Mežotne is an ancient and famous inhabited place 10km on the west from Bauska.
It has started to develop on the right bank of the Lielupe river. It is the place where the river was crosed by Žemaitija – Mežotne – Rīga road.
Mežotne castle mound and Winehill tower above the surrounding neighbourhood even today.
There was already an ancient town between the both hills at the end of the 1st century.
The steep Mežotne castle mound is the biggest one in Eastern Zemgale. It was the centre of Upmale region from the 9th – 13th centuries. High ramparts and protecting moats defended the castle mound.
During the archeological excavations in the 1930s and the 40s, 14 structures were stated and 3604 antiquities were abtained.
Written sources inform that crusade warriors besieged Mežotne castle in 1220. During the offensive they used throwing devices of stones and fire kettles as well as other kinds of martial techniques unknown in Latvia at that time.
During the battle the rampart of the castle mound fell down and the local people were forced to abandon the fortification. The crusaders plundered and burnt the castle, however, the local inhabitants again renovated it and during the following decades (till 1272) they used it as the main support base in their insistent struggle for independence.
On the opposite bank of the Lielupe Mežotnes castle build round 1800 rises up in the middle of a picturesque part.
The history of its origin is like this: After the dukedom of Kurzeme was annesced to Russia Catherina II presented Mežotne estate (the former property of the duke) to the tsar’s children’s Charlotte von Lieven who started building works of wide scope.
The project of the castle was possibly ordered to Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), the main architect of the court. The construction was performed under the guidance of the structural master Johann Georg Berlitz (1753-1837). Mežotne became a real masterpiece of architecture as the result of their cooperation. The author was carried away by Palladio style so popular in those days.
An open space can be seen across the river which with its appearent uninhabited peacefulness is deceptive because quite another world can be found there so different from English refinement.
It is said in the 9th century a certain Arab traveller had described that just in this open space the capital of the ancient people of Zemgale Mežotne is situated.
It was fortified by high ramparts, it had its own harbour and active trade. Looking closer it can be noticed there are really two castle mounds and when we get on the other side of the river, we can notice a traffic sign which indicates: The capital and the harbour of the ancient people of Zemgale. It is possible there is no sign of the ancient people of Zemgale, their capital and their harbour.
But maybe it is not so… because how otherwise can we explain 13 white swans who proudly swam in the inlet of the former harbour.