Part 8: Latvian Sauna and time in Riga.

My last post I wrote about my time in Kuldiga, sharing this wonderful authentic Latvian experience with my good new friend Violetta. Well we jammed in so much in the few days that we had in Kuldiga it was hard to fit it all into one post! So here is a little extra goss about our time travelling.

One experience all must try when coming to Latvia, is a herbal sauna. This is where you get all your gear off, and I mean everything and you enjoy an amazing hot aromatic sauna experience. Sitting on timber planks, we sweated profusely, enjoying the heat, we poured cool water over ourselves to survive, and swatted ourselves with bunches of flowers and oak leaves. With way too much flesh on show, all inhibitions aside, we went from inside the hot sauna to ‘wind drying’ baring all to the natural farm surrounds. We dipped into a freezing cold pond in between, then nibbled on some rhubarb and custard slice, and fresh bbq’d hunks of deer. Yes, thats right, I ate a deer. Oh dear, not a deer? Well there is a first for everything right!? Apart from a fresh mosquito bite on my butt – that lucky mosquito enjoyed some rare meaty fleshy there – the herbal sauna experience was incredible! Give it a go next time you find yourself in Latvia!

The next day we drove into Riga, the capital of Latvia. I was in this pretty little city a few years ago, but I must say it seems to have improved! It seems busier, cleaner, and more attractive to me now. I have seen the countryside now too, so perhaps this has added to its charm? Either way, I continue to be impressed by the impressive architecture, colourful buildings and magical old town.

I only had one more day with my travelling companion and we sure did make the most of it! We walked all around the city, taking lots of photos as we went. We managed to buy some amber jewellery, wander through the markets, and have dinner in an iconic Latvian restaurant. And get charged crazy tourist prices all at the same time! Prices were easily three times more expensive in the old city as they were in Kuldiga. Swigging back a shandy  (beer and lemonade) and gnawing on dried pork chips (really chewy but strangely very addictive), we felt very pleased with our tourism efforts to date. We headed back to our Airbnb for the night, and slept badly through a hot stuffy summer night. Waking briefly for a midnight shower deluge, we woke with stiff necks and fresh mosquito bites. Nothing a good coffee couldn’t fix though! We headed to Coffee Inn, my new favourite place for a coffee, very hip and happening and actually tasty coffee, for our final drink together before it was time for my friend to head to the airport.

We hugged and waved goodbye, determined to meet again in a year or so for a reunion. I just love that we came together for the same purpose, to explore our roots, and enjoy as many Latvian experiences as we could. We successfully did that!  I will miss my new friend that is for sure! Thanks again Violetta for being an awesome travel buddy!

For my first day solo, I decided to head to the beach for a swim. Latvia was sweltering through a heat wave, and my sausage fattened body was not loving it! I had stuffed myself with Latvian goodness, and really extreme diet measures are in order let me tell you!  I made my way to the beach, enjoying the birch tree forest along the way. Latvia is so green! So many lovely trees everywhere, even close to the city centre. I traipsed along with all the other beach goers down to the coast, I really did not know what to expect, put it this way, I didn’t take any photos!

The sand was hard, and the water was cool, and very shallow for ages. The water felt more like swimming in a river, there was green stuff and a muddy sort of residue everywhere; it was refreshing but a strange beach experience that is for sure. I laid on the beach next to a pair of sister, looking like mirror images, they were so brown, and clearly regular beach goers. We tried to communicate then realised we could not speak the same language, so just starred at each for awhile. I swear, they were a split image, it was awesome. I kept looking back and forth from one to the next, I wish I could have taken their photo but it seemed a little rude. They were loving it!

I dipped in and out of the water like a duck, laying on the packed sand in between, feeling way too hot. With no shade and no breeze, I was burning, and trying not to cook like a hot chicken. I did manage to stretch it out for a few hours, read my book, relax and do some sweet nothing, trust me it had been awhile! I have been on a mad packed schedule called ‘jam it all in!’ So overall it was an enjoyable and relaxing albeit a strange beach experience.

As I gazed longingly at the nearby Birch trees, I realised then why my Dad was so obsessed with their elegance and beauty. They were every where in Latvia. And I mean everywhere! And they are beautiful. Big massive ones, that take 50 or more years to grow, they are strong, but delicate, pretty but sturdy. I love them! Being here in Latvia makes me feel very connected to my Dad and my Latvian ancestors, it really is amazing.

In my next post I will continue with my adventures in Riga, there is so much more to write about!

Anita xx




11 thoughts on “Part 8: Latvian Sauna and time in Riga.

  1. Very enjoyable following you once more on your travels. I especially love your mention of trees, I am obsessed by them and the lack of them in Adelaide. I have a photo of a Silver Birch forest near Kaunas in Lithuania where my husband Jonas was born. I have a lovely one in my garden which reminds me of him. Happy travels Anita.

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