Friday May 16th ~ En route to Riga, Latvia
The majority of the day is spent on our bus traveling from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Latvia. Our seat assignment is front row, right behind the driver. Gate 1 has a mandatory seat rotation so that every day you have a different location on the bus. The seat assignment policy is quite controversial with some of our traveling companions.
We seem to have a good-natured group, and once again they are courteous and on time. It really does make a difference when we are not having to wait for one or two people who are consistent stragglers.
We met a couple (Jack and Joy) that had lived in Guatemala. They know some of the same people who we have worked with in the past down there including Sue Patterson (Behrhorst and Wings) and Penny Rambacher (Miracles in Action). How amazing is that – to travel half-way around the world and meet people who have mutual friends in a third country.
Agnes, our guide, uses our travel time to educate us on more of the Baltic history, moving on down into Latvia.
- The capital is Riga
- This is called the “Amber Route”
- The Vikings were the primary inhabitant during the 8-11th century
- During most of the 13-20th century Latvia was under German occupancy
- Mixed in with this there were periods where other countries took control including:
- The Poles during the 16th century
- The Swedish in the 2nd half of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century
- From 1918-1920 Latvia enjoyed two years of freedom
- There was a secret European protocol between Stalin and Hitler that divided Europe between Russia and Germany (1939)
- Russia and Germany both traded occupancy from 1920-1940 where Russia once again took over and they became part of the Soviet Union for the next 50 years.
- Latvia finally regained their independence in 1991
- Today they are a member of both NATO and the EU
We also got to watch part of the movie “The Singing Revolution” that I wrote about yesterday. The movie is moving and a powerful testament to how strong and determined these beautiful people were to survive the many brutalities and inhumanities that were forced upon them.
Please do a Goggle search to find out more about the “Singing Revolution”. There are several excellent articles as well as numerous clips both from the documentary movie or other educational projects.
I understand why the citizens of Estonia and Latvia are concerned at what is occurring now in the Ukraine and why they are keeping a watchful eye.
To change to a lighter subject…
As a treat, we got an unscheduled stop so that we could walk down to the Baltic Sea.
Karen and a few others bravely waded into the brisk water. Tim and I kept our shoes firmly on our feet, but it was fun to walk along the sandy shoreline.
Arriving in Riga in the middle of the afternoon, we checked into our home for the next two nights, the Radisson Blu.
After a short rest, we followed Agnes on a brief walking orientation tour toward the entrance of the Old Town of Riga. This is once again a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. We will have a more in-depth tour tomorrow. Today was just a tease!
We did visit the Freedom Monument, passed through a romantic park where we happened upon two separate wedding parties, walked over another “lock” bridge and checked out a golden domed church before making our way back to our hotel.
The bride and groom were performing some rituals with two men that appeared to be chimney sweeps. I am curious about this and will have to ask Agnes if this is a local tradition.
A local professor gave us an hour lecture on the Baltic’s, followed by a question and answer period at the hotel. She discussed religion, education, healthcare, politics, housing, income and the economy openly and frankly with us. One final event was an included dinner a short walk from the hotel, then back “home” for the evening.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for meeting people from other cities, countries and cultures and finding out just how much we have in common. For some, life is a struggle to survive, to get by, to endure. For others, life is an adventure, travel exciting, making the most of an opportunity. Yet each person wants the same thing; to be heard, respected and appreciated, to be free, to be healthy, to love and be loved, to be safe, to live without fear, to live a life that has meaning.