Just a reminder that the albums containing some of our photographs can be found at:-
The easy way is to simply click on THIS LINK
Monday, 15 July 2013
So far, other than wandering about the streets, we have had tours of the Peter and Paul Fortress Island which includes the Peter and Paul cathedral and a still operating mint and saw various buildings of renown but no longer have much of an idea as to which is which especially all the ornate orthodox churches built to honour some Tsar or the other or success in some battle. too much too soon and too many Peters, Alexanders, Elizabeths and Catherines, generals, writers, philosophers etc. Great memorials and buildings though. Nice wide streets as it is a planned city (started 1703). Today we went to the Imperial Summer Palace at Pushkin, a little up-country from St Petersburg. It was started by Empress Elizabeth and extended by subsequent rulers; most notably by Catherine II usually known as Catherine the Great. It is ridiculously large and ornate but not original as it was extensively looted and damaged by the Germans during their seige of the city of St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad). They occupied Pushkin at that time. So the palace has been largely reconstructed from the ruins and the work is still continuing. The grounds of the palace are extensive and include other buildings, parks, gardens and water features. The adjacent hunting forest is no longer there though. As we understand it, the primary purpose of this palace was to impress visitors from other powers of the period.
You can see a selection of our photos in our St Petersburg album. We have also added a few to the general Riga album.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
|Gigantic beer pot sculptures with potted plants as a head|
We really enjoyed Cesis with its great town square, its Lutheran church and many attractive builldings and its ancient castle remains and parks. There was also an extensive children's playground area with lot of fine equipment mainly of timber. We have observed that Latvians may lack many things we take for granted but when it comes to children's playgrounds, they far exceed Australia's offerings in both terms of quantity and quality and all without resorting to plastic garbage and our nana-state offerings. And they are very popular.. It is very rare to see one not being enthusiastically used. Cesis is the home of Cesus Alus (alus is their word for beer) and their brewery is the biggest in Latvia. (it's okay but Latvia has other better brews in my opinion). The price of beer is reasonable and is the drink of choice for most ethnic Latvians.
|Lutheran Church at Rauna|
Substantial remnants of Rauna Castle remain which is remarkable considering that over the centuries it has been damaged and ransacked by invading forces a total of seven times. But the big clue was that the castle was originally built, like the church, in 1262 by Albert II, Archbishop of Riga, as the Archbishop's Summer Residence, which tends to explain why Rauna was provided with such a large and substantial church. We could not gain entry to the church. An outstanding feature is the two reliefs over the main and the side entry. They are extremely crude and archaic which suggests that they were original to the church (see the photographs in our album about this day). The town looks relatively prosperous with modern municipal offices, a new shopping centre being built, new accommodation erections and many large modern houses in the town. Most surprisingly, the town has two modern toilet blocks and they are free and unlocked! We have not seem even one municipal toilet block anywhere else in Latvia - not even in Riga. Elsewhere, Latvia is a country where is can be very difficult to find any readily available toilet facilities when you need then and if you get lucky you may well need about 30 cents in loose change to gain entry. It was the same in Estonia also. The town also had some very modern sporting facilities as well.
|Lutheran Church at Drusti|
Be sure to take a look at the album for this trip.
Tuesday, 9 July 2013
We decided to travel the cheapest way - by train about $2 each way per person. It was a bad mistake as train carriage entrances are about 1m above platform level and accessible by three very steep and narrow steps, It was a real struggle not only for us but also many of the local aged persons. Apparently nowhere has raised platforms not even the central railway station. Needless to say we will never attempt to catch a train in Latvia again.
Well, they do have beaches and some very nice sand. There are no nasties as the salt level is too low for sharks, jellyfish etc in the Baltic Sea (which is also why it readily freezes in winter), The water is shallow for quiite a long distance and there are no real waves. The water was fairly dirty where we took a look at the beach - Dzinteri beach probably the Liepa Rivr flows into the Baltic nearby. Australia's beaches they are not but they are far better than English ones and, most importantly, they are nearby and readily accessible. The streets in the major town at Jurmala, Majori, are spacious and the main stretch is a very nice mall. There's a couple of casinos we spotted and there's a number of sideshow stalls. In other words, it's a typical tourist trap for sunshine lovers. Photos in their own album.
Monday, 8 July 2013
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Monday, 1 July 2013
After booking into our hotel in Riga we had a wander through the local parks and the old city. The old city is situated on the banks of the Daugava River and was once protected by raised embankments and a huge moat encircling the part of the town not backing onto the river. The moat still exists but has been reduced to about a third of its original width and is now known as the Riga Canal and is used by tourist craft and rental water craft.
Riga, as is common with most of the Baltic area, has had only limited periods of independence. Latvia was independent from 1918 to 1939 and since 1993. It has been ruled by the Russians, both Imperial and Soviet, the Danes, the Swedes, the Germans, the Poles and various odds and sods. The Latvian language is part of the Indo-European group; is similar to Lithuanian, and both are regarded as being much closer to the original Indo-European language than other languages of this group.
About half the population is now ethnically Latvian, followed by a large group of ethnic Russians originally migrating here as part of a deliberate "sovietisation" push by the Russian communists. Latvian is the only official language but many residents, especially the younger ones, have English as a second language. They are all so very friendly and obliging.
Most photographs, now and in the future, will generally appear under the Riga album of our photographhs so kkeep checking this album until we leave Latvia. We are doing separate albums for tours and for the XXV Latvian Music festival, the latter will finish on the morning of 8 July.