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Published: January 28th 2013
I arrived to Riga by Ecolines at 10-30; the bus had wi-fi and power receptacles so I managed to use the computer for a while. I bought a bus ticket to Sigulda and, while driving there, saw most magnificent views of fir trees like brides clothed in luxurious fluffy snow-white wedding dresses, everything clear white, and the road looking like a long white tunnel. The weather was so excellent I looked forward to skiing – just imagine skiing among such beautiful firs and pines under a shining sun!
As I walked to Livonija guest house I noticed the quiet filling the air, and only a rare car would break the silence or a still rarer person would pass me by. The population of Sigulda is about 10 thousand, if I remember it right. I hope it avoids tourist crowds in warmer months, though I’ve read the opportunities for tourism business are good there, and locals profit much by it.
The room was good though tiny, with a TV-set, shower, big table, and wireless. My money has not yet been credited to my account so I impatiently waited and hoped the card balance would be soon
replenished. Anyway, I’d ski the next day. As it turned out later, my remaining 7-9 lats would suffice for an hour of ski rent and skiing on the little hump for beginners and children, but I decided not to waste time and effort, not knowing the exact amount I’d spend.
I went out in the fairyland to see the church and explore the supermarket. I was a bit sad because Luda has work and I’m alone here, she being entitled to a 28 days’ annual vacation only. I’m planning to spend several days in Riga later to explore the other interesting towns of Latvia, but I need her by my side to share impressions. I do declare I’ll never go to a large European capital alone (like Prague or Rome).
Soon I checked the website of my bank and screamed with joy, immediately went to the Siguldas pilsetas trase to have a try and ski. As soon as I saw the hill I had a lump in my throat because it was rather long, steep, and scary for me. I realized I’d not be able to ski down, not for weeks to come. There was no option to
go down comfortably, only by walking on the edge of the piste, feet often falling through snow, cursing my inappropriate boots, though the piste edge was definitely used by skiers previously (the chair lift on this side was inoperative, due to low demand perhaps).
There was a Very Little Hummock for beginners near the rental office, so I did not waste time but immediately rented skis (leaving my passport as security; I asked the rental man in Russian, what’s the security for skies, because in St. Petersburg they take some 250 Euros as security, and he did not know the word but other men resting there explained it to him) and tried my best, oh, it was unforgettable, unbelievable, and formidable, and there were three children also learning to ski. I was a Big Child 28 years old First Attempting Serious Sport.
I did not fiddle around with boots for long, though they have little resemblance to the racing ones, but almost at once understood how to fasten them, and tried to make carving turns as I previously saw on youtube. My knees are of a peculiar X-curved shape (a physical defect) and they are weak, so there
is as yet no chance of me skiing down any decently steep slope (I will challenge this assumption, won’t ?). I did not fall. Children soon went away. I fell short of breath because skies were heavy.
It was dark and the large floodlights illuminated the fir trees and pines to a dreamlike effect. Me and Luda recently watched American TV series ‘The biggest loser’ and I definitely thought they Must do alpine skiing. My breath is not worth twopence (or two santims, if anything).
In the website photos, the piste looks simpler than in reality, and it amazed me. If I lose control over speed I will crash.
At the end of my challenge, I found out turns became better when I at least tried to control my body and pressed on the skis more aggressively than before, and exerting pressure really works. Needs lot, and lot, and lot of practice.
I had two teas in the café and then asked the lift token saleswoman how to get upwards to the city centre, and the reply was, walk the snow uphill, no other option, if you have no car. It was a bit disappointing and sort of discriminating, because people with cars have no trouble getting here. But me, pedestrian, what am I to do? However, ascending the hill was easy and complemented my scope of physical training. I decided to take a taxi the next day, but didn’t.
In the morning I woke up due to cold, at 2 o’clock went to have a bite and bought some food; soon afterwards, I was already descending the piste again.
This time I firmly decided to try the actual big slope for beginners, rented skis and a jacket and bought a lift pass for 10 lifts.
At first, I did not understand how to handle the lift in the form of a round thing looking like a handle, or rather a disk, so I grabbed it with my both hands and gee it was very hard to hold on like that.
I stood at the beginning of the descent irresolutely, but happily, I managed to ski down safely and soundly, never falling, but keeping the speed to a minimum and always making secure gentle turns almost horizontally to the slope. Now to the left, stop and draw breath, now to the right, stop and draw breath. There were some blood stains on the snow and I did not for sake of anything want my own blood there. Two kids were skiing on the slope like professionals. Kids were also skiing on the major piste!
Before the second lift, I saw a snowboarder attach the lift between his legs, like sitting on a horse, so I repeated and went comfortably up. I skied very unprofessionally, yet unable to make proper turns, but on the whole I started grasping the general idea of alpine skiing.
Sometimes, perhaps by instinct, I put my feet right and there were comfortable and gentle turns, but in any case I slowed down at the end of each turn. Thankfully, if you are attentive and careful enough, no hazard is posed.
It was an uplift of emotions, and I definitely decided to continue skiing in St. Petersburg, though prices for accommodation on ski resorts there are almost thrice higher than in Sigulda.
All this is sort of my preparation for a three-day visit to a certain place in France in the beginning of February, and later on continuing ski attempts elsewhere.
By chance, simply out of curiosity, I looked in the bookstore on my way back and … bought a textbook of Latvian language and a Kamasutra! Guess which book is more interesting to me. I’m sort of paying my respect to nations by studying their languages. As to Kamasutra, I’m interested in the linguistic aspect of expressing sexual topics, and of course the practical application of its recommendations.
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