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Published: August 5th 2007
So far our European "Summer" has been less than impressive: instead of sun we've been caught in torrential downpours and forced to wade through mud, where has the sun gone? It seems strange that we were having warmer weather in Siberia (not normally a place you associate with sunshine!). Unfortunately our time in Latvia was marked with lots and lots of rain ...
First stop was Riga where we stayed with the very hospitable Jolanta and took refuge in her apartment from the uncooperative weather. Riga's old town centre was pretty small to explore so we were able to cover most of it in between bouts of rain, walking through the pretty gardens along the canal.
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia was a really interestiing account of both Soviet and Nazi occupations of Latvia, and filled with devastating tales of atrocities inflicted on the Latvian people who managed to maintain their national identity despite relentless persecution. Of interest were the Soviet wartime propaganda posters declaring the supremacy of the communist regime, depicting the Allied leaders shaking on their knees; and on the other side the Latvian nationalist posters ousting the communist invaders.
We also attended an
Beer garden in summer and ice rink in winter - very versatile!
art gallery exhibition opening while we were in Riga, completely by chance. We were walking past the gallery, saw the champagne on offer and wandered on in. Nobody stopped us, talked to us, or questioned our completely out of place attire (perhaps they assumed we were poor starving artists!). Whatever the case, we wandered through the exhibit, sipping on our free champagne, pointedly ignoring the other gallery goers (as is the custom), admiring the art, and making the appropriate nods and gestures when it came time for speeches (which were of course completely in Latvian!). And at the end of it, Dave picked up a red rose on the way out and handed it to Suz. Not bad for an afternoon of free entertainment!
In an attempt to explore more of Latvia we headed out of the city to the green countryside of Sigulda; an area of lush green pine forests, rolling hills, storks in nests, rivers, ruins and castles. The Turaida Castle was a great vantage point for taking in the surroundings, and the Sigulda Castle ruins were pretty cool too. To access the Krimulda Castle ruins we took the cable car that lies suspended across the valley.
Jolanta had packed an amazing picnic for us which was happily devoured in one of Sigulda’s parks.
In an unusual and unexpected twist to our Latvian experience Jolanta took us ten pin bowling in the recently opened bowling complex in New Riga on the south side of the river. Turns out that despite only having bowled a couple of times, Jolanta had a natural aptitude for bowling and reins as the 10 pin bowling champion!
Onwards to Lithuania ...
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