Friday, August 21, 2015

A day in the Vidzeme countryside

Once you’re out of Rīga, the town of Limbaži isn’t far. I only knew it as the place puiši, puiši, kas tie puiši stopped to roast the pig they had stolen in Valmiera (according to the popular folk song of the same name), but the quiet little hamlet has a long and storied past. With roots in the 1200s the city had its heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries, but today it is just another one of the mazpilsētas in northern Vidzeme. The location on the shores of the river Svētupe and the lake Limbažu Lielezers tempted us to make a stop to explore, but we were headed a little further north and so left the investigation of Limbaži to another visit. I was disappointed to miss seeing the 12th century castle ruins, but upon reaching the destination homestead I forgot all about it – especially as our relatives had their own ruins on the property!

What was previously a mill has found a new life in generating hydroelectric power. A home, a garden, black current fields, orchards and the afore-mentioned ruins, it was amazing! With all the work associated with the crops I can hardly understand where they find the time for the extensive gardens, which were beautifully designed and well-tended. This is a trend I saw oft-repeated during our travels in the Latvian countryside; flower gardens are a saimnieces pride, and each one is more ornate than the next...

It didn’t take much urging for the boys to start taste-testing. Despite every third berry ending up in the stomach instead of the bucket it wasn’t long before they had picked full pails of black & red currants. I was recruited to help with the cherry picking, as the loaded branches were out of reach without a little assistance. But the temptation of exploring beckoned, and soon we were headed further afield.

The ruins were of an old muiža. Overgrown with brambles and stinging nettle, we admired from a distance. The former vegetable cellar was more accessible, but even I didn’t dare to enter far without a flashlight to guide me.

Upon our return a feast was laid out, complete with homemade skābie gurķi, tea brewed from fresh-picked flowers and local beer. But it wasn’t long afterwards that we headed out again, the lure of such beautiful environs too much too resist. On this trip we were caught by afternoon showers, the giant raindrops chasing us back to the farmhouse, but not before we had seen the main fields, black currant bushes stretching as far as the eye can see.

As beautiful and full of old-world charm as Rīga can be, it is still the Latvian countryside that I would choose to spend my time in. Netrūkst maizes arājami, ne ūdeņa avotam. Visiem labi, visiem labi manā tēva zemītē.


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