THE LEGEND OF THE RAKARIS KALVIS
This is where the traces of the first inhabitants in the territory of Latvia have been possible found.
Even earlier, the territory was lying under the Baltic Ice Lake – a cold freshwater basin, which formed at the end of the last ice age from the meltwaters of the Northern European glacier (about 10,300–13,000 years ago). The silts of the Baltic Ice Lake in the territory of Latvia can be found along the entire coast of the present-day Baltic Sea, where the lowlands turned into barren, sandy plains with dunes and pine trees interspersed with bogs (moorlands) and shallow lakes as the shores of the ice lake receded.
As the ancestors of Livonians had lived in Northern Kurzeme since the mid-Neolithic period (3400–2300 BC), they made the move from their Vanema (olden land in Livonian) across the Gulf of Riga to the western coast of Vidzeme as early as in the 11th century.
Livonians had lived here since the 11th–12th centuries, and it is believed to have become a significant culture and trade centre later. Liflandi, the earliest known name of Livonia, has been found on the Rune Stone of Trosa, which is proof of the Swedish Viking Freygeirr’s military expeditions in Livonia in the 11th century.
WHO ARE THE RAKARI?
They are Livonian seafarers, who, in fear of losing their independence and identity, occupied themselves not only with fishing but also with trade, which they did independently of dukes and bishops. This was also the reason for the secrecy of this vocation and even for conflicts with the status quo.
Thus, RAKARI made a name for themselves as brave, independent and strong people and were revered in the nearby locality. It was because of these brave hearts and to avoid giving up a third of their land to the Brothers of the Sword following the battles with Livonians that Bishop Albert was forced to ask the permission of Philip of Swabia, the son of the Roman Emperor Henry VI. He received the rights of a prince in Livonia from the Holy Roman Empire only in 1207, and Rakari were included in the Archbishopric of Riga’s Livland territory (the borders of Livonia can be seen on the map on the wall at Rakari).
The location of Rakari used to be the harbour for ships sailing on the Svētupe River (travelling on the Vitrupe River as far as Pernigele) – here they traded and bargained treasures, which were sometimes obtained in battles. The Rakari men were acquainted with Vikings, who are known as Normans in some parts of Europe. Both of them were known for their seafaring and shipbuilding (of the snekke type) skills. However, as soon as Byzantium had overcome its internal crisis and defeated its enemies and the Germanic peoples had conquered and Christianised Magyars, the role of Vikings significantly decreased. The interest of Europeans in trade with Arabs also gradually waned, because after the defeat in the wars with Byzantium the Arabic world had split into separate caliphates and experienced economic decline. At the same time, Riga became increasingly important in the trade between the West and the East, which meant that Rakari were also keeping busy.
There was a small Rakari settlement with a pub, where travellers celebrated and prepared themselves for new adventures at sea.
Along with the arrival of large ships at the Salacgrīva Port and the creation of new trade roads in the 18th century, this vocation of Rakari became unprofitable, and now only legends and stories remain from these times.
HOW IT ALL HAPPENED
The Rakari couldn’t get along with the cocky German nobleman Baron Münchhausen, who married Jacobine von Dunten, the heiress of the Dunte Manor, on 2 February 1744 at the Church of Pernigele (in the present-day Liepupe Rural Territory). As the Baron later told everyone at Bodenwerder Manor in his native Germany, he was forced to leave this place riding a cannonball (Münchhausen’s Museum is 30 km away towards Riga).
The legend of goldilocks tells that one Rakaris had travelled to faraway lands. It might even have been Norway. At the distant fjords he met Vikings and demonstrated his bravery both on the battlefield and at sea. While there, he married a beautiful girl whose hair was like sunrays dancing on the sea and skin soft as the warm sand of the Baltic Sea. The Rakaris loved her so much that he brought her home with him. They travelled on a skuta, a type of Viking ship, together with 40 men and an excellent cook.
At Rakari, they were all warmly welcomed and taken in. The Livonians treated them to home-brewed beer and smoked fish in the best traditions of the Balts, while the Vikings learned how to cook sturgeon and other foods. The people of Rakari really enjoyed the foods cooked by the Vikings and they remembered this event for a long time to come (sturgeon is still cooked to the very same recipes).
One night, while cleaning the herring they had fished in the sea, the new wife went missing. Her husband went looking for her and never came back. It is said that the beauty had come across an unknown horned fish, which had made her deepest wish come true. What this wish was remains a mystery, and the Rakaris himself was never seen again after that day.
His name was Kalvis, while the name of his beautiful wife is not mentioned in the legend. In honour of Kalvis and his wife, the Rakari made a cast iron monument in which he is depicted with fish hanging by his sides and holding a fish spear and a large vessel with sea water flowing from it, which symbolises activity, peace, composure, and eternity. The water flows out of the vessel and then back up again. The villagers believe that the magic of the mysterious horned fish could have brought only happiness.
P.S. It is believed that Rakari buried gold in the dunes by the sea, but no gold has been found so far. Maybe you will get lucky – ask the bartender for a shovel!
P.P.S. Before heading out to sea, Rakari performed various rituals:
– they visited Livonian caves and prayed to the gods for fortune;
– in the evening they walked on a seaside path and watched the sea for signs that would show what awaited them at sea.
P.P.P.S. While drinking their home-brewed drink (ask the bartender), Rakari could sail to the coast of Livonia and back in one night!
* Not too long ago, a student construction workers’ unit by the name of RAKARI lived here. The young Rakari have not strayed far from their ancestors – many of them did not return to the institute after the digging works on the beach.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pets are only allowed in the outdoor terrace, provided they do not disturb other guests.
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