Latvia and Estonia

Outline of lost blog:

time in Sigulda (Jewish painter, great Latvian influence),search for a latte (failed), walk in square and on main street, house of famous family on main street (pharmacy?), very industrial – had been tannery, textile, lumber mill, steel production, now krowki (story about these candies soviet haold overs) and ice cream – old houses, very interesting – walk along river – then on to Kuldiga – beautifuil waterfall (as wide as iver), approached over bridge, searched for cheap place to stay, finally settled on Metropole – room, great breakfast – walked around town looked at all the medieval narrow streets, some really old houses (city hall – rococo style?) met nice guy at Visiotry Info, SC type person (bike and laid back), met good looking Italian there as well, told me about photographic workshop (internation) in next town, exhibit in a few days (final) of class presentation, met Japanese good photographer at exhiibt a few days later – in meantime, stayed at Metropole, loved it, then went to nearby town – livonian order knights castle, met nice Latvian family on tour of museum, family still lived in other wing (and b and b there – met some syblings that had stayed there) – beautiful moat and building, interesting funiture – hunting room/study, very dramatic with antlers and the like, german bavarian hat and dark furniture and walls , fancy cigar and tobacco boxes

went to next town, very traditional – small shop selling handicrafts/traditional crafs (woodcarving, hiandmade clothes, knitwear  esp mittens and socks – tradiionl of brides knitting the groom’s family mittens, special patterns handed down over generations = speical carrot rye tart, very tasty and fresh bread – local inn, owned by mother of girl who gave museum (castle) tour – she wanted to give me a personal tour of the town museum, exhibit of dresses and gowns, how people dressed and lived in the past – she’s part of a famous group of women singers fro the area sining traditional songs – her mom also makes carrot rye tarts I bought one from inn – women with carts selling veggies from garden and baked goods on way out of town

drove towards seashore, ltos of logged forests – Latvia boasts of being biggest wood suppier to EU, dubious fame – small cliff, got out and walked through forest to beach, nice but like my beatches better – narrow and long,  then on to Pawelosta (Paul’s prt), fisherman museum, large estate on river, met siblings looking for a place to stay, all full, so decided to find a place togetyher – lots of Russian tourists on the sea (and Latvians) – LLatvian flag 2 stripes red, one white in middle, symbol of Russians with Latvians in middle – pretty town, all townspeople along shore had helped build the giant port in Liepaija ordered by the czar – (more about that) – found lovely place, they passed oad, I inidicated, wedding in swing, dancing (over when I came back), we stayed in a cabin, island in midddle o pond, very magical – didn’t sleep (afaid I would breath and keep them awake – all in a row, — walked all over place trying to find the owners, no one in sight  – then Liepaja, motorcycle cop, no posted spee limit, 100 euro ticket (50 kmh in towns, even though didn’t look like town) – found museum, went – lovely exhiiti of fashion from early 1900s (before and after 1920s and flapper styles) – very beautifiul materials and patterns – rurssian women flocked around exhhibit – bumped into me continuously because hei goals were more important – met artists with new exhibit, he told me about his exhibit, very beautiful and interesting, sculpture and thought provoking – he was from Riga – then walked around town, old working class, some lovely buidings – Peter the Great’s palace, huge church he had built – statue of a woman lookking to the sea at the end of the fancy boulevard (also along quay) , big beach, lots of people – had a traditional meal (potatos and meat of some kind) at greasy spoon, then headed back toward Kuldiga for photographic exhibit going another route (inland) – very pretty, ended up passing someone on a a double solid line and police caught me, so it was a 2 ticket day – I earned this one, I thought to myself – angry, took forver, didn’t want to miss presentation – back in time, very interesting presentations – there were 5 or 6 diferent courses, one group made books (including binding), I really liked that and studies the books caefuly,, met Japanese photographer there, and he told me about upccoming presentations by teachers in Riga – I neded up going to that too – then there was a film of the all the work near the museum that I’d gone to (had a lot of exhiits of historical buildings in town and what they were before), very beaitiful house on river, supposedly ??s house – moved it? – stayed near gravey6ard that night (parked car – followed sign for historiical places, usually a safe place to park and not in someone’s driveway – then on to Riga next day, went via Jurgante (fashionable place on shore near Riga) – stayed with couchsurfing family for 2 nights – arrived late one night, next day little boy helped me wash car, and the mom owned a Mg soak tub and treated me to a soak (I gave her money afterward because Id idn’t wnat to take advantuage) – I had been wiped out from traveling and it was a nice recharge – I wanred to stay longer but they had more guests coming and needed a break – any month were headed to NZ to set up a Mg soak spa and possibly stay – she said she feels that at any moment Putin will invade, that the Ukraine invasion was acually meant for Latvia, and at last minute was diverted.  Very scary, she said she wouldn’t mind being gone.  We sat in the garden and had fresh tea, and ten I borrowed bike and road into Riga, rememered the area because she lived near where Madara used to live.  found a nice french pastry shop and great coffee (Le Bohemian – French Press?) and also the interesting place where first mall was built in early 1900s, beaiutiful area – had homemade ice cream there (from same place that I found on my trip later along iver), that night we went swimming in lake and it was the perfect temperature and beautiful, I was very happy, swam and swam, didn’t want to come back, felt so clean and refreshed, mother liked swimming a lot – cold, got out and ate some cheese and crackers, then went back and ate more snacks, joking around with their friends (couple) who rode bikes to them – very close friends, very sweet family – next day I went south toward Rondale for 1 hours, then to the larger city that was bombed (excpet church tower) durig wwII, then slept outside of Rondale – next am at 10:30 went back and asked about seeing it on the same ticket (I’d asked the day before) and had to talk to supervisor, but they said yes so I took a long time and made my way slowly through all the rooms, went on the long tour, took some photos, then marvelled at the french baroque garden that had red flowers outlined in a fleru de lis, a secret garden, a maaze (aka harry potter), snd huge forest across a river behind the garden where nobilit8y used to hunt

