Saturday, October 7, 2017

Living Life in Latvia

Our first Warm Showers hosts in our travels, Valmeira, Latvia.  A super fun family and warm welcome!!!
The remains of the grand hall in the fortress in Cēsis.  The tower next to this space was more complete and was intriguing to explore!

This tiny room was the bottom floor of a stone water tower.  We camped just outside after a rain-soaked day of biking gritty dirt roads.  Definitely a treat to discover!!!

Latvia - memories from the sister's grade 6 friend was from Latvia.  For a school project they had to cook and serve a meal.  With both of our families at the dinner table, my sister served me up a huge portion of my least favourite food...steamed spinach - which I had to accept, as of course' that was "good" manners, the way I was raised.  I hope my boys show good manners in the homes we are welcomed into, and I hope the situations like the one I was in are few!

Latvia through Tanya's looking glass:
  • Latvia is a country of gardeners, even the 700,000 residents of the capital city of Riga. (Latvia has a population of 2 million.) We entered Riga by commuter train and saw tons of little garden plots, each with their own little garden shed, turned earth, fruit tree and signs of active use.  Such a refreshing sight compared the usual city-periphery-carnage that is a more typical approach.  Short story for the train arrival: a soaking wet day, dirt/sand roads and grinding bike chains, a too hairy, no shoulder, fast-packed motorway,  and a commuter train option 1.90 Euro per person, .57 Euro per bike...we chose the easier route and are happy for it!
  • Latvia is more affordable. With the wet, cold weather, we've been looking for a dry, sheltered place for our picnic lunch.  Towns have a basic little cafe where it seems many locals find their way early afternoon. We arrived like wet rats in our first Latvian town at lunch time and ducked into the town cafe.  We looked at the extensive chalkboard menu on the wall (all in Latvian of course) and decided what we would order based on what we saw others walking away with from the counter.  My choice turned out to be a meat gravy with chunks of liver (I thought it would be beef) over boiled  potatoes.  The accompanying cold beet salad was delicious and I did my best to put away the not-so-yummy liver meat.  Very hearty though! Rick chose a pork knuckle with boiled potatoes and was very happy with it.  The desserts...easier to chose as they were displayed in a deli-type window, were incredible.  I selected a vanilla pudding dish with a large dollop of raspberry thick whipped cream.  Super good.  All in, five heaped lunch plates, two cups of tea, and five desserts were about 13 Euro. 
  • Latvia's countryside is fantastic.  Beautiful, continuous hardwood and pine forests and ruins of fortresses dating back to the 1200's.  We toured the restored one at Cēsis, complete with scaling tight stone circle staircases by candlelight to reach both the top of the tower and the master residence and the bottom cold and dank dungeon. Stories of the sieges and the attack by Ivan the Terrible of Russia were written on English language placards.  Since our travels began in Norway, spoken and written English is not the norm and we always appreciate when we cross paths with someone who speaks English, or when information/historical boards have English translations too!  Latvia's written signage is usually both Latvian and Russian.
  • People are out and about.  Kids scootering around, seniors with the pull trolleys or linked arm in arm, teenager groups cruising about listening to music. Lots of coloured hair on the girls, tones of pink to purple.  Women wearing heels walking to work. Men in construction/work coveralls doing various public projects.  I'm often staying with our gear and bikes while the boys go in for a daily grocery shop so I get daily observation time - one thing I love about our travels in foreign countries.

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