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The meeting of distant rellies.

Riga, Latvia

Today we were up early to meet Chris’ distant relatives Janis, Mejia and their daughter Marta. They have kindly offered to show us around Riga and the outskirts of the town over the next few days, and we have gratefully accepted their offer as we would love to maximize our Riga experience being that this is a special part of our journey. Chris’ fathers side of the family had to leave their home town of Riga during WW2 and all split to different parts of the world, our visit is the first for our side of the family in over 60 years, so it is rather important to us to be here and to take in as much as we can.

While Janis went off to a job interview and promised to meet us later in the afternoon, Mejia took us off on a tour of the old town part of Riga where we visited the old Riga Cathedral where we were able to go to the top and have amazing views over the city, Mejia pointed out various landmarks to us and explained to us where she worked and in which direction they lived. After this it was off to the old trade building which is now a museum and shows how the building once looked before all the bombings, it’s a grand old building with many interesting artifacts.

We moved on and sat down for a light lunch and drink in the Riga centre where Janis met up with us, and we are happy to say, he got the job he went to the interview for. This made the day a very happy one! Janis and Mejia then wanted to show us the beach, so we all piled into their car and head off to the beach area, and as it was such a hot day (again) it seemed like the natural thing to do! It wasn’t a long drive but Janis took time in driving there so that we could see all the ‘rich’ houses of Latvia. These homes look like any other, you would not think too much of them to look at, they are in a nice location is the main thing, and then when I enquired of the price of one of these homes (as there were so many for sale) I was told they were worth one million Lats, which in Australian dollars is… three million dollars!!?? These people must be loaded!! As the majority of people in Latvia are struggling to make ends meet I asked “who on earth can afford such houses?” and I was told…the Russians. Typical. Russians own everything nice this side of Europe. They come in with all their money and buy up and then make it difficult for the locals to survive as the price goes up on most things. We had a nice time at the beach, then a walk along the township before jumping back into the car and taking a ‘short cut’ to the next beach… the road started off all nice and smooth, then it turned to dirt, then a few pot holes appeared and then.. The road was no longer a road. It was as if we were driving over a rubbish tip! There were broken bits of housing goods and materials, bricks, large stacks of weeds; sand... this was now the road. It was crazy! It was a tight little curvy road and we couldn’t turn around as a) there was no room and b) it was all sand so we would get stuck. So, we kept driving. This road went for a very long time and it was a very slow process as we didn’t want to damage the car. Thankfully everyone saw the funny side and we all laughed as we drove along. Then, in the distance we saw a man walking this ‘road’ we pulled up alongside him and asked him if the town was far, he had his one beer in hand and replied that we would come to the town if we just stuck to this road (there was no other road so I’m unsure where else he thought we would drive..) so, we left him and continued on. I have no idea where he was going, we were miles from anywhere, and the town that we were going too was still some time away, but he was on a journey to somewhere with his one beer.

Thankfully, we made it in one piece to the town, where we then got lost and ended back on the highway we’d originally pulled off, it’s always the way! We found another little beach, which you have to walk through a little forest to get too. It was nice and quiet with not so many visitors, there was however a little dog there that was attempting to get off the leash and chase us, this I was not so impressed with. We stayed here for a little time, dipping our feet in the gulf and looking at the shells.

We then all went back to Janis and Mejia’s home to watch a Latvian WW2 film, which I’m sure, was very good and funny, however it was all in Latvian. That was a slight problem being that we don’t speak Latvian. Janis and Mejia then had the difficult job of translating to us the plot and what was being said, and while we appreciated the effort that they went too we were all exhausted by the end of the night!

We were dropped back to our hostel later that night where we all agreed to meet up again tomorrow.

permalink written by  Chris and Emily on July 2, 2009 from Riga, Latvia
from the travel blog: Europe 2009
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