Then I mde my way to other mansion (??) and walked grounds, admired the iupstairs circuilar rotunda with beautiful stucco work (Palladio?), and met an Italian man who was driving around E europe looking at mansions and art, and knew a lot about Palladio and architecture – very interesting guy.  Later I went to a town with a castle on river nearby, then to the burger joint (I had a hankering for a buger) but they were terrible.  I called Tom using wifi/ekiype and told him how I wanted to come home and didn’t want to be gone anymore.  He talked about needs and watns and figuring out what I needed, and I decided that I’d set a date for fly8ing home, which I booked a ew days later.  It healped also to give voice to my inner child who hated it and felt like she was missing out on things at home (like I feel now) and for a few days I let myself vent and cry (it hyad been building up for months) till I was emptied out, which didn’t take long.  I stil lforget to give voice to that part of myself.

Next day I wnet up the river and explored Jacobsburg? and other pretty towns along the iver – lots of history, very interesting – then made my way back to Riga and found Madara and her husband and kid (perfect timing – I had just pulled up and they were on bikes making their way) – I brought bedding iup and slept under the sink on a mat on he floor – very primitive, It was hard to sleep because their son kept waking up and screaming at top of lungs – He was used to getting his way and that worked very well.  madara went off to work in am, as did her husband, and I realized that madaras sister was with son instead – sleeping next to him, such an effecive switch that I hadn’t known i had happened (nor had he) – walked into town from there and explored, went though park, read vanity fair (article bout pope and ??), caught first day of Riga festival (all weekend) – Latgalian singing/storyteleilng on one stage in park,, cs family were also Latgalian (dressed in costume), he had studied how to administer sauna and did so (with herbs), found a really nice cafe that Madara mentoined and had a latte, a girl came with fiancee, some fancy name (Love Cafe??), explored – went to 1 museum (on history of Riga), very interesing, attended 2 or 3 days of iga fesival (some loud music, last day along river, 50’s Americana fesival with peope danicng the jitterbug and charleston and hop, bobbie socks, poodle skirts, and tbirds and other muscle and classic cars.  ery strnage/discorienting.  That night went to Jurmala with Madara and her friend, they swam in freezing ocean, I walked on beach and thought they were crazy – we talked and walked along old sreet along beach and looked at houses and talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up

