On the bank of the river Gauja in Sigulda, a unique exposition “Gauja rafter’s story” introduces the ancient craft of timber rafting, which is included in the Latvian Intangible Cultural Heritage. Here you can learn about the history of timber rafting, see a real tail raft shack and its appliances, as well as try your hand at building rafts and other activities typical of the rafter’s job.
The exposition is located right on the banks of the Gauja River and presents the life of rafters on the river in the middle of the last century. The Gauja has long been one of the main routes for transporting timber in Latvia. “The meanders of the river harbour many stories and historical testimonies. The masts of the longest sailing ships made their way from the Vidzeme forests along the Gauja until they reached the port of Rīga,” says Māris Ansis Mitrevics, a rafter who himself has spent several summers rafting on the river.
In 2018, the Gauja rafters’ craftsmanship was included in Latvia’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List as a living Latvian tradition, while last year it was nominated for the UNESCO list and on December 1, 2022, in Morocco Intergovernmental Committee decided to include it in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, thus the exposition is a chance to get to know the history and cultural heritage of the people.
The public is also offered the opportunity to learn the ancient technique of raft-making by tying a miniature souvenir raft, and to try their hand at the rafter’s skills sewing a miniature souvenir raft themselves, as well as skills of ‘tacking’, ‘cutting’ and ‘sliding’. In the exposition area you can also learn about the rafters’ tools, which were used to float timber down the Gauja River. To get a better idea of the rafters’ living conditions, the exhibition is designed as an authentic tail raft, on which the life of the rafters continued for several months. In the rafters’ shack on the raft, you can also watch a short film in Latvian about the life of the rafters.
The project is the initiative of the “Ozollīči” association and rafter Maris Ansis Mitrevics, with the generous support of a number of partners. “PATA”Ltd, VAS “Latvijas valsts meži”, A/S “Latvijas finieris”, the Sigulda Municipality, the State Culture Capital Foundation and others have contributed to the creation of the exhibition.
The LTV story about the story of the Gauja raft can be watched here.