Kuldiga, aka, The Town with the Venta Rapid, Wonderful Doors, and Many Cats

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Now, y’all, I did not choose a beautiful time to visit Latvia – late March to early April. Latvia is somewhat temperate, but winter is really long. On the last few days of my visit, I saw a few patches of grass turning green, some crocuses were starting to poke their heads out from the ground, and some ever-hopeful Latvians had freshly potted pansies decorating their doorsteps.

Nevertheless, most of the country was brown and damp for the entire visit. So please keep that in mind as you see these pictures, and try to imagine it in colors other than blue and brown! 🙂 Hopefully, we will go back this summer and revisit the area in warm weather.

One night, M went out to run an errand and texted me as he walked – “I thought of a place where we can go. Kuldiga. It’s really cool place. We can maybe go there now?” Since it was dark and cold at the time, I suggested we might go the next day, and he agreed that would work just fine.

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Once again, you’ll have to forgive my extremely blurry photos – be sure you click through to the various links in this post for some clearer pictures. The camera on my Latvian phone leaves so much to be desired, but at least I have something. 🙂

So the next day, we went to Kuldiga, home to Europe’s widest waterfall. Now, in typical Latvian fashion, although it is the widest, it’s almost comically short. It’s maybe a 3 or 4 foot drop from the top of the waterfall to the bottom.

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Photo by M, featuring his hand for some reason 🙂

In typical M fashion 🙂 we went off the beaten path. The thing about M is that he is an excellent tour guide, especially if you want to see the real Latvia, the place he has lived in and loved his whole life. He rides the bus and walks everywhere, just to see what he can find next. As I mentioned before, his sense of direction is ridiculously good and we didn’t get lost even one time. So when we went to Kuldiga, he just directed me down a path that I seriously didn’t even believe people could drive down (but they did – I saw more cars at the end), and parked us close to the waterfall.

This means that we didn’t ever do any of the touristy stuff. We just came, explored the waterfall, and then walked around the old part of town. There used to be a castle there, but it has long since been destroyed. Even so, parts of the castle were used to build the town, which leads me to how cool the doors are! I didn’t take any pictures of the doors, mainly because people actually live in these buildings and that’s a little creepy, don’t you think?

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Shielding his phone from that bright sunlight…

Anyway, Justin called while we were there – since Latvia is 8 hours ahead of America, it was midafternoon for us and Justin was on his way to work – a rare opportunity for us to talk. The phone connection was even pretty good that day. While we talked, M and I wandered around the town. It seemed like every house had an amazing door and a fluffy cat on the doorstep, too. 🙂 I have never seen so many cats in one town before. There are beautiful waterways with ducks, gorgeous churches, and old stone houses. I just took it all in while I talked to Justin for a while. When we finished talking, M said, “Which way do we need to go to go find car?” Of course, I had no idea, but he did. It was a test, and I failed. 🙂

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There are a few downsides to M’s method of exploring the country, too. He never reads the signs for things – he just knows what they are because people tell him. Therefore, since I knew nothing, we ended up reading any signage available (I got the English side, M got the Latvian side) and M kept saying things like, “I didn’t know that before.” On the other hand, he knows so many things that aren’t on the signs at all.

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It turns out that the waterfall itself moves slightly over time because of the type of stone it is. (Don’t ask me to remember what kind specifically!) Additionally, one of the kings (?) used slave labor to build an extra channel that was supposed to circumvent the waterfall for shipping purposes. This ended up not happening (because of a war?) and the channel was never completed, but you can still see it, and it looks very man-made.

Apparently people also like to swim in the river during the warm months. I was surprised by this – people don’t swim in rivers where I come from, as they are viewed as dirty and dangerous places. But I guess this river is calmer and shallower than what I’m used to in America.

In Summary:

Time Spent: 3 hours
Best Features: We really enjoyed the waterfall itself and looking for the castle ruins (tip – there is almost nothing left!).
Tips:

  • Try counting the number of cats, and bring some bread for the tame ducks, if you see them!
  • Be prepared to walk a lot, as always.
  • Latvia is much less into “safety” than America is, so there aren’t really guard rails or anything like that. They just expect that any reasonable person would be careful on the slippery rocks and stay dry, and if you get wet, that’s your own fault. 🙂
  • Spend a few hours just wandering around and enjoying the quiet atmosphere. This is my favorite part about Latvia: it’s peaceful!
  • There are a few shops with what M called “handcrafts,” which turned out to be baskets and knitted items (mainly socks and mittens). Very reasonably priced and beautiful work. I can’t tell you where that is because I had no idea where we were at any point in time.
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