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Published: July 14th 2013
Oh what bliss a soft,comfortable bed is and last nights was just perfect.So much so we didn't want to get out of it to continue the trek southwards.The location of the place we stayed in in the middle of a forest well protected from road noise made it so quiet as well.
The drive down to Riga is virtually due south and follows the coast for almost all the distance so we were hopeful of making a stop or two to check out the long Baltic western coastline.
The three Baltic countries we have been to have small populations of people and they are certainly concentrated in the cities and this was even more obvious today as we drove towards Riga.There seemed to be even less people and houses on the western side of Estonia and Latvia than the eastern side and the middle parts of the two countries that we traversed through.
Our impression is still that the rural land in Estonia was cultivated more than that of Latvia.
The traffic volume today being a Monday and a work day was a lot less than yesterday when it seemed like there was a lot of people
returning north to Tallinn.
After driving for a half hour or so and just short of crossing the border into Latvia we took a turn off towards the coast and followed what essentially was a farm road.We could almost smell the sea when the track came to an end and a notice saying no trespassing.So we turned around and headed back to the main road and try somewhere else.We have found it hard to accept that there are few roads that actually run alongside a beach or even to a beach from the main road and then to be able to have free access as we do in most places in NZ.
Although the atlas we have, indicated that the E67 followed the coastline it was just far enough inland so that it hardly touched the coast and beaches at all.So when the road did finally emerge from the forest and the occasional open area of farmland to pass by a beach we were keen to stop and get down to the water and dip our toes.All we had to find was a pull off parking area!
When we came across a car park it had a
United Nations look about it with at least 6 different countries represented by their number plates.
With the sun shining and the temperature in the low 20's there were a number of people in swimming on what looked like a shallow beach.With the lack of opportunities we had had to park next to the seaside we thought that now was the best chance we had to feel the sea temperature and so dipped our toes in......for a moment or two, as it was cold!Those people out there swimming are hardy souls!
We took a short diversion from the main road in an endeavour to follow the coast as we got closer to Riga and came across the first and only real seaside town that we saw on the drive today.
The town of Saulkrasti was a surprise after driving through the farmland and forest where the houses were all very modest and some rather ramshackle.Here though some big money had been spent on homes that would not have been out of place at Mount Maunganui.However,Latvia being the ex communist country it was for 45 years until the late 1980's, there were even some of the old ugly apartment blocks on the outskirts of the town just going to show that the days of the egalitarian state are in the background.
We have noticed that many of the Eastern European cities we have driven into just seem to start and usually with those apartment blocks lining the main road into the city.There is little in the way of urban sprawl here with the city contained.The tramway system reached the outer suburbs of Riga and it had by far the best surface to run on with a new dual track system laid and brand new trams running.The road however was another matter and we bumped out way into and through the city(good old Vicky she loves finding centrum in cities)to our hotel which was located on the other side of Riga from where we had entered the city.
Our first impression of the inner city suburb set some doubts in our mind as the old wooden buildings looked rather dilapidated.However it was apparent most were occupied with people coming and going from them.
Again the tram had the best surface to travel on while for us it was very uneven cobbled streets.
Our hotel was a surprise and it seemed to have been part of a regeneration of the area as it was probably no more than 5 years old.
We hadn't had a lot of walking on our drive south so we set off,with the aid of a map from the hotel reception,to find a supermarket and buy in dinner.It took us only about 15 minutes to walk to the area around the central railway station where there were a number of supermarket options and we bought what we needed lining up with all the workers making their purchases before heading home to their suburban apartments.On the way home we passed an impressive memorial to the 300 Jewish people burned alive in a synagogue when the concregation was trapped inside by the Nazi occupiers.
We ended the day planning a walk around the compact city and retired to another soft,comfortable bed.....bliss.
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