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Sigulda

Today we traveled a bit east to Sigulda, a town at the base of Gauja National Park. Our intent was to explore the park, but we didn’t make it quite that far. Today happened to be the coldest day we’ve experienced here during our visit; it was around 44°F during our walk to the train station, and it got up to 48° in Sigulda, but there was also wind today, and we all got plenty chilled.

Fall was in full effect in Sigulda, and I was very happy to get some “real” fall before heading back to Los Angeles. We visited Sigulda New Castle and the Sigulda Castle ruins and got to go up inside the castle walls and explore. We also made a very quick stop at Walking Stick Park; apparently the walking stick is a strong symbol of the town of Sigulda- “Locals have made walking-sticks since the 19th century to help tourists walk up and down the Primeval valley of the Gauja River.”

We took a cable car across the Gauja Valley to Turaida in an effort to see much of the park. Once across, we got a bit turned around, and upon finding our footing again, decided we were too cold to make the walk up to Gutman’s Cave and the Turaida Museum Reserve, so we backtracked our way to the train station in Sigulda and took a 4pm train back to Riga. We had dinner in Riga once again, and now we are finally warmed up from our afternoon in the cold.

We are flying back to the states tomorrow; we have a morning flight home. It has been a wonderful visit here and I very much hope to come again someday. Riga is a very quiet, unassuming city, and I fell in love with Old Town. The countryside of Latvia is truly beautiful and I know there’s plenty to see that we have not experienced during this past week. Until next time, Latvia!

In the meantime, some good thoughts/prayers/whatever you prefer would be very appreciated for our trip home. Mainly, US Customs could be an issue. We are doing everything legally, I promise! It’s just a tricky situation with the idea of Nik potentially not being able to communicate with the customs agents on his own. Ideally, he’ll just go through a line with an agent that doesn’t ask too many questions!

Many thanks to all of you who have been thinking about us on this trip. It’s been quite a good one, and all the logistics that seemed impossible two weeks ago feel into place SO easily … Soli Deo gloria!

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Today was a very relaxing day. Nik went out for a walk on his own in the late morning and surprised us when he got back with ice cream! We didn’t really do much else until the late afternoon, and at that point we left for a walk around Old Town Riga. We’ve been through Old Town basically every day that we’ve been here, but today we took a tourist map and paid specific attention to many of the historically-rich sites that are found there.

I found particular appreciation for the architecture today and took far too many pictures of buildings, but I will not apologize for the picture overload. There are a few at the bottom of this post, and the rest can be found here.

Among the sites, we saw a few live bands and street performers, including a band playing a cover of “What If God Was One of Us,” and a street musician playing through the Amelie soundtrack on his accordion. There was something magical about walking down cobblestoned streets listening to the familiar tunes of Comptine D’ un Autre Ete and La Noyee. Definitely gave him all the change in my pocket for those songs!

We ended our evening with dinner at Charlie Pizza, which we just happened upon on a street corner, and we were pleasantly surprised with its menu and service and the food itself. We even treated ourselves to dessert- don’t tell anyone!

Enjoy this small sampling of pictures, and, once again, if you want to see more, check out this album.

The Past Two Days

We’ve just been hanging out here in beautiful Latvia.

On Friday, on Nik’s request, we visited the Riga Zoo. We had to take the tram there, and learned the hard way that tickets do not work the same way the NYC subways work (that’s all we had to compare it too, as none of us are particularly well-versed in public transportation in general.) We purchased one ticket that had 5 rides on it and just assumed the three of us could account for three of those rides. Makes sense, yes?

Well, we were wrong. But we didn’t know we were wrong until three “Kontroller” workers got on the tram and started checking everyone’s tickets. When they got to us, I showed them the one ticket, and when they asked for Nik’s and Mom’s, we just showed them “my” ticket again, trying to signify the three of us for three rides. Well, those ladies got mad, said many things in Latvian that we didn’t understand, and, so far as we’ve deduced, charged Mom and Nik 5 Euros a piece as a fine for not having a ticket.

Ironically, or whatnot, we saw plenty of people get on and off the tram without swiping any tickets, they just happened to not be “caught.” And so on the tram ride back, we were sure to purchase separate one-ride tickets for Nik and Mom, but did not run in to a single “Kontroller,” and so they could have very easily gotten those rides for “free.”

Oh well. Live and learn, right?

Today, Saturday, we took a train ride into Jurmala, a quaint and beautiful little town on the coast of the Baltic Sea. (We bought our train tickets correctly!) Today Jurmala happened to have a local festival of sorts going on, and so we were able to experience a bit more of the culture firsthand. We first visited a 125-year-old Lutheran church near the train stop in Dubulti, and then walked about a mile or so up the beach along the Baltic Sea to Majori. It was such a peaceful and calm beach. The waves gently lapped at the sand and there was no wind blowing the sand in your eyes. Many people were out walking along the coast today and there was a nice feeling of contentment in the air. Majori is where the festival was going on, so once we got there we saw some live music, walked down Jormas Street, and visited Dzintari Forest Park.

