Baltic Postcards – Coastal B-Day Tour Stage 1: Ventspils and Sarnate

Guesthouse Sarnate

Dear Friends,

On my birthday, just after waking up, E surprised me with a great present: a tour along the Baltic Sea coasts of Latvia and Lithuania. Since I was born in the coastal town of The Hague (or more precisely, Scheveningen), I love the sea and the beach. The sound of the surf, where the waters caress the land, is one of my favorite auditory pleasures. Especially in what people call off-season, when the weather is rougher, the waves wilder and the wind clears your head. Since my birthday is in winter, it was a perfectly planned trip.

The first stage meant driving to the port-city Ventspils. We had heard many things about it, mainly good things. Many people find it a lovely town, well kept and very pleasant to visit. A guy who lives there told us there is actually not that much to do. Apart from these opinions, Ventspils is the most important port of the Baltics, ice-free year round and has the capacity for transshipping all types of goods, from oil to juice, with dry goods (my guess is mainly wood and coal) in between.

Seeing the port, so close to the city center, is impressive. It’s not Rotterdam, but still. But the rest of the town is actually a bit boring. Sure, there are a few nice buildings, a great looking beach south of the port and a nice collection of cow statues, but there are only a handful of places where you can have a drink or eat something and not many people in the streets. The Old Town covers only a very small area; outside of that, the town is greyish. And it doesn’t even look that well kept and clean. It might have been because of the cold winter day, but still.

After taking in the sights of Ventspils, we drove on southwards to the guest house we were staying in. Now that was a great experience. At the end of a road leading off the main road from Ventspils to Liepaja, we found a little paradise in the Sarnate guest house. The main building has a bar, a big room with a fireplace (for breakfast, dinner, lounging and parties) and 7 guest rooms. We were welcomed by Janis, the super friendly manager of the place, and directed to the bridal suite. On the terrain there is a pond with a sauna house next to it, and a rabbit run. But be careful if you bring your dog. One of the rabbits once went into a shock when a dog jumped in the run, and played dead for some minutes. If you keep your dog from shocking the rabbits, he’s more than welcome to stay and run around.

We had a great night, with a surprise birthday cake and Rigas Sampanietis after the made to order dinner and a wonderful pancake breakfast, before going on the road again to Liepaja. The Sarnate guest house is definitely worth a stay if you’re in the neighborhood.

That’s it for now; I’ll tell you about Liepaja another time.

Warm wishes from a still very wintery (-15 degrees at the end of February!) Riga,

Baltic Postcards – Autumn is taking over

Autumn In Kronvalda Parks

Dear friends,

After an extremely cold winter, followed by an extremely hot summer, autumn is now slowly taking control of Riga. The temperature is dropping, and we had quite some rain (even though we did not fully notice that, since we have been out of the countries for most of it until now). But on the nice days, you can really see the beauty of autumn right here in the park. The changing colours of the trees, the fallen leafs and the locals collecting chestnuts and acorns from the ground. Riga is showing us another facet of life here, and now that the heating in the building is switched on again, we like it.

For the rest, all is well.

All the best,

Baltic Postcards – Galerija Istaba

Live Music in Galerija Istaba

Dear All,

The weather in Riga has been great the last week, even though it is raining now. And next to that, we had two visits of friends. It is nice to show our guests around the Riga we know it, and to share what have become great candidates for favorite places – the beach in Jurmala, the view from the Skyline bar, Kronvalda Parks etcetera.

And of course, having people over is a good opportunity to drive/walk around and discover new places of interest. That is how we got to have dinner at Galerija Istaba a few weeks back. This weekend, we visited it again and we like it even more. It’s a restaurant with only a few tables, above a shop where you can buy cool things. The shop closes at the end of the day, but the restaurant part still gives you a good view of it. As a starter you get a ultra fresh salad, with bread and some spreads. For mains, you can choose between different types of meat or fish. I ordered the lamb, while the rest of our party of three had the gambas. There is no menu, and you have no say about how your food is prepared. But when you get it, you know it is only for the better. It all is excellent. Plus, we were extra lucky this visit. In the shop area below, there seemed to be a party of sorts going on, with great live music – jazzy with a parisian tone. It was a great evening and Istaba is really hard on it’s way of becoming our favourite restaurant in town.

Cheers from Riga,