Wednesday 30 to Thursday 31 August
Our last stop in Latvia was at Kuldīga, but we stopped en route at the seaside town of Ventspils at the mouth of the Venta River and afterwards at Liepāja for more seaside.
Ventspils boasts a Blue Flag beach. The Blue Flag is sought for beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators as an indication of their high environmental and quality standards. It is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). On research, it appears that Australia is not in the Blue Flag program although New Zealand is. The program was established by France in 1987, but Spain tops the awards with nearly 700 beaches, marinas and boats recognised. We were visiting one of Latvias 20 beaches and 3 marinas.
The beach is long, sandy and was very windy. We took a short drive around the town which has a massive port and rail yard. Tar wagons and Blue Metal appeared to be the major industries in the area.
We spent the night in the town of Kuldīga which is famous for the widest waterfall in Europe, the Ventas Rumba on the Venta River. It is 240 metres wide.
It was late in the day when we arrived, so the light was beautiful. We were struck by the lovely 17th and 18th century houses in Liepājas Street and the small Alekšupīte River, which meanders through the town, alongside buildings, creating a Venice like feeling.
The river eventually drops over a cascade and into the Venta River near the Old Arch Bridge, built in 1874 and one of longest brick bridges in Europe.
The waterfalls are a popular destination for tourists and also a favourite swimming hole for the local residents. People were crossing the river at the waterfalls and a group of young boys were testing their diving skills off the slippery rocks.
We had missed lunch, but made up for it with a pre-dinner drink beside the falls in the afternoon sun.
The museum, which was nearby had closed for the day. Legend has it that the beautiful wooden building was used as the Russia’s pavilion at the World Fair held in Paris in 1900. Afterwards it was purchased by a wealthy ship owner named Bangerts, who brought it to Kuldīga for his bride.
Near the museum is the city garden which was the site of the Livonian Order Castle.
It was a lovely town, a fitting place for our last night in Latvia.
The next morning we drove to the beach resort of Liepāja, our final stop in Latvia. We found good coffee in the centre of town, then the beach. The long, sandy and very windy beach is considered one of the country’s most beautiful. Liepāja is known throughout Latvia as “City where the wind is born”, likely because of the constant sea breeze.
A touching monument, that looks over the beach, remembers the fishermen and sailors who perished at sea with the poem:
Sing, sweet zephyr, gently, gently,
Carry not the waves ashore;
In the sea’s tender depths slumber
My dear, beloved, brothers
There is a memorial plaque that was added in 2000 dedicated to the American pilots whose aircraft was brought down by USSR Air Forces on 8 April 1950 near Liepāja.
The last few kilometres in Latvia was another slow journey through constant road works, as the Baltic countries develop with their newfound independence.
Our journey took us through small villages and crop farms. Summer is coming to an end. The storks nests that we had enjoyed watching are now empty. Crops are being mown and some fields are already turned over. Potatoes and cabbages are being hand harvested.
And the silver birches are showing a few yellow leaves.
Good bye Latvia, we have enjoyed getting to know you.