Nature and amazing people: story of a great journey in Latvia

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July 4th 2014
Published: July 4th 2014
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Did you know that in this country 80% is forest and that its entire population is 1/3 of Paris population? Well, until going there in June, I also didn’t know that fact. So, for those, who prefer big citites, Latvia is definitely not the country to visit, except a trip to Riga will satisfy you, but for all the others, I can tell you that Latvia amazed me a bit more every day I was there. Even now, I still remember this country, as one of the best, if you are a nature lover, don’t like over touristy places and look for quietness!

This country is for sure not rich but the people there are rich in their mind and attitude, which is far more important I think when you want to have a happy life. There, seeing how the people are living in harmony with nature, I got an amazing positive energy from it! Most of the people, I met there told me that even though they had been or lived in other countries for a while, they couldn’t imagine themselves not living in Latvia. Each Latvian is dreaming of one thing as a goal for his life: to have a house in the middle of the forest, 1km away from his neighbor 😊

After only 2 weeks there, I can totally understand why! You have access to local products, very quickly you can just go out of town and find quietness in the forest or near a lake. What could you dream better of?

I have 2 special places in Latvia: Gauja National Park and a goat cheese farm near Madona, where I had the opportunity to stay for a week.

I went to Gauja National Park following advice of Latvian or foreign couchsurfers and I wasn’t disappointed at all!!

There, I hiked, I saw an amazing sunset over and met great people on my first evening, I saw wild animals, small villages, went to pick up fresh water at a spring in the forest to bring it back home with my host, slept in my hammock near the Gauja river,…

For those, who would be interested in going there, I would recommend you to hike or to rent bikes to enjoy the area as much as you can and for those you like small authentic towns, I would advise you to stay in Ligatne as a base to explore the National Park. It’s less touristic than Sigulda and Cesis and it’s in the center of the park, but it’s only my opinion.

As I said I had an amazing time there!

Afterwards, I spent a day at the beach, it was full of adventures! I hitchhiked with a guy, who was building his summer house near a beach some kms away from Tuja, where I was planning to stay. I went up to there with him and then went to the beach. That place was just amazing: I had the beach for myself and it was in the middle of the nature with the beach between the forest and the sea! Once again, I couldn’t have dreamt of a better place! After enjoying that place for a while, I devided to walk along the beach to arrive to Tuja, where I wanted to sleep for the night. Well, I thought that it would be a 1 or 2-hour walk, it took me half a day, without having any idea while walking about when I would arrive 😉 On the way, I could see how the Latvians were enjoying nice weekends: they are coming to their summer house, which is in the middle of the woods and going to sunbath at the beach during the day. What’s great is that, you can’t even see the house from the beach so other people cannot bother them and they are the only people having access to the beach –except crazy people like me, who are walking along the beach, there is no access to it 😉-. So, after walking for those hours, I finally arrived at what seemed to be Tuja village. I ate a snack there, enjoyed the beach for a while and went to the next beach, where I would in fact stay for the night. I was rewarded by a great sunset on that day. At that time, I had no idea, what the weather would be at night. Before going to sleep I saw some black clouds but they didn’t stay, so I thought that I was lucky.

Unfortunately, it was only to come back during the night… At 3am, I was woken up by the rain. At first, as I was not getting wet, I thought that I could stay there until it stops but it didn’t, so quickly I went to the campsite nearby to go under shelter. Yes, I wasn’t sleeping at the campsite but at the beach at the entrance of the campsite 😉 There were 2 men, who were up at that time and who told me to come inside the bar to get shelter. We talked for a while, I explained them, where I was sleeping until now, they offered me to sleep in the bar living room either on the wooden floor or on the table. There wasn’t so much space on the floor, so I chose the wooden table 😉 Before going to bed, they offered me to eat some fresh fish from yesterday’s fishing 😊 After this night snack and after refusing a shot of strong alcohol, I went to sleep in my sleeping bag on my luxury bed (=wooden table for those, who aren’t following my story :p). You can believe me or not but on the beach and on the wooden table, I had a very good night sleep. I didn’t feel cold and slept at least 8 hours (4 hours twice)!

After this night and leaving a thank you note to those stangers met at night, I left in the morning, when all the campers were still sleeping. I walked up to the main road, seeing a dear crossing the road a few meters away from me and hitchhiked there to Riga where I was planning to meet the family, I would volunteer for, in that next week at the farm.

I got lucky as the guy, who gave me a ride, was working in a spa center in Riga and offered me to relax there for a few hours for FREE 😉 After the night I spent, going to a spa was perfect to get a fresh clean start to visit the capital 😉

After having a very good lunch at a cheap pancakes cafeteria, I went to Riga Open Air Museum, where the host family was selling their cheese at the Annual Market. It was great to meet them, to visit the market and to see a part of the open air museum. Once again there, I could see how Latvian are living in harmony with nature and I got an amazing positive energy afterwards!!

The next day, I hitchhiked to the farm and very quickly, I arrived there. My host Ruta, Steffen, their son Rusins, Steffen’s parents and aunt were there.

During that week, I learnt a lot about cheese making: how to work with hard cheese or how to prepare a kind of mozzarella cheese. I could see how challenging it is to have his own farm and they changed my perception of farmers.

In that week, I was lucky enough to share their life: celebrate Rusins’ 7 years birthday, see them dance traditional folk dances, enjoy the sauna experience and spend meals together talking and laughing a lot.

On my last day, we went to Riga to sell cheese at the market, I loved it there. Even though, I couldn’t speak Latvian, Steffen told me how to introduce each cheese, great customers and I also calculated the prices of each order.

I had a great time with them! They are such a nice family, we shared a lot during that week and I was very sad to leave them the next Saturday after the weekly market in Riga.

It’s weird how difficult it is to write about an experience that you liked so much: I wish I could describe more my time in Latvia but I hope you could feel with that article what a great time I had there and if you have any questions about that country, please do not hesitate to write me a comment 😊

Additional photos below
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4th July 2014
Sunset near Tuja

Open to adventure
I love that you hitchhike, stay in nature and sleep out in the open, volunteer and meet so many wonderful people who give you magical experiences. If young people could read your blog, they would know that they could have fabulous experiences without needing so much money. You are a great inspiration and adventurer!
7th July 2014
Sunset near Tuja

Re: Open to adventure
Dear Tara, Thank you for your nice comment. Yes, it would be great if people could see that travelling doesn't mean always to have a lot of money. You can save money for your flight ticket and then just hitchhike, volunteer and be on a budget and still have an amazing time. I met a girl yesterday from Ukraine and she told me it wasn't possible for Ukrainian people and I hope I could show her that it's possible for anyone. Just follow your dreams ;)
5th July 2014
Making kind of mozarella

What an amazing trip Natacha. Thank you for presenting Latvia as a destination to embrace nature and open hearts. Love this pic...conjures expectation.
7th July 2014
Making kind of mozarella

Re: Open hands ... open hearts
Yes, Latvia is a great country and I think I will go back there soon :) I love photography, so I am glad you liked this picture :)

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