After leaving Estonia where I had stayed in two major cities (Tallinn and Tartu), I wanted to stay somewhere close to nature. I decided to travel to Valmiera, a town with 25000 residents that lies close to Gauja National Park.
My start in Latvia was easy: I only wrote to a couple of couchsurfers and three answered immediately, inviting me to their homes. It was the first time that I had a choice of hosts and decided for a family that lived a few kilometres away from town. Actually, they lived in the middle of nowhere and I was lucky that the bus driver stopped and let me off the bus although it was no regular bus station. I was awaited by the family’s mum who had a very comforting calm attitude, no matter if she was talking to her boys, preparing dinner or when showing me around. I felt very much at home and enjoyed spending some time away from cities.
After seeing Valmiera the next day, I knew that I just had to stay a bit longer. There was something that I liked a lot about this town, maybe it was the people’s friendliness or the beautiful nature, probably both. I was lucky that one of the other hosts that had answered my couchsurfing request was still up to host me. Before meeting in the evening, I rented a bike and took a tour in the surrounding woods.
I felt free. Being completely with myself and not seeing a single soul for several hours was one of the many highlights of my journey through the Baltics. My host and I left Valmiera the next day as we both wanted to go to Riga but I think I will always have a soft spot for this beautiful town and the nice people who live there.
Riga started with an adventure: my host and I decided to hitchhike which was more than easy compared to my failed attempt in Estonia. It only took two minutes for a woman to stop for us. She was quite a character, talking about life goals and how to reach them. It was fun listening to her and time passed quickly.
Although my host and I could not stay at the same place in Riga, we still kept in touch for going out later and having a tour around the city. I had heard a lot of Riga, that it was a tourist’s dream and often the favourite among the Baltic capital cities.
While I enjoyed my walk through the city centre with all the Hanseatic buildings and shopping opportunities, I must admit that I wanted to escape to other parts of the town after just a couple of hours. Maybe I was not in the mood but the city centre did not move me as much as I wished it would. I guess I was still in the calm and relaxed Valmiera mood and headed to the embassy district of Riga. My Riga host had recommended me going there and it was not his last good recommendation but read on.
Now, I am not sure if this district is really called the “embassy district”, my host called it like that because there are a lot of embassies (if in any doubt, go to the Russian embassy and from there, discover the streets close to it). The district is home to some of the most beautiful art nouveau houses, most of them probably from the late 19th century.
We went out later that night and when it comes to bars, Riga really has a lot to offer! 🙂
The next day, I thought it was about time to move on to Lithuania but both hosts (yes, the one from Valmiera and the one from Riga) said I should stay longer in Latvia. The Riga host recommended to go to Liepaja at the coast and pass by the little town Kuldiga on the way. Kuldiga would be the example of a Latvian town and hearing this, I soon found myself on a bus to Kuldiga where I would have a 3 hours stay before going on to Liepaja.
Kuldiga is an ancient town with a population of about 12000 people. It has the widest waterfall ledge in Europe and when I say ledge, I really mean it. My guess is that it is not higher than 1 1/2 metres but its 270 metres width is definitely something.
Was it worth the visit? Absolutely! During the whole time in Latvia I noticed a need for tranquility and some sort of seclusion and Kuldiga offered exactly this. I felt at peace and ready to bring my stay in Latvia to an end.
I only stayed one night in Liepaja before going on to Lithuania, leaving behind this mesmerising country that had given me many fun and pleasantly quiet moments.
Have you been to Latvia? How did you like it, where did you go or where would you like to go?