Our Baltic Trip 2016, Part 10 - The coast, Jurmala, Karli Posted on 05 Jun 10:40 , 0 comments

Our next day was primarily a travel day. We journeyed from Talsi to our next base in Karli, within the Gauja National Park.

Foregoing the A road highway back to Riga, we followed the P128 through the countryside for the coast. Much of the way was forested along both sides of the roadway, a view familiar to us from our home in western Washington. We reached the coast south of the town of Engure. There we found that the road still ran through a forest of evergreens, about a quarter mile inland from the shore, with glimpses of the water.  Not wanting to miss the ocean entirely, we stopped at one of the many marked trails running through the woods from road to shore, and took a brief walk on the beach. It was a lovely, vast expanse of sand curving off in both directions, deserted but for one other couple visible a long way off. Ilga stopped for a quick dip in the very warm water, but the many mosquitoes living in the woods discouraged us from stopping for long.

Continuing on, we turned off the main road to cruise through Jurmala, Latvia’s major seaside resort. Its proximity to Riga makes it easily accessible for the population, but in recent years it has become a high-priced area, attracting the very wealthy from Russia, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. These newcomers build expensive houses on and near the beach, a modern version of the classic beach resorts of yore. We passed through on some of the main strips, but were not tempted to get out and look around.

We took the highway to swing around the core of Riga, and found our way to the Bivdabasmuzejs, the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia. This is a large forested park with numerous relocated and reconstructed buildings from the various regions of Latvia, illustrating the different building styles and lifestyles from around the country. We love visiting this sort of museum wherever we find them (Osaka, Japan has a particularly good one, too), and this was an excellent example of the type. The vast museum (215 acres) was started when a barn was relocated to the grounds in 1928.  The museum lost much during World War II and was actively discouraged during Soviet times. Since independence in 1991, it has become an active cultural center with 118 buildings (peasant homes, taverns, windmills, farmsteads, fisherman homes, various styles of bath houses (what we know as saunas) and many artifacts. A building was being re-constructed during our visit there, down near Juglas lake shore.

Ilga was particularly excited to talk to the woman weaving on a traditional loom in a weaver’s cottage from the Vidzeme region, and to see the spinning wheel maker’s homestead, also from Vidzeme. As we were leaving an engagement party with traditional costumes and musicians and dances was in process at the main hall. Alas, we were very absorbed in the museum and didn’t get any pictures, but you can find them readily on the internet: http://www.google.com/search?q=Brivdabas+muzejs&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiP0qbY3o7UAhVDxoMKHVbwC9IQ_AUICygC&biw=1207&bih=744 and click on images. There are a fair number of Latvian mittens displayed in the photos as well!!!

Time was running low, so we carried on to our base for the next three nights, the Karlamuiza guest house. This is situated in a 19th century building on the grounds of an old country manor, set in the midst of the Gauja National Park. The building was once used as a school for gardeners and nurserymen. Now it is a comfortable small hotel, adjacent to some of the national park trails.