Monthly Archives: March 2013

Pedvale Sculpture Park, Sabile, Latvia

Last Thursday, we visited the open-air sculpture museum at Pedvale near Sabile in western Latvia. The morning began with wildlife. On the 1.5 mile walk from the village to the museum a deer crossed the road in front of us and then within minutes of starting to walk around the park, we saw a bullfinch and two different kinds of woodpecker!




I don’t think that they’ve had many (any?) visitors over the winter as the man who runs it seemed slightly flustered to see us and forgot to charge us the entry fee.


The museum is run by Ojars Feldbergs, a Latvian artist, and the permanent collection consists of around 100 sculptures placed over 100 hectares of land. Most of the sculptures are made from natural materials (stone, wood, etc.) but some are made from reclaimed/recycled material. Our favourite was “MUNAMUNA” by Villu Jaanisoo, made from old TV screens.



Another favourite of ours was “Washday” by Liga Zimante. Situated by a stream, it made us smile.


Here are some of the others.

20130331-083629.jpg“The Path” by Karlis Alainis

20130331-083653.jpg“Butterfly” by Karlis Alainis

20130331-083709.jpg“Pedvale Totem No. 14” by Kardo Kosta

20130331-083726.jpg“The Makeover” by Liga Zimante

20130331-083745.jpg“The Sky Chair” by Villu Jaanisoo

For most of the way, the paths were hidden under snow and in some places it was ankle deep…


We were fortunate to have gorgeous weather on that day. In fact it was so sunny that we both got some colour on our faces. One thing we weren’t expecting to get in Latvia was a tan :)

Hostel Hospital, Sabile, Latvia

We thought it worthy of a post of its own, this quirky hostel in the Abava valley, 2 hours west of Riga, Latvia.


As its name suggests, it’s a former working hospital. Your first thought is likely as ours – “cool, I wonder if we’ll be able to make out any of the hospital’s original features?”

No problem there – the building looks to have about 8 working bedrooms as of our visit, and is still in the process of being converted into a hostel. All the facilities are done, but you cannot escape the thought that not so long ago this was an abandoned or mothballed hospital. And that thought, especially as Julie and I were the only guests, gave this place a very spooky air..


The main kitchen was obviously the old operating theatre, with its tiled floor, drain holes, electrical cabling coming up through the floor and chains hanging from the ceiling.
The TV room has some heavy duty black-out blinds, and old eye chart (is your Cyrillic alphabet better with your left eye or your right eye?), and there’s a really old velour-covered electric wheelchair. Sadly, the batteries are dead – I wondered what the horn sounded like!

Indeed, there are left-over bits of hospital furniture everywhere we looked: a couple of old wheeled beds, trolleys that would have been used in operations for laying out surgeons implements, and old sinks in almost every room.

I haven’t been able to find out what kind of hospital it was, and perhaps that’s for the best – for the sake of a good nights sleep, we liked to think it was a nice hospital where minor injuries were quickly mended, rather than ‘The Shining’ meets ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.

Riga, Latvia

So, when people say “it’s Baltic” they mean that it’s cold, and in our experience Riga is Baltic in all senses of the word. Actually, it’s been a little warmer the last couple of days – up to about -2 degrees…

What have we been up to in our first week of freedom? After an evening in London and a yummy curry with Jo, we flew to Riga where we’ve been staying for a week on the top floor of a Soviet apartment block with a lady called Anna.


It’s a short walk from the historic centre of Riga which is situated between the River Daugava (frozen!) and a narrow but pretty park around the City Canal (also frozen). The streets are cobbled and a lot of the buildings are historic – a bit like York really.


On our first day we climbed to the top of St Jacob’s church tower for a view over the city.



And spent sometime warming up in the peaceful interior where there’s a huge seven armed candlestick.



Riga also has a fantastic covered market situated in what used to be old zeppelin hangars. One hall each for fishmongers, fruit and veg, cheese and bakeries, butchers and general grocers. We spent ages wandering around and then did some shopping for our dinner – smoked fish (something like a giant kipper), baked potatoes and a couple of types of pickled cabbage from the many on offer.





The newer part of Riga is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture – in fact it has more Art Nouveau buildings than any other city in Europe. There is a walking tour of some of the best examples in our Lonely Planet guidebook which we decided to do.



Halfway round we passed the beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedral. No photos allowed inside, but it is just as impressive as the outside with lots of gilt and brightly painted walls.



By the end of the tour we were ready to reward ourselves with hot chocolate :)

…before visiting the Museum of Occupation which tells the history of Latvia’s occupation by the Soviet Union from 1940-41, then by Nazi Germany for the remainder of WW2, and again by the Soviet Union until their independence in 1991.

On Sunday we decided to take the train to the coast – Jurmala is Latvia’s premier seaside resort. We managed to buy our train tickets with no problem and eventually found the platform after getting slightly lost in the shopping centre which is attached to the station. We wandered through the town and a lovely park with board walk paths and a viewing tower.

Andrew wasn’t too keen on the open metalwork steps and flooring but the view made up for it.



Next we headed to the beach for a walk along the sand…

But the beach was covered with snow and the sea was frozen! Still there were a lot of families out for a Sunday walk and even skating further out. We walked out over the sea. It seemed to be frozen for miles.


Yesterday we took another day trip, this time by bus to Latvia’s Open-Air Ethnographic museum. This is a collection of old wooden buildings from different parts of the country preserved here to show visitors what life was like in the past. The buildings have been reconstructed in a pine forest by a lake and were very pretty in the snow.




Some of them were open and had rooms set up and staff to explain what life was like. I suspect that even more are open during the summer months.



As well as houses and farm buildings, there were churches and windmills too.




This one was my favourite :)


As we knew we would be out in the cold all day we’d decided not to take our own sandwiches for lunch but to eat at the on site inn. This would have been an excellent plan except that with so few visitors in the winter the inn wasn’t open (the advantage for us being that it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves). So we got the bus back into the city, cold and hungry. Fortunately, we had already seen a restaurant selling just what we needed: bacon and bean soup served in a bread bowl. Perfect!


Tomorrow we’re venturing out to the Latvian countryside for a few days.

It begins!

We left our jobs a mere fortnight ago with dreams of leisurely wake ups, our mornings would consist of sorting and packing, our afternoons spent writing, and fun-filled evenings of ‘last suppers’ with friends and family.

Oh, how wrong we were.

While it feels like months since we left work, it also feels like the time has flown by because we haven’t stopped since we left – we quickly realised how much of a mammoth task it is packing our lives into boxes. It’s been a long, tiring, and emotional couple of weeks and we’ll be telling you a little bit more about it once we’ve gathered our thoughts (I’m sure they’re in a box here somewhere), and caught up on our sleep!