Here are some photos, the rest can be found in this album.

A Meandering Day

Today was a relaxing day, though poor Nik got fairly restless in between “events.” We had no agenda, save for picking up his new passport this afternoon.

Earlier today we went on a boat tour to “see Riga by canal.” We were in a small boat (with a great name!) that could only hold around 16 people and took a loop down a canal by Old Town Riga and back up and around the Daugava River. We had great views of many well-known sights in Riga. We also spent some more time today walking around Old Town Riga and enjoying the rich architecture and beautiful scenery.

In the late afternoon, after picking up Nik’s passport hassle-free, we went back to Old Town to take a look at the Riga Castle, only to find that there was much construction happening on it, so unfortunately it didn’t look like anything special today.

We rounded out the evening with dinner at an Italian restaurant called “Olive Oil Trading Company.” It was very tasty, and thankfully Nik enjoyed his meal just as much as Mom and I enjoyed ours.

Until tomorrow!

(PS: more photos can be seen in this album that we are updating often: Latvia Album

Mission Accomplished!

Well, the first part of the mission, anyway. It’s the first step of a yet unknown journey.

We had a very smooth day that went as well as it could have possibly gone. We met up with the lawyer, Daina, this morning, and she and her husband drove us to Kraslavas to find Nik. It is today that made me very thankful for smartphones and Facebook, as the first place Nik told us he’d be, he ended up not being at when we arrived. We tried to call him and his phone had no minutes left. So, I pulled out the phone that we rented for this trip (because we are some of the few people in the world, it seems, that do not own smartphones), and found that Nik had actually messaged us four minutes previous. So we had Daina message him back in Latvian, and after a bit of communication back and forth, then getting a phone number that worked, we were able to find Nik at his classmate’s house, 19km away from Kraslavas, literally in the middle of nowhere. We spent only about a half hour looking for Nik after we made it to Kraslavas- without that phone and the messaging system on Facebook, who knows how we would have found him! All-in-all it was about 3 hours and 45 minutes in the car from Riga to get to Nik.

From there we went up to Livani and very easily received the documents from the Court that we needed. Daina told us that we lucked out, as the lady we worked with to get the documents was one of the assistants, and she worked much more efficiently and quickly than the lady that is typically working that part of the office.

We stopped off on our way back to Riga to get some dinner and then battled Riga traffic (which is nothing compared to LA!) to get Nik’s passport renewed and head back to our hotel. It was a long 10-hour day spend mostly in the car, but the time flew by, and we are very thankful for how smoothly everything went today. The documents are being translated, and we will have them in hand on Monday night, just in time for our Tuesday flight back to the states- a flight that Nik will be on with us!

Thank you everyone for all of your prayers and support for this trip. Aside from picking up Nik’s new passport tomorrow evening, it looks like the rest of our time here will be a bit of a vacation. We are looking forward to experiencing the culture of Nik’s country and seeing the beauty it has to offer.

The next steps are to get the paperwork processed in the states; we have until December 30th to get everything in the right place, and then there’s freedom for it to take time to process through.

We’ll continue to update this blog with our daily adventures!

All Together!

Mom, Nik, and Rebekah 10/1/2014

Latvia!

We (Mom and Rebekah) are in Latvia! We are here to see Nik, get some paperwork, and experience the culture of this beautiful Baltic state.

We landed in Riga around 10:30am this morning, Tuesday. Fairly immediate naps were a necessity, as trying to trick our bodies in to sleeping on the flight over did not work out too well. Latvia is 10 hours ahead of the west coast and 7 hours ahead of the east coast. Our internal clocks are very turned around right now!

We woke up feeling … refreshed? And put on some boots and jackets and walked a mile to Old Town Riga to check out the final day of an open-air local craft fair. We found a nice variety of handmade goods and did indulge ourselves in purchasing a few things. We’ll justify that because we were supporting the local culture with those purchases!

We are leaving at 9am tomorrow morning to pick up Nik, who is 3.5 hours from Riga, and then to the Court to get the paperwork we need. We’ll keep you updated on those details!

Until then, enjoy some photos from today’s walk!

2011 in review

Happy New Year to all of our friends! WordPress put together this nifty year in review post, and I thought I’d take a few moments to share it.

I also want to point you in the direction of my blog, where you can read about an opportunity to help me support a little boy named Heath over in China who has had heart surgery and cleft surgery. I’m in training for the Los Angeles Marathon and would love your support as I run this race for Heath. (Could I also perhaps entice you to check out my blog because there’s a new picture of our entire family on the most recent post?)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year from the Witzers!