It was reallyt good to connect with madara without her id or frantic ness, asked to buy down pillow (were frm sseone’s house, her sister had washed the down and sewed the case, very nice – 10 euro, I said that was too little, but she said it was fine – her husband is an architect, loves to ride bikes – we rode to see the firewoks over the river, went to market to buy watermelon, very expensive and rotten (only 1 guy selling, had a racket) – left next day for ethnographic museum, got there at 12pm or so, went as fast as I could – madara and I had been once before – I ate seomthing and then walked fast, went to as many houses as could, saw windnill just before it closed – very interesstign, ended up going to the one near Kaunas in Lith later, bought some wheat weaving and wood carving and beeswax candles

then headed to Cesus, eve, aw a nice hotel, ound a place to park near istoric place that Madara had talked about – old mill town ?? pefecrtly preserved – walked around in am, saw all buildings, walked up and around, to working factory site of old dam, old school, etc – then headed into Cesus, went to castle, saw Stalin statue in castsle grounds, admired Latvian jeweler/metal worker who wrote a book abnd had a lot of info about the ethnography and traditions of the Latvian people and befoe, I bought the book, lots of pagan stuff by him – heavy but made it home with me – I explored the castl,e wnet up inoto the highest tower (doing reconstruction) and noticed the chapel architecture next door that had been there

Then walked around Cesus, really liked it, drove down to park (?) and castle, grounds closing soon, ran to museum and saw more info on Latgalians, including bee keeping hives (hand carved out of hollows of trees), had wanted to make it to castle museum but didn’t, climbed tower to top (Madara and I had done this), walked among ruins, went into the folk/fairy story garden (??), statues/fantastical and each had a story behind it (wikipedia), went to spring on other side and made a wish about Margarets healing and Nick Ferentinos  I did a small ritual and then headed to the back of the property just in time to see the woring sauna by the pond and barn with carriages in them.  I walked across the road to see a number of other historical buildings, then headed back tot he car.  Don’t remember where I slept, but next day I went o he smal hotel I’d seen and lliked befoe and asked about a room.  After 20 minutes they said no, that the guests fron Biela Rus were definitely coming and there was no room.  but the man helping me said to follow him, that there was another house/place, and I did, and eventually ended up at Laso just outside Celsus.  What a beautiful place!  It looked like a modern day gone with the wind mansion, with a huge green field around that turned out to be a para glider landing field – he’s a hang glider, as is his whole family and they’ve won awards and such – there was a big conference the next day about youth in Latvia (I met the organizer, a really kind and cokmpetent woman who started it and many others and helped me get my ATm card back – 2nd time I’d had it sucked into a machine, had to negotiate with bank branch next day).  I felt a bit reluctant to leave the pllace as it was so beautiful, but set my things down and then went out to see Cesus.  Turns out they needed to move me to another room, but it was very nice and comforable – for only 30 I had a lovely rom and a great breakfast next day (Id paid for none but they gave it to me anyway).  Guy thought I was drunk because I was weaving the car back and forth, but I was just trying not to get dust from dirt road on it, because I’d just washed it (again – probably ended up washing and vacuuming it 5 times during the trip, as I was always driving on dirt roads to sleep at night – often couldnt see out the windwo it was so dirty, kept a bottle of windex and paper towels on hand at all times

I loved it and din’t want to leave but had to hit the road – headed up through another nice town (towrd coast)?? and then to ?? and along coast into Estonia, charming town on border with unique church (wooden) that I thought i’d see again but didn’t, lovely light houses, made my way to ferry to Saareema island (via an island), got to island late (11:30pm), made way toward a mansion and parked in woods afer it – tried ro walk on grounds next am, but said it was closed (ended up walking around Sunday night when I was tying to leaave island) – made way on a scenic road off main road to Sarrema, went to the house of a woman potter whose husband had a lovely garden (island winds?), we talked for many hours, she made tea and gave me some homemade bread, I showed her Karen Gunderman’s work, she was excited and I emaild Karen on her behalf (but never heard back from her), she told me about her work in a pottery collective near Riga duing Soviet times, and how much she loved it (she was one of 40 potters and had access to all equipment), shared tracors, how people don’t visit or communicte anymore after soviet time (during that time you’d go to someone’s house to ge the tractor).  Se showed me all her work and I bought a lovely blue porcelain cup (sadly shattered it when home – dumped a bag of stuff out and it was inside – fell into pieces).

