View of the beach from lunch
If yesterday was an intense day — arriving in Riga, running into the presidents of Latvia and Germany, discovering the massive parade of Latvians in national costume for the Latvian Song and Dance Celebration, and touring the incredibly moving Museum of Occupation — then today was the perfect antidote: a beach day! In fact, it was the first beach day we’ve spent since leaving the U.S. in May.
Vitello tonnato and pinot grigio
We hopped on the train for a 30-minute ride to Jūrmala, the nation’s premiere beach destination. We spent plenty of time soaking up the sun. OK, that was mostly Jim; I spent more time soaking up shade. We had a wonderful lunch at an Italian place overlooking the beach. And we took our first swim in the Baltic Sea. The water was pleasantly cool (warmer than I expected), though it had quite an iron-colored tinge to it. It was quite shallow. And it undoubtedly the least salty salt water I’ve ever been in. It was in some ways like swimming in Lake Superior or Lake Erie, so we felt at home that way.
Our beautiful Jugendstil style hotel in the heart of the old town
The town of Jūrmala was really lovely, a place we could enjoy staying in for days. But we’re going to save that for later in the summer when we get to Mediterranean beaches in Croatia. So after a super relaxing day we headed back to our beautiful hotel in Riga. It’s a stunningly renovated building from the Art Nouveau period. Riga is famous for its abundance of buildings in this style, which they call Jugendstil, as do the Germans.
On the subject of the arts, late last night we caught the tail end of the incredible week-long Latvian Song and Dance Celebration, which takes place here every 5 years (and which Jim wrote about yesterday). The final day culminates in a huge evening concert, followed by an “All Night Sing-a-long” from 11 pm to 4 am (on a Sunday night, mind you).
We weren’t at the actual stage where the event takes place. We’d just finished dinner a little before 11 and were walking through Cathedral Square in town where lots of people were watching on a huge video screen. The evening concert itself was just winding down, as the 40,000 participants in their local native costumes — 2% of the national population! — began to fill in a huge space behind the concert stage for the sing-a-long.
Then the entire ensemble began to sing beautiful, almost haunting, traditional songs. We sat on the cobblestones in the square, mesmerized by something unlike anything we’ve seen before. The crowd all around us was incredibly reverent. I’ll admit, we only stayed until midnight or so, but I’m sure many people remained glued to this incredible performance until the wee hours.