some small signs of the cobbled streets that had clearly been the main roadways both inside and outside the old fort.

The cobbled street let up to the main gate; in some ways this was the most magical part of the remaining fortress

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