Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The twelve days of Latvija: Day 5, šopingošana

Have you heard the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the town musicians of Bremen?

One very tattered, loved copy of Mana gudrā grāmata has travelled with us to Rīga, where the endless demands for naming the various fruits, vegetables, transporta līdzekļi and parts of the body pictured has caused the book to finally fall apart. In search for a new copy (as well as for several other books that have found their way onto our list) we headed to the bookstore and emerged not even a 30 minutes later arms laden with books. Of course Latvian books are available in the US, but the selection and prices are much better here and so it was in search of a few elusive titles that we headed back towards Vecrīga.

On our way we stopped in Vērmaņa dārzs where over the course of a day the Dziesmu Svētku tirdziņš had been set up. The fair is an integral part of the song festival; not only can one buy festival related music, DVDs, song books and other choral/dance related objects, but the whole spectrum of Latvian cultural and modern products are represented. Pottery, hand-carved wooden products, woven and linen traditional clothing, books, tourist stuff... The tautas tērpu luck was with me, as I was able to find the correct blouse and josta to go with my traditional folk costume skirt. The costumes range widely in color and design based on region, and so it wasn’t just any shirt I was after – the Suntažu skirt is worn only with the western Vidzemes blouse and belt. After coming up empty handed in our search the first day in Rīga as well as during our stay in Cēsis, I was very happy to find the needed parts to complete my set. The Latvian folk costume is an extremely beautiful but complicated subject, I will hopefully someday be able to go into more detail.

The loom my new josta was woven on
The boys used up some of their energy in the playground before we left for lunch. One of my favorite things about the Latvian Song Festival is how Latvians from all over the world have descended upon Rīga, which means you can’t go far without bumping into people you know – as was the case all morning and afternoon. Even our lunch spot, secluded as it felt, found more familiar faces and kind smiles. Stomachs filled we ventured into yet another bookstore to cross off the last item from our literary wish list, and then we turned the stroller back towards home.

It turns out my son is a big fan of aukstā biešu zupa- just like his father!

The National Opera was a great place to stop on our way, to soak in the view, people watch, and let Lauris explore while I helped Mikus embrace naptime. We celebrated the marriage of our good friends in the new section of the Latvian National Opera (LNO) some years ago, and I was able to see that the inside is really as impressive as the exterior. The building celebrates its 150th anniversary this year only slightly changed from the building that was completed in 1863; various renovations to modernize the lighting and ventilation have been completed over the years, and the new annex was added in 2001. The Latvian National Opera House is home to both the Latvian National Opera and the Latvian National Ballet, and during opera season the LNO performs more than 200 performances.

We were in a hurry to return home because we had an important dinner date to keep; Roberts is a speaker and member of the 1st ever Pasaules Latviešu Ekonomikas un Inovāciju Forums (World Latvian Economic and Innovation Forum). I’ll be reporting more on PLEIF tomorrow, but this particular evening we were headed for the Latvian biedrības nams for a dinner with speaker Valdis Dombrovskis, Prime Minister of Latvia. The affair was catered by Kaļķu Vārti, and between the very engaging speech, the “butter-fried sea bass fillet with celeriac, yellow wax beans and cauliflower purée” and the uninterrupted conversation with adults (that didn’t center around diapers and bedtime routines) I emerged refreshed and rejuvenated. I can’t wait to participate in a portion of tomorrow’s forum…

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