Latvia Journals

Outside Riga

Best of IgoUgo

A March 2009 trip to Latvia by michaelhudson

Daugavpils Photo, Daugavpils, Latvia More Photos
Quote: There's much more to Latvia than its capital city.

Daugavpils

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Daugavpils Photo, Daugavpils, Latvia
Quote:
From the moment you step down from the train, Daugavpils feels very much like the back end of nowhere, one of those dour, end-of-the-world places still endemic in the old Eastern Bloc. The last jumping-off point before the Belarusian border, the station building's stab at monumentalism is neutered by a departures board listing four trains a day, half of which were returning to the capital. It's Latvia's second city, though the lingua franca on the slush-bound streets was Russian (Latvian speakers make up just 17% of the population, only slightly ahead of Poles).Straight across from the station, Rigas iela begins. The town's pedestrianized main street, it has lots of attractive early-20th ...Read More

Lielvarde

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Lielvarde Photo, Latvia, Europe
Quote:
It's half past twelve and the Lielvarde train sits idling on platform six. Hawkers stand by the door speaking quickly in Russian then moving down the carriage, selling nothing. The sun beats through the dirty window, passengers step languidly across the glinting metal tracks, over the tannoy the announcer draws her vowels out until each new station begins to sound like a list of complaints.It's an hour later when we finally get to Lielvarde and the end of the line. The guidebook describes it as "the first town upstream from Riga worth spending some time in," which doesn't say much for the places I passed on the way. There were neither maps nor signposts at the station so I started walking...Read More

Kemeri

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Kemeri Photo, Latvia, Europe
Quote:
The westernmost town in Jurmala, Kemeri is an hour from Riga by electric train. After its interwar heyday as a spa resort and later use as a Soviet sanatorium, the town has been neglected since Latvia regained independence and now has a forlorn, abandoned air. The remains of the spa are a fifteen-minute walk from Kemeri station along Tukuma iela, although nowadays the prime tourist attraction is the 6,000 hectare Kemeri National Park, to the north and south of the town centre.When I think back to Kemeri, it'll be the sound of barking dogs that I hear first, as loud and constant as car horns in Beijing. What little traffic there was moved too quickly on the narrow roads. Church bells rang...Read More

Kuldiga

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Kuldiga Photo, Kuldiga, Latvia
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"If you only have time to visit one provincial town in Latvia then it really ought to be Kuldiga," advises my Rough Guide to the Baltic States. With no train link, bumpy roads and buses from Riga taking anything up to three and a half hours to make the journey, you'd need to have plenty of time on your hands to make the trip worthwhile. With a population of just over 13,000 you can easily navigate your way around all of Kuldiga's sights in a half day trip. From the bus station, a kilometre south of the town centre, follow Skrundas and Jegavas ielas until you see the whitewashed spire of the Holy Trinity Church, built in the 16th century like most of the buildings that survived t...Read More

Cesis (General)

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Cesis Photo, Cesis, Latvia
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A little under two hours east of Riga on the last trainline to Estonia, Cesis is easily manageable as a daytrip from the capital. Well-preserved and quiet, it's touted as one of the most authentically Latvian towns left after half a century of Soviet occupation, "so homely and cosy that a visit here seems like a holiday to a kind Latvian granny," if you believe Cesis's official tourist guide.No matter whether you arrive by bus or by train, you'll end up half a kilometre east of the main square, Vienības laukums (Union Square), where you'll find the town's Victory Monument, a concrete obelisk in the middle of two roads. Celebrating the 1919 Battle of Cesis, in which a combined Estonian an...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 20, 2009

Gutmanis Cave

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Gutmana Ala"

Gutmanis Cave Photo, Sigulda, Latvia
Quote:
"The biggest cave in Latvia, the oldest…the most visited…the most described". In reality Gutman’s Cave (Gutmana ala) doesn’t quite live up to all the superlatives hurled at it. A ten-minute walk across the Gauja bridge, roughly halfway between Sigulda and Turaida Castle, the cave is famous as the place where Maija, the Turaida Rose, met her death, stabbed by a jealous Polish Army deserter. The tale formed the basis of a 20th century play by Janis Rainis still studied by every Latvian child.Ten-metres high by twelve-metres wide at the entrance, the cave extends almost nineteen metres back into the sandstone rock. Shaped like the hull of an upturned rowing boat, it was named by lo...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 8, 2009

Gutmanis Cave
Gauja National Park
Sigulda, Latvia LV-2150

About the Writer

michaelhudson

michaelhudson
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom