Whitlocks Round the World - Travel Diary for Latvia

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England


15th-20th August Latvia
Riga
The Gauja canoe experience, Sigulda - Click to enlargeWe arrived safely in Riga on Friday evening at 10.10pm local time. As we waited for my rucksack to appear on the baggage collection conveyer belt it became apparent that our first major hiccup had happened almost immediately. My bag failed to arrive. After over an hour waiting in the queue at the lost and found desk, and filling in paperwork, I was none the wiser as to where it was. Not a good start!

We spent the night on some couches in the airport. The children slept surprisingly well, and we got a fairly decent rest as well. The cafe owner who owned the couches woke us at 4.30, and we stepped out to experience whatever Riga had to offer.

Our first day began cold and wet, and with no changes of clothes for me or Esther (lost in my rucksack), this made Riga seem rather daunting. We splashed out on a rather too luxurious breakfast for our budget, and felt a little better. While we ate, the rain stopped and things seemed a bit brighter, and by the time we left the restaurant, Riga was waking up and losing the grey drabness of rainy 6.00am. We found somewhere cheap to stay and set about exploring the city.

Riga is a large and cosmopolitan city. You could say it is a bizarre mix of very striking monuments, intriguing ancient buildings and turrets which Esther thought were fairytale castles, punctuated with poorly maintained and tumbledown or boarded up relics of post-USSR industrial decline. Apart from that first breakfast we have had no trouble eating and sleeping cheaply here, and the children have enjoyed playing in and around Rigas beatiful parks and fountains.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, my bag was finally delivered to our room, and we were free to proceed with our plan to head for Sigulda.

Sigulda was absolutely gorgeous. The weather was kind to us which was lucky, as this was real camping! We hired a tent "for four people" from Jannis, the campsite owner, which meant that the four of us could just about lie down in it side by side. We packed our days full of activity though and, as a result, all slept well when we did squeeze in! We went castle hunting and found that there were four castles dotted around the small town, in gorgeous countryside settings. We visited two, one by cable car across the Gauja river valley, and walked through beautiful and (Nick commented) very well-maintained woodland to visit Gutmans cave, where the spring which rises there is reputed to be a giver of wisdom. We all drank deeply, unsure about whether or not this was wise!

All still alive the following morning, we spent some time at the camp site. I did some washing, Tom did some 'travel school' and Nick learned to plait and made a highly effective washing line! We arrange to go canoeing in the afternoon, assured that the 24km route suggested would not be too hard! Unfortunately the weather turned a bit cloudy, but still we enjoyed the experience, and also the amazing peace and quiet (whenever the kids stopped arguing/singing/giggling) of the Gauja valley.

Last night it rained, and we packed up in the rain this morning and returned to Riga on the train. Tonight we are taking the overnight train to Vilnius, and then on to Poland. We have thoroughly enjoyed Latvia and found the people very helpful. We are a little sad to be leaving, but look forward to continuing our adventure. Watch this space!



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