Alexey Moskvin

Baltic Exchange and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘latvia

Liepāja to Jūrmala

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Dragging all this out of my memory is more fun than taking it out in one piece. Use it straight away and you get a brand new, shiny, sterile story… Leave it in there and it will mature, get covered in moss, crack and the cracks will get filled with other memories and influences. Try to untangle that and you’ll have a fuller, rounder memory. The crust of ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ gets softer so one can break through to see what’s inside…

In the morning I collect the bike from the car park. Antoha, the guard talks to me about his life and… well, he had a fight with someone, after which the guy ‘got a little bit dead’, so Antoha spent the last 5 years in jail. But now he’s on the right track again. ‘Let me help you’, he says and wipes the dirt off my number plate and lights, ‘you never know with police’.

Dace’s gift is a light grey rock with a hole in it. She found it on the beach and those are hard to find.

Liepaja reminded me of Rostock. Different to put one’s finger on it but it does have a similar feel to it. Or, maybe, it’s just me being able to connect to it in a different manner than to other places.

The abandoned, falling apart buildings on the sea shore. They were left from the soviet times and the sea was slowly claiming the land back, just as it happened in Kolobrzeg. Gordon Matta-Clark would’ve had an orgasmic fit if he saw those. The boy sitting on one of the pieces, drawing something. He lifted his head when he noticed me but only for a couple of seconds. Staircases, gaps of windows, bricks and concrete, straight lines and curved ones, the sea is digesting it all. It will take a while before everything will turn into a selection of rocks similar to the one that Dace gave me but they are well on the way.

I stop in Ventspills for lunch and walk the streets until I find a bakery. The road after is long and very straight… until it turns into no road at all. Roadworks seem to be taking over most of the way along the coast and I’m slowing down. Sand and gravel. In the evening I noticed that a stone chipped my helmet, right above the visor. I did remember a knock but didn’t think it was that bad.

Kolka is worth all the non-roads. The spit of land, where the waves from the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic sea meet, creating a line and I’m thinking of the Turtle beach in Dalaman, Turkey. Some bricks are piled up on the shore but otherwise it’s only dead trees and gorgeous sand. A small cafe surrounded by pine trees where I managed to get a coffee just before the lady called it a day. Earlier, because of the wind and lack of customers. ‘No wonder’, I say, ‘The road is completely taken apart almost all the way from Ventspills’. Lunch is on the shore, watching a couple of people wandering about… After them there’s no one else around.

When I get to Jurmala, the sun is setting and covering the tall pine trees in orange light.
Anita says that most of famous musicians came from Liepaja – she likes that town too. She has a great sense of colour and interior design. Nearly everything in Anita’s kitchen is pale green and orange. I am offered a massive room on the second floor, it’s in blue tones.

After a lovely dinner of potatoes, pork and sauerkraut I’m off for an hour to wander the streets of Jurmala. Or a street rather – the excitement is the pedestrian street with everything included. It’s totally empty because it’s Monday.

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Written by Alexey Moskvin

29 May 2011 at 07:37

Kaliningrad to Liepaja

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‘There’s no hot water on Mondays,’ says Dace, ‘You better take a shower today.’ She has a beautifully done up flat in a 9 story soviet estate, the staircase reminds me of my childhood. The elevator squeaks and shudders as we get to our floor, the light is yellow and dim. I got to Liepaja quite late – rain and the Lithuanian border and the ferry in Klaipeda slowed me down quite a lot.

Tanya’s gift was a ‘The Simpsons’ poster. Vadim is very much into them, socks and all. I gratefully accept and set off for Liepaja after breakfast.

My way goes through Kurshskaya kosa (Curonian Spit), that narrow bit of land that goes between the lagoon and the sea and it’s a natural reserve.

Quiet road. Another rainy and miserable day. The rain isn’t strong but it’s the one that just runs along with you, all the way. Probably, just as annoying as ‘are we there yet?’.

The sea shore is almost as melancholic as the weather, it’s difficult to imagine it with a blue sky and warm sea. I finally find a coffee sign and stop. This is Efa heights, with two viewing platforms overseeing the dunes and the lagoon side of the spit.

This is where Kin-Dza-Dza was filmed, an iconic Soviet movie, we grew up with it.

Dima, Yulya and Sasha at the Efa heights. We have a nice chat about everything. I leave a few coins as souvenirs and Yulya adds me as a friend on Vkontakte, I promise to confirm when I get to wi-fi.

Borders with Lithuania. I have to pay for entering the Lithuanian bit of the Curonian Spit. ‘Why’ I say ‘I’ve just been through a half of it already and didn’t pay there. How much?’ ‘200 roubles’ ‘I’m on a motorbike and I’m not sure how many roubles I’ve got left’ ‘Ok, a hundred’ she smiles and teaches me how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘bye’ in Lithuanian.

I carry on and so does the rain. Eventually, I stop at some petrol station to put some more clothes on because it’s getting pretty unbearable. Some miles down the road the wet misery is taking over again and I give up, deciding to stop anywhere I can to have dinner and get warm. And I am so happy to see a guest house by the road. Birutes Uostas, between Sventoji and Latvian border. A couple of people standing outside, smoking, they look like they are working here. I try Russian ‘Can I get some dinner here?’ ‘Sure, we’ll cook whatever you want for you – meat, fish?’ ‘I don’t know, what can you make?’ ‘Tell you what – we have a beautiful cod, was caught today. The whole fish, we’ll do it for you – go inside’. I walk up a few stairs, Igor, the owner, meets me at the entrance and showing to a table. ‘I’m all wet’ I say, pointing at the water dripping all over their carpets and feeling apologetic. ‘It’s ok, it’s only water’ ‘I think I’ve just spoken to your cook – she recommended cod. I’d love some tea to warm up first too’. So I’m sitting there feeling mellow, sipping tea and waiting for the promised cod. Which looks awesome when it arrives. I leave after about half an hour, shake hands with Igor and apologise again about the wet sofa. He tells me about the area, how special the landscape is and that he was sailing for 27 years before he decided to build his own ship – that guest house.

Border with Latvia is nothing but potholes and an abandoned post. But the road afterwards is ok.
The guy at the car park, his granddaughter is studying in London. He calls his wife trying to find out where but I don’t know the name of the street he tells me.

The empty, almost abandoned city, traffic lights flashing, almost no people or traffic, the sun is almost set. The fog is descending and happens often, says Dace. She is a prominent art savvy and is organising a music event for the end of August. She also tells me about the Latvian version of Glastonbury, for which people flood the town, putting up their tents where ever they can. Locals get amused, especially in the mornings.

From my window I can see the block opposite. Window lights scattered across the building. The halo. The fog.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

26 May 2011 at 00:12