7.21.17: Beach Baby

The bike ride from Riga to Jūrmala is filled with all kinds of visual delights: trees decorated with red and white ribbons, berry pickers, severed heads, yarn bombs, old wooden holiday houses, gardens in full bloom, tranquil green forests… And then… the beach! “The Baltic’s version of the French Riviera,” back in the Communist era Jūrmula was a favorite holiday hangout of Soviet bigwigs including Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Khrushchev. Today it’s in full-on summertime mode with all kinds of folks frolicking in the (chilly!) ocean, playing soccer, suntanning,  building sand castles, pushing baby carriages, eating ice cream and jumping around in giant bouncy castles. Paradise!

7.20.17: Is It ART?

SWS:Riga editing is finished (good work, Aigars!) and now it’s time to check out some things on our Riga list. At the Art Academy, faculty carry bouquets of flowers for their name day while students silently making drawings for their entrance exam. At the Latgales Tirgus flea market, I forego the piles of rusty tools in favor of a few fabulous photographs. At the Academy of Sciences (aka Stalin’s Birthday Cake), we dine on cold beet soup in the Soviet-style cafeteria before ascending to the 17th floor for a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. A kiss,of course at the Laima Clock, the preferred Riga meeting point for friends and lovers since 1924 when it was “erected by social democrats…so people wouldn’t be late for work.” Very special tours of the Latvian Artists Union Museum and the Riga Porcelain Museum where we learn about Soviet ceramics, The Trespassers and my new favorite artist Aija Zarina  – thank you, Iliana Veinberga! And finally, a glorious ride to the end of the world where we watch an apocalyptic sunset with the punks on the pier and enjoy Imaginary Latvian Summer an outdoor screening of terrific short films curated by our BAL pal Ildze Felsberga.  This is Kate and Abby’s last day in Latvia… We raise a toast of beer and chocolate to one amazing week!

7.15.17: Down By The River Side

It’s the weekend, our friends Kate and Abby are here from California, and it’s time to hit the road for a mini-getaway to Cēsis for the opening night of their summer arts festival! Cēsis — “one of the few towns you can experience the true spirit of Latvia” according to the someone at the Latvian tourist board — is known for its medieval castle but it’s also situated beside the Gauja River, the only major river in the country that begins and ends in Latvia. Our friend and SWS: Riga participant Jānis Putniņš has curated a beautiful program of river films beginning with tonight’s perfect offering, the 1934 documentary Gauja directed by Kristaps Linde. A walk through the woods and down the hill to the sandy shore, a trip on a makeshift ferry across the calm waters (complete with a rare beaver spotting!), a xylophone concert, a shot of black balsam and finally the charming film projected on floating screen. At midnight, sky glowing deep blue, it’s back to the city and our beds overlooking a deserted town square… We are living a cinematic dream…