Cruising South

Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Latvia  ,
Monday, August 22, 2005

Riga goes to sleep in the early hours of the morning at wakes up at about 2pm; but you don't have to travel far out of the city to remind yourself that life beyond the superb bars and cafes in the cobbled streets is not all a big party (for some).

Thismorning I caught a local train to Salaspils; the site of a concentration camp where 110,000 died at the hands of the Nazi's. On arriving at the Salaspils train station I nearly turned back around to catch a train back to Riga - it was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded with forest - no sign posts, nothing. The instructions in the Lonely Planet simply said to walk for 15 minutes on "the path" to reach the site... hmmm there were about 6 different "foot tracks" into the bush, but not one with a sign post!

Much to my good fortune two Dutch couples in their 50's had also hoped of the train seeking the same destination, so blindly we soldiered off into the bush! About half an hour later, having following the vague directions provided by some mushroom pickers we came across the site.... "Beyond These Gates The Earth Groans". We were the only one's there, surrounded by bush was a huge clearing with the most amazing sculptures in remembrance (take a look at the photo). They were about 20 foot high, big stone beauties. It was pretty intense, but well worth the visit.

This afternoon I settled for alittle more history with a trip to the "Museum Of Occupation"; probably one of the most informative and interesting museums I have ever been to. The poor old Latvian's certainly had a tough time - a Russian state, but occupied by the Nazi's. I guess I'm going to have to get the hang of the history, I still have along way to go through Europe.

The weather has been treating me particularly well, beautiful bright hot sunshine and Riga is perfect for lounging around! There are so many cafe's and eateries here, it seems that half the world must just come here to 'hang'. It's a bigger version of Tallinn really, but not quiet as commercial (or maybe it's because I'm here on a week day!) and I think the parks are a fraction nicer, I like it alittle more.

There are alot of artisans, and there's this one old lady (in her 70's), immaculately dressed in traditional Latvian clothing she dances all day to everything from Abba to Drum and Bass that's playing from her 'ghetto blaster'... very very odd, but the crowds absolutely love her! I also walked passed a cafe yesterday that was playing Crowded House, a small unexpected taste of home.

The other interesting thing about this region is their love of flowers, heaps and heaps of florists. I've even been given afew roses by the odd random guy, to begin with I was flattered but now it's just the norm. One bonus of travelling alone I guess, but a fairly impractical thing to recieve whilst backpacking, but I'm not complaining... European men aye.

Anyway, with abit of luck the weather will hold out - tomorrow I am off to Klaipeda on the Baltic Coast in Lithuania for abit of swimming.... At the beach, at long last!
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