Baltic Postcards – Coastal B-day tour stage 2: Liepaja

Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral Karosta

Dear Friends,

Earlier, I posted about the first leg of the Coastal Birthday Tour along the Baltic Sea Coast. Now, I’ll tell you about the second part, which led us to Liepaja. After the pancake breakfast at the Sarnate Guest House, we went on the road again. We took some sideroads to see the cliffed coast, which was really great. The sea was quite wild, hitting the shore below us with a great thundering sound. We also tried to visit Uzavas lighthouse, but the track leading there was so thickly covered in snow, that we almost got stuck with the car.

We drove further south, in the direction of Liepaja. On the way, we passed the wooden bridge over the Riva river in Jurkalne, a national monument. Even in the cold winter, the Riva river was flowing wildly under it. The bridge is impressive, and if you’re in the neighborhood, you should definitely stop and have a look at it. It’s directly next to the main road from Ventspils to Liepaja. You can’t miss it.

From Jurkalne we continued on the P111 main road in the direction of Liepaja, or stop for the night. We read about Karosta in the guide book and decided to stop there as well. Karosta is just north of Liepaja, and used to be a Soviet era naval base. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the troops were retreated to Russia, and the base abandoned. It is an impressively sad sight. Most of the navy barracks are empty and abandoned, left to the elements. Some concrete flat blocks are half empty, with some people living right next to them. And in the midst of all that, there’s the orthodox cathedral of Saint Nicholas, with its golden domes (see the picture above). A surreal experience. If you want to go further than that, you can visit Karosta prison, where it’s even possible to spend some time being treated as a prisoner of the Soviet regime.

We crossed the Karosta canal into Liepaja and drove to the Promenade hotel. E had chosen places to stay that all had a surprise. In Sarnate it was the cake and sampanietis, here it was the in-room sauna. And as an extra to the spacious room, we had a nice view of the marina part of the Tirdzniecibas kanals, the trade canal. Now, in winter, there are no yachts to be seen, but there was this beautifully rusty fishing boat right opposite to our room. After settling in, we walked around the town a bit. The city center has a real walk of fame. It seemed to be for musicians, but we didn’t know the few stars whose handprints we looked at. We also visited the market, but the wind and cold made us hurry back to the hotel to enjoy the warmth of the sauna.

For dinner, E had made reservations in the hotel restaurant, Piano. When we came in, the restaurant was empty, but still they made a fuss over the fact that we brought B, the dog. We were moved to a private room, behind a door that looked from the outside as a cupboard of some sort. It was not exactly what we had in mind, but we accepted it under protest. In my view, it was a stupid decision from the manager, because there were zero other guests in the restaurant when we arrived, and only a few when we left. Service was, despite the fact we were tucked away, great. As was the food. And then we discovered the cigar menu. Our private dining room was actually the cigar room. Combining a Cohiba with a single malt was a great final for our romantic dinner. After that, we slept like babies in our comfortable beds, and rested well for stage 3 of the Baltic Sea Coast Birthday Tour.

Warmest regards,

PS: If you’re interested, I’ve put the highlights of the tour on the Baltic Sea Coast B-Day Tour Google map.