Tag Archive | travel

Why I Heart Latvia

Brainstorm

This Latvian band I was a great fan of in my early teens. They also introduced me to the country and its language. A lot of other girls my age liked Brainstorm and Renars Kaupers. I remember being annoyed by one girl out in the yard singing their song. What’s she doing singing it?! This is MY favourite band. I even got their autographs and all the usual fangirl stuff. When I first heard their song”Under My Wing” in Latvian, I fell in love with the sound of the language.

Language

To me, it’s one of the most melodious languages in Europe. I love it’s soft L’s. University made it possible for me to learn a little as well. Not enough to hold a conversation, but the little I do know has proven quite useful when travelling in Latvia.

Ice cream

They actually make ice cream out of milk and cream in Latvia, not water and milk powder which head the ingredients lists here. The variety of flavours is greater too.

Cats

Latvians seem to love cats a lot more than Estonians.  The souvenirs of Riga feature a black cat from the roof top below, the Sigulda town centre is dominated by a chain that calls itself Cat’s House, including a cafe that serves a cake with a cat decoration on top. Or used to serve it anyhow. There’s a cat hostel in Riga’s old town, a cat feeding house in the town park, and one curious spot behind the opera house that I have started to call the Cat Park. There’s always cats there in that park. I don’t know why they are there, but they always are.

 

Cat hostel

Cat hostel

Flowers

Latvians also appear to love flowers more than we do. I love their Midsummer’s Eve tradition of wearing wreaths. I wish we had something like that still alive and it wasn’t just about making a fire and getting drunk. It was enchanting the first time I experienced it. They do get drunk too of course. Also, I have this quirky habit of smelling flowers while walking past them in the park. I don’t do it when I’m alone – that’d be too weird – but when there’s someone along, I tend to make a stop and smell a flower or two if they look promising.  Naturally, of all places, it should be in Latvia that I encountered the first and only person with a similar quirk. He too walked with his friend and stopped to smell the flowers in the park. It was heart-warming to spot a fellow-weirdo.

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Sigulda

Beautiful views and nature. Valleys, hills, rivers, castles, manors, shortage of ugly houses – what more could one want. A main square perhaps.

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And of course the plums! I got the best plums ever from one of the local supermarkets.

Cecis

I love the compact cute town centre. Sadly, lacking pictures of it. Never took any or deleted them, god knows, but lack is great.  Only found this castle.

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Kuldiga

Charming little town with beautiful nature around it. I wish I could go for long walks around there.

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I could live in any of these three towns much rather than I live in my own.

 

 

Figuring out: my relationship with travel

Every time spring approaches, I start dreaming of travel. The reality, however, has not always been as pleasant as the dreams. Fact is: I absolutely hate journeys. I love visiting new places, tasting new food and seeing something different from the habitual, but everything else surrounding travel is either too stressful, too overwhelming or too bloody inconvenient.

The beginning

My relationship with travel started out like the average young person’s: backpacks, trains and Couchsurfing. I travelled alone and if these experiences gave me anything, it’s the conviction that I can manage alone. Even when practically penniless and lost in a strange city at night. I had a few mishaps on my journeys as well. They might make for amusing tales, but it is not for tales I travel. I travel for beautiful and unforgettable experiences. But – I blame this on being a highly sensitive person – with such a pace, so many stimuli, so much organising and no one to rely on but me – I didn’t make many beautiful memories. When everything is too overwhelming, it seems my brain stops storing memories at its usual level. Mostly, these trips are a blur, with a few more luminous spots.

Second attempts

So, the next step was to try and travel only if there was someone waiting for me at the destination country or if I had a companion with me. I also found it very helpful if I could stay in one spot for greater lengths of time and only make day-trips elsewhere. That eliminates the need to book a ton of hotels, make sure you find them and the constant packing won’t be necessary either. It gives travel a more leisurely pace.

Yet, long and inconvenient journeys to the destination spot remain. I do not fly, one may say I have a fear of flying. This means I travel by train or bus. Imagine sitting 18 hours on a cramped bus. It bores the life force out of me. Watching films for 18 hours doesn’t work for me. I’m also incapable of sleeping while travelling, so when I reach my destination country, I’m most likely: a) grumpy beyond belief b) starving hungry c) looking like a slob d) sleep-deprived. I feel sorry for people who need to meet me or who travel with me. I obviously have a low tolerance for being stuck in one small place for great lengths of time.

What next?

I’ve fallen in love with the idea of road trips. Road trips may spell to a lot of people the epitome of inconvenience, but for me they signify freedom. They eliminate a lot of stress-sources. I’m not bound by anything. If I get fed up with driving, we can make a stop anywhere. If I want to wash, we can book in a hotel. If I want to eat something other than a sandwich, once again, one can stop and do just that. No tight schedule. Absolute freedom. If all hotels are full, one can sleep in the car or set up a tent some place. I have only made short road trips so far, but here is hoping this mode of travel turns out right for me.

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Two for the Road – a road trip movie with Audrey Hepburn

I have a good feeling about it. It seems to be the right mode for me at last. I love leisurely pace and independence. In everything, not just travel. Doing things in my time, not after a schedule imposed by train departure times and hotel check-in hours.