I flew from Manchester to Riga without a glitch. In fact I had the smoothest transitions ever when I discovered I had a some how without realising booked a fast track ticket, and managed to get the exit seat, always a bonus. I booked it so long ago I had forgotten all these pre-arranged perks!
I met my new friend Violetta at the airport, she came to meet me in the hire car and we drove straight to the passport office to get my new Latvian passport! It was so good to have her there because no one spoke English and I did need to fill in one form, all in Latvian of course. The queues were massive, but rather than wait, we hunted down the cafeteria on the ground floor and stumbled across one of the best lunches we have ever had! I had the pork rissoles with some kind of creamy chicken sauce, with a salad and roast potatoes. Those little balls of joys stayed with me for the rest of the day, and I enjoyed every repetitive minute of it! I will endeavour to make them when I get home! They were so home cooked and natural and flavoursome, it was like something your Latvian Grandma would cook, if you had one…
We headed back upstairs with full and satisfied bellies and not long after finished the paperwork process for the passport. I would return in 5 days to collect it, hopefully not needing any more communication!
We drove straight out to Kuldiga, not spending any time in the city just yet; that we would save until the weekend. I discovered only recently my Grandmother was born in Kuldiga and was even married in the church there. I was really looking forward to reconnecting to my roots and seeing where she was born all those years ago. We were excited to get out to the countryside, smell the pine and birch tree forest, see the flowers and have as much of an authentic Latvian experience as possible. We were in for quite the treat!
With my jingly ring and other Latvian plait ring, and very Latvian name, I appear very Latvian. However I speak none of the language, except a few key phrases and greetings. My Dad didn’t persist in teaching me and for this I am very disappointed! I always wanted to learn more but it was tricky. None the less, my friend who I had met online through my blog, could speak Latvian and Russian so we had all bases covered! She was also on a mission to explore her roots, as her Father had lived in the splendid and picturesque town of Kuldiga most of his life.
We stayed in the home of a famous Latvian sculptress called Livija Rezevska. She made well over 200 sculptures and many are displayed here all over the town. She had a studio out the back of the house where we stayed, with more of her lovely sculptures. It was a privilege to be in the home of such a creative spirit. She left this house and her studio to another lovely lady named Antonia. She was like a Latvian Grandma for us both! She was very lovely and looked after us, she even gave us a little gift of chocolates and had a photo printed from town, which was very thoughtful.
It is really awesome to be immersed so richly in Latvian culture. Hearing the language all around me, eating amazing food, and walking the cobblestone streets, retracing the footsteps of my ancestors is a surreal experience. I have been eating pickled herring, excellent meats, pierugs – which are little parcels of bacon and onion and are delicious; cheese with caraway seeds, and the most delicious aromatic and tasty strawberries. My Dad used to talk about these strawberries from Latvia and now I know exactly what he means!
Ligo festival approached, and this was a much anticipated event for the both of us. Latvia has rich cultural traditions, and I was beginning to learn just a few of them. Ligo is a celebration of Summer Solstice and a time when everyone heads out to the countryside, picks flowers, makes a bbq, drinks beer, eats plenty of food and stays up all night sitting and singing by an open air fire. We were lucky to participate in a bbq/picnic in a countryside setting, and it was lovely! We ate way too much food, again, and chatted away happily enjoying the warm summer evening. I really like this Ligo festival, I love that Latvians are so connected to the outdoors and love spending time in the countryside.
This trip to Latvia has really reconnected me to my roots as I hoped it would. Spending time eating all the foods my Dad loved, seeing and enjoying the birch and oak trees and peonies and poppies in the gardens and fields, has made me feel great. Walking the pebble stone roads as my ancestors once did, makes me feel I have come full circle. If it was not for the war, my Dad would not have come to Australia, and I dare say I would not exist! But for this reason, returning to experience my Latvian heritage and roots has been a fantastic experience so far, and one I would highly recommend.
And thanks to my blog I met my travel companion Violetta! She made the whole experience so much more fun for me, experiencing all the Latvian things together made it so much more special. And she was obsessed with trying all sorts of weird stuff like Bulls Testicles! Seriously! And I ate them! They were kind of gross and kind of like a spongey mushroom. When in Latvia…one must try all these random things! A huge thank you Violetta for making my trip to Latvia so memorable and enjoyable!
In my next post I will share with you my experiences in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
Hope you are enjoying my travel posts so far! I am just on half way now through my trip so a few more posts to come dare I say!
Any one want to come meet me in Santorini Greece at the start of July???