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Showing posts from August, 2020

Postcard from Jurmala

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We took the day off on Monday to visit a town not too far from us. Four years ago when we visited Jurmala, we flew in from Prague, but now it's only a 45 minute bus ride from our house.


Much smaller than Riga, Jurmala is to the west on the Baltic Sea. It's THE place to access a beach for tourists from central Latvia or even farther east. We purposely went on a gloomy Monday because we heard that the crowds were so large on the weekends.




Since it's so touristy, in many ways Jurmala reminded us of Riga with all the restaurants and souvenir vendors on the main walking boulevard. I imagine that this year is much slower with the travel ban from Russia. I know this is a favorite spot of Russian tourists in summer because it is easily accessible by train from St. Petersburg.






Since it's on the sea, we, of course, spent some time with our feet in the sand, strolling on the beach. It was interesting to see how shallow the shore was. People could walk rather far out and still be…

If the Ground Could Talk

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If the ground could talk, what tales would it have to tell us over the 819 years of life in the city of Riga. Our city is celebrating it's "birthday" this weekend, so I know exactly how many years it's been.


The interesting phenomenon about living in a city that is so old is that the ground level that was here in 1201 is now about ten feet below ground. We have seen it explained over and over again.



We ate at a medieval restaurant several months ago that was a former wine cellar. Today the restaurant is what we'd call the basement. We had to walk down several steps to get into the restaurant. We were told that the window which was high up on the wall was originally above ground. Now it isn't a window any longer because it's below the level of the street.


The building is still standing where it originally stood on top of the ground when built, but the ground around it has risen over time with all the building and moving of dirt, so now it's below grou…

Experiencing a Cold War Soviet Bunker

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Have you ever felt as if you were living in a Cold War era spy novel? We visited the perfect location for one last month during our exploration of Latvia. This location was filled with telephone and communications equipment from the 1980s.






Deep in a bunker below this building in central Latvia, we had the chance to visit the actual headquarters of the Soviet leaders during the height of the Cold War. This 2000 square foot bunker was built in case of nuclear war as a place where the USSR Latvian leaders would gather during an attack. This would enable the Soviet government of Latvia to keep functioning even if the US sent a nuclear missile in the direction of their country.





Besides the communication rooms, the bunker held everything that was needed to exist for 40 days which included beds, kitchen and dining areas, map rooms, and meeting rooms. The bunker was maintained around the clock by minimal staff monitoring phones and news feeds in preparation of an attack.






It was never actuall…

Hill of Crosses

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The country of Lithuania has an interesting place to visit near the border with Latvia. We had previously heard about this site and wanted to check it out.



It's a small hill where a Latvian fort had been built in the early 1800s. When Lithuania lost a war to the Russians, the families of the dead soldiers placed crosses on the hill near the fort. It brought comfort to the Catholic families.


From there, the tradition of believers coming to the hill to leave a memorial cross for loved ones grew. The Lithuanian people prayed for peace, for their country, and for their loved ones as they planted these crosses.


Today there are estimated to be more than 200,000 crosses of every size imaginable on the hill. Rosaries are hung by the handful on some of the crosses.


During the Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1990, this small hill drew the ire of the USSR rulers. On at least three occasions, the Soviets took bulldozers up the small hill and pushed down every single cross. They wanted to rid …