She had a very sweet dog (big) who greeted me and said goodbye to me, and I thoght she had a wonderfuli life (she had built the house with her husband and it was very comfortable) – she complained that none of her neighbors visit her – after 3 hours or so, I continued on – went to a special place where hey mined some kind of clay along the shore, very fragile habitat with spring below, then on to ind her friend’s house (b and b with food), the places were very ustic and rather expensive, and I didn’t want to wait for the meal for 2 hours – fresh fish and ingredients need to be ordered ahead so cook can buy for dinner – I continued to fishing village/museum in north of island (??) and just haad enough time (1 hour) to look at all buildings (completx of buildings) including a house with beautiful quilts in attic – saw many old buildings, then to dock and saw fishing equipment/nets/etc and read about history of area

Then on to Sarrema, found yet another car wash, drove out past main city ??? (heard the song Happy playing by a wedding band and felt like dancing remembeirng the jazz festival in Nida and Soul Unit Lagalia singing that song – ound a nice place to sleep (conservation area past town) – went into town in am, wetnt to town hall, asked about activities (artist potter had told me about a concert to celebrate Estnian independence from Russia that night) – she told me a famous Latvian singner Anne ?? was singing at the meteor crater that night, so I decided I’d go.  Took some phtoos of town hall, which was beautiful (historic bujilding – /??), then walked the old streets behind, drove out to the airport or a view of the mainland, and then found a nice place/cafe for a pastry and latte, and met a really sweet Finnish guy who played guitar in the open market, played Easy like a Sunday morning – singins in many lanugages, said how much Latvians love him, that he feels at home here, has a few loose ends in Finland but likes it here better – an old hippy – I hung out as long as I could, then bid him farewell and headed north to top of island (back roads) along a nice strand, offered coiuple a ride, they took it, wandered up thorgh forests, more trees than other island (other had poor soils), found a beautiful house and dock/boat on north shore and wished I lived there, went along north for a bit, then down toward meteor crater/concert.  Big event, lots of locals, candles around the pond in middle, a man came out dressed in traditional costume and recited a poem in Estonian, very beautifiul sounding, then introduced Anne ??, very charismatic singer – I didn’t think she was great, but was okay, but got into it over time – sound system too loud, so plugged my ears throouhout to protectears – sat on a very steep slope and peered into the darkness at her.  Very lovely concert (setting unusual, people very lovely and outdoorsy) – I drove back to my pakring place, next am met hippy friend, then drove to ferry, not knowing that it wouldl be a huge line and hours of waiting (Sunday afternoon, all Tallins]ers going home)  – I didn’t want to wait in line and thought it would be better later, so I went to beautiful manor ??, sat and read for a bit, wanted to go out where guests were allowed to swim, but found another place and jumped off dock into the mudddy, reedy waters – a Russian coiuple there with dog, and Estonian couiple – good find (walked through farm road and across mansion, just followed intuition) – that’s what I did a lot – just followed my nose to find a place – I love doing that – it’s a kind of 6th sense that I have

Very frustrated waiting in line – waited 2 hours, had to text cs host that I wouldn’t make it (had hoped to stay with her in Tallin) – drove toward ???, a seaside resort, slept in the woods, –  then made it to ??? the next am, loved it, very beautiful and idyllic, walk along water newly renovated path next to a gazebo and former Russian nobility’s palace – Wikipedia.  A nice girl working in a crystal shop recommended her parent’s vegetarian cafe for a latte.  Afterwards I explored the town and walked in the castle garden.  Along the beach, I found an old but beautiful Russian spa resort.  I took some photos of the beautiful train depot which had been built for the arrival of Peter the Great in ???, and marveled at the beautiful architecture.  In the mid afternoon I left for Tallin and arrived at dusk.  I found a free parking spot near a bar parked near a bar and walked around old town for a few hours, then drove 24km outside of Tallin before I found a suitable camping spot.  The next morning I walked along a beautiful forest path and wondered why more Estonians didn’t hike in the woods for fun.  Maybe they are burned out on woods.  I drove back to Tallin, walked around more, met a nice couple who just came over from Finland for the day – they were acrobats in a cirque de soleil type affair – I took a photo of them doing a fancy maneuver outside the beautiful Russian orthodox church- I walked in a huge circle that day and couldn’t find my car, had to walk a long way to find it.  I found a great place to eat at a mall – traditional buffet food, had crepes and cold beet root soup and other delicacies both days (girl at bar told me about it) – I parked near the mall that am and didn’t see a parking meter or sign about parking, and asked a local – he said it should be fine, but I came back to a ticket – he said that there is a mobile app where people pay for parking in Tallin.

