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Published: September 3rd 2014
Liepaja west coast of Latvia for Tom's Birthday 1 September 2014
Liepaja is known for its unique former secret military town of Karosta and a magnificent beach. The coastal city is known to Latvians as "the city where the wind is born", for the sea breeze it constantly enjoys. It has a nice beach and a charming town centre with a colourful mixture or architectural styles, from wooden houses and spacious parks to Art Nouveau and concrete, Soviet-era apartment buildings.
Some of the drive from Riga to Liepaja was through forest. We noticed a lot of cars had stopped along the road. We found out later they were mushrooming. It is the mushroom season in Latvia.
We arrived in the city by late afternoon on 31 August and found a fantastic camp site about 5 kms out of the town. There were stacks of day-trippers enjoying the beautiful day, sitting around eating and drinking, children playing on the multitude of play equipment and playing with the sheep, goats and rabbits. There was also a harnessed bouncing trampoline as well as go carts. It was all happening!! There was a bar and restaurant with great music playing, and little
Liepaja Latvia (1)
My best sunset photo ever
nooks and crannies to dine and sit, one of which had a small waterfall next to it. The manager was a fantastic guy with pretty good English.
There was only one other motor home and by the time the sun set at 8.30pm, all but our 2 motor homes and a newly arrived camper trailer, and the maintenance man, all others had departed.
We had cheese and wine on the lawn before the sun set and then walked 100m to the beach. It was the 2nd night (Tom's birthday) that there was the most spectacular sunset we had seen on this holiday. It was incredible.
To get to the sand dunes, you had to walk through a narrow bit of pine forest and all of the trees had crocheted sleeves around their trunks. It was quite unique.
There were no waves on the Baltic Sea and the sand was fine and white. It was beautiful. The water was cold however so the toe was the only thing that hit the water.
The next morning which was Tom's birthday, before we got out of bed we called Kerrie & Adam. I had talked Tom into going
for a run with me in the morning but by the time we had finished out phone calls it was 9.00am and that was the excuse to not go for a run - damn!
We then answered emails and Skyped our friends and then hopped into the motor home and drove into town.
We found there was a big celebration in Rose Square which is the central square in Liepaja, with a stage set up and lots of activities and art around the square. We found that on the 1 September, the 1st day of the academic year for primary and secondary schools, this day was celebrated with music and other entertainment and lunch with parents and friends. Many of the boys were wearing suit jackets and the girls were dressed up to the nines!
The entertainment on the stage was put on by all ages - dancing and singing, some in traditional Latvian costumes. It was a fantastic atmosphere. Later, when we went back to the camp site, this was another venue for families to celebrate the start of the school year.
While in town, we did some site seeing by following the silver music
notes which were embedded in the footpath. What a great idea and one that fits the theme of the city and that is its emphasis on the performing arts. There was even a 'Walk-of-Fame' where plaques commemorate musicians, current and former groups as well as Latvian music greats who have departed this world 'to play music in the beyond'. We saw Latvian's largest guitar. We walked around the town for a couple of hours with our tourist map in hand, making sure that we saw all the sites there was to see. We loved the spirit of the town.
My plans were to have a lovely lunch for Tom's birthday but was could not find a venue that wasn't booked out!! By 1.30pm we would take anything! We ended up going to the central markets where there was an average cafe...never mind!
We had then read about the unique former secret military town of Karosta which is a northern suburb of Liepaja. It is between a lake and the sea and has a fantastic unspoilt, white, soft sandy beach. It was built in the late 19th century as a naval base for Tsar Alexander III and was later
used by the Soviet Baltic Fleet. Its splendid sea side panoramas, former Soviet military prison and fortress remains.
This area was a closed shop during the Soviet era. After lunch, we drove out to the area and saw many blocks of grey, square Soviet-built multi-storied apartments all of which looked pretty sad. We visited the prison and was taken around by a man in his 60s who had served under the Soviets and in USSR and Afghanistan and who had many stories to tell. One of the most interesting thing he said to us was that he believes that Putin is the most dangerous person in the world at the moment and that all the past territories on the USSR should be on high alert. Very interesting. Gosh we are lucky in Australia.
When we drove back to the camp site where we had parked the previous night and had a wonderful dinner of the most tender steak of this year's journey at the camp site restaurant ....that was after a Champagne at our motor home. We had a nice red with our meal at the camp restaurant. I had also organised a desert with a candle for
Tom. He had apple strudel and ice cream, and I had pancakes and berries. It was lovely. The staff sand happy birthday as they delivered the desserts. We went back to the motor home for coffee. Tom had a lovely day.
The next morning we Skyped Tom's sister Kathy and my Dad as his 89th birthday is on 3/9 and we knew we wouldn't have WiFi on that day. We got away by about 9.30am on 2/9 and headed further south to Lithuania, after enjoying what Latvia had to offer.
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