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Report 1962: Poland and the Baltics--Finding Roots

By Sharonov from Illinois, Summer 2011

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Page 6 of 9: Latvia

Our first stop in Latvia was Rundele Palace and Park, which was built in the 18th century for Baron Ernst Johann von Buhren. The architect was Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also designed the Winter Palace in St Petersburg! It's a huge (138 rooms), beautiful, restored building with 40 rooms open to the public. Well worth the visit. The gardens are also very expansive and very beautiful.

On to Riga. Our hotel was more modern, and had something that all of our hotels have had -- a free computer in the lobby! This is great for those of us who don't like to carry laptops everywhere or pay the outrageous roaming charges to our iPhone providers! We had a wonderful, large room at the Domina Inn -- too bad the water came out orange and even with clumps of dirt sometimes. Our friends had much smaller rooms, but their water was always clean. Oh well, we bought bottled water anyway, and loved the space.

Here's a good part of the group tour -- they provided an architectural guide that we never would have thought to find on our own. Marta was wonderful, and pointed out buildings that are unique and magnificent, some of which were designed by Eisenstein -- father of the film director!

Riga's Old Town is lovely, with a huge market in the center. Not as good as Krakow's, but still pretty nice. We were on our own for dinner and chose a pizza place! Well, how many cutlets with sauerkraut and potatoes can a person eat?

We had another lecturer, from the university, who told us that Latvians tend to be very passive. The reason is that they were ruled by outsiders for as long as anyone can remember: the Danes, Germans, Lithuanians, Germans again, and of course the Soviet Union. Native Latvians were the peasants, working the land and doing what their overlords told them to do in order to keep their lands and their lives.

Only three nights in Latvia. Now it's on to Estonia. On the way we stopped at a 12th century castle in Cesis. It was raining and cold, so we didn't walk around it as much as we would have on a nicer day. But this particular castle isn't restored, which I always find more interesting.

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