I liked Tallin but had to move on, so drove to Tartu the next eve and arrived at dusk  I walked around the old square and along the river path, then across and o visitor center  Had seen a botanic garden and walked inside, loved it – saw a guy in curlers across street in front of a lovely old brick building, asked and was told a play (Odysseus) was about to start, but was sold out.  Guy in curlers told me to come back before it started (5 min), so I walked in garden and then came back, and was told they would sell me a ticket.  Turned out he played Hercules in the play, and that it was hailed as one of the best that summer in Estonia.  I walked into a banquet scene with long buffet tables of turkey legs, grapes, bread, in traditional Greek banquet – turns out we (audience) were soldiers in the Trojan war who had just returned and were honoring Odysseus.  Crazy story – needless to say it was all in Estonian, but I asked a woman at break if she spoke English and she did, and she proceeded to translate it for me.  We ended up taking a couple of special buses marked “Odysseus” to undisclosed locations, once to honor fallen war heroes (to a memorial), next through a beautiful walkway and large house with photos (whose exterior was covered with photos of the fallen enemies), to a beautiful old mansion, apparently Russian, where Penelope was partying with her suitors.  We then boarded the buses while muses sinuously threaded  their way on top of seats /over the seats and along the windows while Penelope on one bus and Odysseus on another pretended to talk to one another on the phone as the buses drove along side by side with them pacing back and forth looking furtively at one another.  Later, as we boarded another bus, Odysseus and Hercules drove alongside the buses with loud speakers yelling at us to get off the bus – we finally disembarked and we listened to a long soliloquy by Penelope of her painful wait for Odysseus.  We ended up in the botanic garden across the street from the theater where a Greek statesman was honoring Odysseus, then back to theater where we saw Penelope and Odysseus seemingly distantly sitting at same table but barely looking at each other.  At end, they climbed into a giant bed/mattress and appeared to either die or go to sleep (dressed as very old at that point) as psychedelic images were projected along the ceiling.  All in all an amazing experience – over the next few days I emailed my new friend thoughts about the show .  She showed me a place to camp later that night, and I luckily hid down a road because people ended up driving all night along the road she had recommended.

Next day I headed south to the souther border and drove toward a state partk that someone had recommended, but never found it.  I was going to camp in the woods but hear an eery chainsaw and decided to continue on, afraid to encounter the bearer  I saw some interesting old church and abandoned house that reminded me of a house that Pablo Neruda had described riding horseback to in the mountains and wild lands near his home of Temuco in Chile (owned by bohemian writer/dignitaries).  I asked tourist info in the next town (??) net to the Latvian boarder which had some lovely buildings to scan and send the agreement that Paul, the attorney, had asked me to sign (Julia).  I felt relieved to finally get it done, as it had been hanging over my head since I’d left the Oginski palace in n Lithuania.  I found a lovely cafe (recommended by he young women in tourist information) and had wonderful soup and fish, ordering more food than I needed.  Well fed, I got on the road and marveled at the next town just across the Latvian border.  I had heard that eastern Latvia (and Estonia for that matter) was much more Russified and different from the western portions.  It seemed so as I drove through big soviet style squares and social realism statues (with them looming).

