Latvia is one of the former Soviet Baltic countries that got its freedom in 1991. With a population of about two million, it is about the size of New Jersey. Like Estonia, it also borders Russia. It’s capital is the lovely city of Riga, a port city on the Baltic on the north side of the country.
We walked our typical 10 miles a day in Riga thru it’s parks, into its churches and museums with a stop now an again for a beer or a meal. The Design Museum was very special.
In Riga we rented a car for a couple of day road trip. First stop was Cesis to view the castle, turns out it was the weekend of the music festival. Europeans LOVE festivals. Then on to Jelgava along the Lielupe River. Great new waterfront with athletic facilities and an amazing sculpture garden. The tourist office was in the former tower of the church, the only remains of the church after the war.
Next stop was Bauska with its medieval castle that has recently been restored at great expense, again. We learned that many of these castles and entire cities were raided, sieged, burned, rebuilt, burned……over and over. This one was built in the 1500’s for the Teutonic Knights. Nearby was Rundale Palace built 1736-68. This is on par with Versailles with its gardens and art works. Two more stops on this road trip took us to Durbes Pils and Turadia Castle. Before returning to Riga, we stopped at the resort area of Jermala and enjoyed a walk on the beach.
Back on the boat, our next stop was Ventspils on the east coast. This had been an important Russian Baltic Naval port city, now undergoing a complete rejuvenation. The waterfront area was beautiful, but still an emerging area. On to Liepaja, another major port city undergoing a rebirth.
We were struck time and again with the energy we felt in the Baltic countries and their fear of falling under the Russian influence once again. We were also impressed with the big fleets of Latvian built electric buses in most every city we visited.