I drove through Latvia to northeastern Lithuania that day and camped near a beautiful lake where a pagan festival was happening that weekend.  I asked some folks where I could buy groceries and they pointed me to a Rimi market where many campers were purchasing alcohol.  Apparently they could subsist on distilled grain alone (man cannot live on bread alone).  I went down to the lake and stood in line to take a small boat to the island where trance music was wafting across.  It was definitely going to rain all weekend.  A very sweet guy and I had a great conversation, with him trying to convince me to stay for he weekend.  I didn’t want to be wet, and didn’t want to lug all my things across the water.  I’n tough but was tired of being uncomfortable.  After talking for but an hour, I bid him farewell (his brother was calling him asking where he was).  I camped in a nearby wood and the next am went to ?? national park, (Austeriess), which my cs host Skirmante had highly recommended.  What a beautiful place!  There were old grinding mills, tongue and grove style homes, beautiful lakes, and a hill with a promontory and view of four lakes.  I wanted to stay but was running out of time, as I had only a week left before I needed to return the car and still needed to drive to Poland.  According to a local working in the visitor center, people no longer live as they had even 10 years earlier.  Tourism has replaced shepherding, farming, and small lumber mills.  It seems that traditions have been dying out everywhere I go, and most of the time I can only experience traditional life via ethnographic museums.

Speaking of which, I left Austerii? that day for Rumsiskes, an ethnographic museum near Kaunas where I had 2 hours to enjoy the exhibit.  It’s a huge group of ?? buildings spread over ?? hectares.  First off I saw a working sauna lined with healing plants, as well as a camouflaged mud hut hiding Lithuanians trying to escape the gulag or worse fates during Russian occupation.  Apparently whole families would stay in them – little more than a mud hut camouflaged with leaves.  Can’t imagine spending  a the winter in Lithuania in such a shelter.  I delight in ethnographic museums – if that’s all I could see, I would spend my entire trip at such places.  I like the old ways of life and often think I was born in the wrong era.  After Rumsiskes I went to Trakai, where I caught dusk and a beautiful full moon rise over the lake.  Quite spectacular.  I can see why people like it so much here, and its touristy qualities  The town on the banks of the lake is medieval with narrow winding streets, while the castle on the island is constructed of large stone blocks and has a draw bridge (Wikipedia  ??).  I walked along the lake shore and found a pastie ?? restaurant among the many along the lake.  The kindly fellow that I’d talked with for several hours at the pagan music festival the day before had advised me to try this specialty of Trakai, and I did so, enjoying the beef, chicken, and veggie pasties.  Not enough filling or my taste, but still good.  Then I drove to Kernave, recommended by Skirmante for its archaeological riches.  Just before town, a speed camera caught me unaware, with the red flash temporarily blinding me as I swore up one side and down the other.  I hate spending money unnecessarily, and tickets are one of those expenses where I kick myself every time I get one.  I wasn’t sure what would happen with the 4 camera tickets I got (and 3 parking tickets) on top of the 3 traffic tickets in Latvia – seemed like I was averaging one a day.  I felt compelled to report each violation to the owner of the vehicle I was renting.  He made the dire prediction when I returned the car that I wouldn’t be allowed back into the EU with such a record.  I paid for 3 of them so thought that I hadn’t completely cheated the establishment.

I spent the night just off the highway with the back of the car visible from the road and felt very nervous about being so visible.  The sound of cars whooshing by didn’t help my sleep either.  I awoke and made my way to the ?? museum in Kernave.  I savored the remains of stone age settlements and photos of Jonas Trinkunas and others doing fire rituals on the hill forts of Kernave as part of the neopagan revival movement in Lithuania.  Then I walked along the path to the actual sites of the hill forts, enjoying a recreated craftsman village featuring a potter, /////??Then I walked down to the river and imagined what it might have been like 1300 years prior, doing a small ritual in a wood near the river’s edge that seemed particularly inhabitable.  Bless Skirmante and people like her that have recommended such apt places for me to visit.  Had it not been for such local guides, I would never had seen half the things I did on this trip.  So much for not talking to strangers.  If it weren’t for strangers, I wouldn’t have seen anything worthwhile at all.  After reveling in the feeling of centuries past, I headed south from Kernave toward the Polish border and into Poland.  Polish roads were strange, and I cursed the 30 kmh zones in towns and stoplights along the way.  I was driving toward Warsaw on a Sunday, and it seemed all of Warsaw was coming back from weekend activities at the same time.  Traffic was so bad, in fact, that it took me an hour to go 10 miles at one point.  A kind Polish woman tried to direct me when I asked directions in ???.  Though I don’t understand or speak much Polish, my recent experience with learning Russian helped me comprehend.  After all, they are both slavic languages, though there are certainly main differences between them.


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